BURY right-back Phil Picken believes the next challenge for the Shakers following the end of their home campaign is to carry the momentum of their mid-table League One finish into next season.
Picken found himself restored to the starting line-up after being overlooked in favour of Andrai Jones – unavailable due to the previous week’s red card at Notts County – in recent weeks.
His return in Saturday’s derby duel with Oldham was a largely uneventful affair with all the relevant action coming in the first half before it fizzled out into a dull, end-of-season affair.
But Picken was already looking ahead, determined to build on this season’s achievements.
“We’ve got to kick on now that we’ve established ourselves in League One and try to do better next year,” said Picken. “We’ve matched most of the teams in this division and it’s now about the club progressing and, with that, the players progressing as individuals.
“The priority is always going to be survival, but there were times this season when we could have pushed on a little bit further, and who is to say we couldn’t have been up there in the mix?”
For manager, Richie Barker, the derby clash was something of a damp squib – a game that got progressively worse as it wore on.
But anyone could have been forgiven for thinking the crowd were in for a feast of feisty League One action as the Shakers showed their attacking intent from the start.
They could have gone ahead inside the first minute when David Worrall’s diagonal ball somehow eluded Shaun Harrad when only a touch would have brought a goal.
Giles Coke tested Latics goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis with a shot from the edge of the box three minutes later, but that was as good as it got.
“I thought in the first half we were excellent,” Barker said. “We passed the ball pretty well, although there were times when we overplayed it.
“We started like a house on fire in the first five minutes, but, in the second half it just fizzled out and as the game wore on it just got worse.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many miss-kicks in half an hour of League One football in my life.”
Nice interplay between Steven Schumacher and Joe Skarz teed up Mike Grella for a strike at goal on 16 minutes, but his effort went over the target.
Seconds later, Harrad had a fair shout for a penalty turned down when he appeared to be taken out from behind by Jean Yves M’Voto, but referee Andrew Madley waved play on.
The Shakers always looked dangerous from corners and several flashed across the face of Bouzanis’ goal without anyone in a white shirt able to make contact. It was one of those end-of-season, nothing-to-play for afternoons.
There was not one meaningful shot on target or save required in the second half, and the only noteworthy incident was the long hold-up after Latics midfielder Youssouf M’Changama was knocked unconscious in the 50th minute.
He came round while still on the pitch, but was taken to Fairfield Hospital for a precautionary scan.