KEVIN Blackwell could be forced to throw Andy Bishop back into the starting line-up tomorrow as Bury go in search of their third consecutive victory.
David Healy limped off during the midweek win at Oldham clutching his calf and is a major doubt for the visit of Portsmouth to Gigg Lane.
Bishop is his natural replacement, and the 29-year-old made a timely return to first-team action at Boundary Park, coming on as a second-half substitute after missing the previous two matches with a heel injury.
Blackwell admitted taking a gamble even putting him on the bench, but after Healy limped off the Bury boss felt the game time could come in handy.
“He came on and held the ball up quite well and drew things in, but yes, it’s been a hard one for Bish,” said Blackwell.
“I had to throw him straight on the bench. He hadn’t trained for two or three weeks and it was tough.”
OPR loan signing Troy Hewitt, aged 22, is the only other option to partner 18-year-old Tom Hopper up front, but Blackwell may not want to go into such an important game with two inexperienced strikers leading the line.
However, other than the absence of Healy, the Shakers boss is happy with the way his squad is shaping up.
“For the first time for weeks and weeks, I was able to look to the bench on Tuesday night and bring somebody on that could either match or better what we had out there on the pitch and that’s a great feeling,” he said.
“It’s always tough in a derby game when the tackles are flying in, but it was important that we won the game and I had confidence and belief in the players that they could do it.”
Bury go into tomorrow’s match as favourites after losing just one of their last six league and cup games, while Portsmouth, managerless after Michael Appleton left to take charge at Blackpool in midweek, have lost their last four.
The struggling south coast side are six points and six places better off than Bury in League One, but with a 10-point deduction hanging over their heads if and when they come out of administration, Pompey are very much one of the Shakers relegation rivals.
Not that Blackwell will allow any such talk in the dressing room.
“I’ve said to the players that it’s way too early to start looking at the table. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of games to go and I don’t want anyone to start looking at the table as it puts pressure on people. Let’s just move forward gradually and keep chipping away at it.”