Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Seven of Morecambe’s 12 most-used players have, at one stage this season or another, been sidelined.
At the start of the campaign it was the defence that Jim Bentley had to re-arrange, with Zak Mills, James Sinclair and Sam Lavelle absent.
Around November, we then saw a midfield injury crisis with Andrew Tutte, Aaron Wildig and Alex Kenyon picking up minor niggles plus Lamin Jagne and key man Andrew Fleming being ruled out for the long-term.
Most recently, the attack has had to be re-built.
Vadaine Oliver returned for the 1-1 draw at Northampton last time out after being away for nearly a month, but is now out for two months while withdrawn forward AJ Leitch-Smith is out for the season.
Ritchie Bennett bagged his first goal for the club at Sixfields after the target man joined on loan from Carlisle, before Sam Dalby arrived on loan from Leeds to bolster Bentley’s options, while winger Piero Mingoia came in from Accrington, also on loan.
The above trio might prove decent additions and Bentley has put together a reasonable squad, despite off-field problems.
However, it also feels as though he is having to build almost three or four teams in the space of little more than half a season, evidenced by the recent move to 4-4-2 following a brief experimentation with 3-4-3.
These frequent disruptions cannot be particularly helpful to the stability of the side.
Bury drew 1-1 at home to Crawley last time out when Danny Mayor was absent through illness, leading to suggestions that they are a one-man team.
That might be slightly premature, given that Mayor is only the fourth-top goalscorer among 14 players who have scored for the Shakers this term.
However, it cannot be denied that his influence, which is based on mazy forward runs from the left channel to set up others more than goalscoring, is hugely important and the attacking midfielder’s return to the eleven will certainly be welcomed.
Crucially, that will allow the powerful Neil Danns to return to the deeper midfield role which perhaps is most suited to his skillsets at 36.
— Chris Kendall (@Chris__Kendall) February 3, 2019
Up top, Caolan Lavery’s return from injury means, despite Chris Dagnall’s Deadline Day move to Tranmere, Ryan Lowe has a tempting quartet of attacking options in his match-day squad.
Having grabbed his 13th goal in just his 22nd league game for the Shakers last week, Nicky Maynard looks nailed on to start up top.
Speedy Stoke loanee Dominic Telford is the most likely man to partner the experienced Maynard but Byron Moore, who excelled as an auxiliary striker earlier in the campaign, offers an alternative option.
Plus, let’s not forget that Bury boast a right wing-‘back’ in Nicky Adams who, when surrounded by enough teammates to initiate combination play, is one of the sharpest, most creative thinkers in the division.
Jay O’Shea loves making well-timed runs into the box, which along with his role of penalty-taker explains the midfielder’s 13-goal haul and even centre-backs like Will Aimson and Scott Wharton can be strong in possession.
Bury are a good side without Mayor – but with him, they go up another level.
Bury to win -1 handicap – 11/5