SHAKERS boss Andy Preece is plotting the downfall of his former Gigg Lane striking partner this weekend.

Bury travel to Nene Park tomorrow for their first ever clash with Rushden and Diamonds and will need to stiffen their defensive resolve against the most potent home strikeforce in Division Three.

Last year's play-off runners-up have rattled in 15 goals in a six-match unbeaten home record which has propelled them into third place in the table and made them a strong bet for automatic promotion.

And leading their charge has been Jamaican striker Paul Hall, who made seven loan appearances for Bury in 1999 on loan from then Premiership outfit Coventry City.

Now, with five goals to his tally already this season, Preece knows his defence must be on their guard to stop him continuing their unenviable record of no clean sheets in the league all year.

"We've never played Rushden before but we've had them watched three or four times now. They are a decent side who proved last year that they can stay at the top all year," he said.

"They are a good attacking team and like to push men forward. Players like Paul Hall score a lot of goals for them and we know all about him from his loan spell at Bury.

"He's got a great delivery and sits in well behind the main strikers, pushing good balls forward. So we will have to contain him.

"So they attack well but we are just hoping to exploit them going the other way."

A win is vital for Bury to halt their gradual slide down the table and to kick off a tough run of away fixtures.

Shakers must also travel to Rochdale, Lincoln, Leyton Orient and Fulham in the next three weeks and Preece knows their record of one win from six away games must improve to keep them in the promotion hunt.

"We need to start winning away from home because that's where we are going to spend the next month," he said.

"It's a difficult run for us and Rushden away is not going to be an easy one to start with."

The match will be midfield maestro Terry Dunfield's last in a Shakers jersey if Manchester City boss Kevin Keegan refuses to extend his loan spell at Gigg Lane.

The Canadian playmaker has been at the hub of Bury's creativity since his temporary signing two months ago and Preece admitted he was keen to keep him in his squad.

"At the moment, his last game's tomorrow. I'm in the process of seeing if we can extend that," he said.

"I'll be seeing Kevin Keegan about that and we are hopeful that something can be done.

"I don't like to say that I'm confident because, at the end of the day, Man City is his club, but he's enjoying his football and doing really well for us. It would be great if we could keep him a bit longer."