Bury manager Chris Lucketti

The festive period is over, it’s time for League One strugglers to get back to business

THE festive period is over and it’s time for Greater Manchester’s Football League and non-league sides to see how the land lies now they’re well into the 2nd half of the season.

Here at Beyond The Big Two, we’d like to wish you a belated Happy New Year. Apologies for the lack of updates of late but personal circumstances have prevented us from keeping you informed about what’s been happening on the Manchester football scene.

But that will change now we’re into 2018 as I will be at BURY’s home game with Charlton in League One today, while contributor Finley White will be there as Evo-Stik Premier leaders ALTRINCHAM visit Stafford Rangers.

Chris Lucketti had a positive start to his tenure as Bury boss as they drew 0-0 at Northampton then won 2-1 at Walsall in the Checkatrade Trophy.

But they’ve lost every game since. Yes, all 7 of them. And Tuesday night’s 3-2 home defeat by league rivals Fleetwood not only ended their interest in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy but was the first time they had even scored in 7 games, since Nicky Ajose’s brace at Walsall.

Ajose is ineligible for today’s game as he’s on loan from visitors Charlton and Bury go into it looking to end a run of 664 minutes without scoring in the league. When Greg Leigh rounded off that wonderful team goal (which you can watch below) as the Shakers stunned then-leaders Shrewsbury on November 21, who would have thought they’d still be waiting for their next league goal come January 13?!

That was Ryan Lowe’s last game as caretaker boss so Bury are yet to score in the league under Lucketti. When the former Bury centre-half took charge, they were 3 points from safety at the bottom of League One. They’re now 11 points adrift, with 20 games left.

What makes the impending survival scrap more interesting is that the team currently 5th-bottom is local rivals OLDHAM.

Richie Wellens had a superb start to his managerial career, lifting Latics off the bottom of the table and then out of the bottom four. But their form has dipped since. So far this year they’ve lost 1-0 at Shrewsbury and Charlton, which meant they’ve taken just 2 points from a possible 18 over Christmas.

That leaves them 1 point above the drop zone heading into today’s home game with 7th-placed Rotherham, who this week signed misfiring striker Michael Smith from Bury.

To add more local flavour to the mix, ROCHDALE will also feature in the League One relegation battle as they’re 2nd-bottom, 5 points above Bury.

Keith Hill had to sell several of last season’s star performers in the summer and has been unable to recreate the magic formula that has seen Dale punch above their weight in recent seasons.

They visit mid-table Gillingham today and, like Oldham, they’ve taken 2 points from the last 18. However, Dale did win 1-0 at Doncaster ion the FA Cup last Saturday to set up a 4th-Round tie at Millwall on January 27.

Altrincham manager Phil Parkinson
Altrincham manager Phil Parkinson

After a poor start to life in non-league’s 3rd tier, ALTRINCHAM went on a superb run that propelled them to the top of the table in October. And they’re still there now having maintained that form.

The Robins conceded just 2 goals in 9 league games before losing 4-3 at home to Witton Albion on New Year’s Day. But Alty bounced back to win 1-0 at Farsley Celtic last Saturday and restore their 8-point lead over Grantham Town.

Today’s hosts Stafford are 17th in the table so Phil Parkinson’s men will be hopeful of making it back-to-back wins and extending that gap.

If you’d like to write about any of Greater Manchester’s Football League or non-league clubs then please email beyondthebigtwo@gmail.com about contributing to this blog

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