Lee Clark celebrates Birmingham survival

League One preview: Lee Clark returns to scene of most memorable managerial moment as Bury visit Bolton

AS much as Lee Clark probably wishes it wasn’t so, his managerial career will always be remembered for one sunny afternoon at the Macron Stadium.

Clark led Huddersfield to a record unbeaten Football League run in 2011 and helped Birmingham finish just outside the Championship play-offs in 2012/13.

But on the final day of the following season, Blues visited BOLTON battling to stay in the Championship and, at 2-0 down with 12 minutes left, they were staring relegation in the face.

But Nikola Zigic pulled one back and then Paul Caddis, who Clark signed for BURY in February, claimed an equaliser deep into stoppage time which kept Birmingham up on goal difference.
Caddis swirled his shirt around his head in celebration and, at the final whistle, Clark charged across the pitch towards the away end, where he was mobbed by jubilant Blues fans.

Clark was tasked with keeping Bury in League One in February and, on his first day as Shakers boss, he admitted he wanted to be safe by the time he returned to Bolton this evening, with just 3 games of the season left.

“I know we’ve got to go to Bolton,” he said. “That’s a big game for the fans, a local derby which I know all about, so there are some exciting games for us to be involved in.

“I’ve experienced all sorts in my managerial career and I’ve done it before at Birmingham and Kilmarnock, staving off relegation. I don’t want another last-minute job, mind! That happened with Birmingham when we got the equaliser in the 96th minute, I’d prefer to have it done and dusted before then.”

That looked a distinct possibility after Bury won Clark’s first 3 games in charge – before losing just 1 of his first 8. But the Shakers have since lost 3 on the bounce, culminating with a 1-0 defeat at home to ROCHDALE last Thursday. That kept Bury just a point above the drop zone with their relegation rivals playing twice before the Shakers were back in action tonight. Bury were therefore hoping for favours over Easter weekend and, by and large, results have been kind as they remain a point above the bottom 4 heading into tonight’s game.

“That’s the saddest thing about it,” said Clark after losing to Rochdale. “This silly little run of three defeats has put us right back in the mix. It looked like we were well clear of all this but it shows you how quick things can change. If you don’t continue to do the right things.

“We were winning games because we were doing the ugly side of the game. We’ve come off that in certain areas. We had three or four good situations in the final third which we didn’t make the most of, so we have to get back to that. We’ve got to be better in how we set up, and not let the game open up so much in certain areas of the pitch. The result is the be all and end all so it was frustrating.”

The Rochdale defeat also meant Bury’s miserable derby record continued. In 5 games against their local rivals this season, they’ve failed to score once, losing 2-0 at home to Bolton back in October while their solitary point came with a 0-0 draw at OLDHAM in March.

Wanderers have also had a wake-up call, with last week’s loss at Scunthorpe followed by another 1-0 defeat in Saturday’s derby at Oldham. The Trotters are still in the top two but both Fleetwood and Scunthorpe won on Easter Monday to close the gap to 1 point and 3 points, respectively. Bolton boss Phil Parkinson, who used to play for Bury, therefore knows they can ill afford to drop any more points tonight.

He said: “We haven’t done the double over Bury for 91 years so this is an opportunity to put that record right but we also need to understand why Bolton hadn’t won at Gigg Lane for so long and why Bury had come to Bolton over the years and raised their game. We’ve got to be wary of that and make sure we’re ready because it’s one big push now.

“It was a disappointing result at the weekend but it was only ‘a’ setback. It’s nothing more than that. I feel we’ve learned through the season what derby games in this division are like and we’ve reiterated to the lads what we need to do.”

Oldham had Michael Ngoo sent off on Saturday for a 2nd yellow on 64 minutes before Lee Erwin won it 12 minutes later with his 6th goal in 8 games. Latics then lost 1-0 at Bristol Rovers yesterday but now need just 1 point from their last 2 games to be safe.

Ian Henderson scored early in each half yesterday to give ROCHDALE a 2-0 home victory against already-relegated Coventry and ensure they made it 3 wins from 4 after beating Bury last Thursday. That kept Dale 8th but they closed the gap on the play-off places to 3 points with 2 games left.

And we’ve still got one more crunch derby game to look forward to in League One as Oldham are set to host Dale this Saturday.