Our play-off hopes just won’t die. We are now down again to six points off sixth place with four games left. So can we still finish in the top six?
Well, the team in sixth place, Gillingham, are in a slump, their defeat on Saturday extending their winless run to four games. And our next game on Tuesday is at home to Bury, whose win at Swindon made them safe from relegation back to League Two, from which they gained promotion last season, so they don’t really have a lot to play for.
However, all we can realistically do now is what Nigel Adkins used too preach – control the controllables. Which initially means beating Bury. We did beat them 2-1 at their place earlier this season, and David Flitcroft’s team have a terrible away record, Saturday’s win at stuttering Swindon was only their second away victory in the last 15 attempts. Indeed, all season they have managed just 19 goals away and conceded 39.
This is despite their main striker, Leon Clarke, notching 18 league goals on his own – and in trying circumstances too. The former Scunny loanee was recently allowed time off to be with his girlfriend, who had suffered complications in childbirth. This followed his mother falling seriously ill and his father dying suddenly at the turn of the year.
“I have to obviously thank the gaffer for giving me the time off,” he said. “Maybe it wasn’t the right time for the team and maybe the team needed me but I had to be there for my partner and my little boy. She is better now, it’s just going to take a bit of time.”
With another striker Tom Pope having been ruled out for six weeks with injury in March, Flitcroft has strengthened his squad with the on-loan signings of former Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso, Southend defender Cian Bolger and Port Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal. Along with midfielder Danny Gardner on loan from Chesterfield, the new arrivals have helped steady the ship and steer them clear of a swift return to League Two.
But overall Bury seem a progressive club; for instance, they recently took out a five-year lease on Manchester United’s old training complex at Carrington to improve their player development. And though Bury have little left to play for this season, Flitcroft is still looking ahead.
“Consolidation is about us trying to work out where we are in this league, who we are and where we need to get to next season,” he says. Well, that’s one way of putting it.