A PLACE in the top half of the League Two table and almost certain Football League survival is the prize on offer if Bury can beat fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers at home tonight.
The Shakers ended a run of seven games without a win with a crucial victory at second-bottom Northampton Town on Saturday, opening up a seven-point cushion over the Cobblers in the final relegation place.
Back-to-back wins would propel Bury from 18th to 12th place in the table and open what would surely be an unassailable 10-point gap over the drop zone with six games to play.
Loan signings Hallam Hope and Danny Rose could be key to achieving that after both strikers scored on their Shakers debuts at the Sixfields Stadium.
“They added a add a bit more dimension to what we do,” said Flitcroft after watching Everton forward Hope open the scoring before Barnsley front man Rose rounded off a comprehensive 3-0 victory in stoppage time.
“I have got two real hungry characters that will chase down everything. Scoring just settles them down but I have brought them in here for their work rate and I thought for two young lads to spearhead what we did at Northampton was infectious.”
The arrival of the two 20-year-olds was tempered by Tranmere’s decision to recall loan striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro after Thursday’s loan window closed.
But Flitcroft is confident his squad is now strong enough to see them through safely until the end of the season.
“With the deadline closing it gives us time to bed in and say ‘listen, this is the group we are trusting to take us forward’,” he said.
“We’ve been sucked into this relegation dogfight and I have found out a lot about our players. They are surprising me every day and that belief is growing.”
But the visitors will also go into tonight’s match on a high after new manager Darrell Clarke led them to victory in his first match in charge at home to Morecambe on Saturday, with the three points pushing Rovers up to 20th, six points clear of the relegation places.
“I know Clarkey really well,” said Flitcroft.
“He’s a very enthusiastic coach and manager so they will possess great enthusiasm for the game. But I have got to back this group. They are getting better daily, so it will be a big test for us.”
Flitcroft will be hoping that a sickness bug going through the camp does not hamper his preparations. Danny Mayor was substituted due to illness on Saturday, and Rose complained of feeling ill following the final whistle. Central midfielder Tommy Miller is also struggling with a thigh strain.