THE BIG MATCH

The focus is on the lower end of npower League 1 on Tuesday as Bury host Scunthorpe United at Gigg Lane - and it would have been four of the bottom five going up against each other had Oldham Athletic's home fixture against Hartlepool United not fallen victim to the weather.

Bury against Scunthorpe sees the Shakers on the bottom rung of the ladder at the moment on 30 points, eight away from a chance to get out of the bottom four - where the visitors are currently sitting.

The Shakers hit the foot of the table on Saturday when going down 2-0 away to Portsmouth, with the two teams swapping places thanks to Pompey's better goal difference, and they will be wanting to improve on what assistant boss Peter Shirtliff called an "appalling" second-half performance.

And manager Kevin Blackwell told the Manchester Evening News: "Players want to please the fans - that is the one thing they want to do. Sometimes they make the wrong decisions by trying to please the fans. They are our 12th man, they are the ones who roar us through when we're down.

"I'm delighted that these are massive games. If after 15 games you told everybody that come March we'd be in a position to get out of trouble they would've said 'that's brilliant'. Well that is where we are.

"The players have to be professional and not to get carried away. They need to play the game as opposed to the occasion."

Scunthorpe suffered from the curse of a former player on Saturday when they went down 2-1 at home to Coventry City, whose winning goal was scored by former Iron striker Leon Clarke.

Four defeats from their last five games have kept them in trouble just when they had started to improve their position after a good start to 2013, but their aim of ensuring survival has never changed.

Boss Brian Laws told www.scunthorpe-united.co.uk: "It's going to be a tight affair for sure. It will be a big game for big characters.

"If we can maintain the work ethic we displayed on Saturday then I'll be a happy man. Spirits are still high here.

"The way we're playing at the moment though suggests that playing-wise and in terms of mentality too, we're alright. We will go into the Bury game believing we can win - like we do for every game. We've had a great shift in mentality at this football club."

KEEP AN EYE ON

At the top end of the npower League 1 Brentford are at home to Swindon Town with both sides looking for a shot at the Play-Offs this season - at least.

Brentford start the night's fixtures in sixth, two points behind their visitors and four points behind the top two.

They will, however, be looking to get a bit of momentum back after defeats without scoring a goal in each of their last two matches, but they still hold a three-point advantage over seventh-placed Bournemouth and have a better goal difference.

Manager Uwe Rosler told www.brentfordfc.co.uk: "I always said the last 10 to 15 games would be decisive and we are showing too many nerves at the moment.

"We have to keep believing in what we are doing. We are not performing as we can but we are still having a lot of the ball and controlling the game.

"We will now find out about ourselves. You can't get tougher than playing Swindon on Tuesday. We will find out how good we are."

In contrast to Brentford's pair of recent defeats, Swindon have been almost unbeatable of late and have only lost one match since the end of November.

That run pre-dates the arrival of Kevin MacDonald as manager but he will be looking to continue the Robins' charge as they currently sit two points behind second-placed Sheffield United.

MacDonald told www.swindontownfc.co.uk: "Ahead of a break from fixtures I think it is important to get the right result.

"Obviously a victory would be perfect for us but as long as we don't lose, a point away from home would be good.

"They've got a very good home record but I think in this division whether you're at home or away most teams are beating those around them. It's a very close league and the margins for victory and defeat are very slim."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Portsmouth are the remaining team in the bottom five not mentioned so far but they have picked up important wins in their last two matches as, prior to Saturday's 2-0 victory over Bury, they beat Scunthorpe United at Fratton Park.

That success against Scunthorpe ended a long run without three points for Pompey and now they look to take their momentum on the road as they head to Leyton Orient with eight points to make up if they are to have a chance of getting out of trouble.

Orient, for their part, are 11th at the moment on 54 points and trail sixth-placed Brentford by seven, with the Bees at home to third-placed Swindon Town.

Immediately ahead of Swindon are Sheffield United, who have 65 points to their name with 10 matches left - starting with tonight's visit to Crewe Alexandra, who are a comfortable 14th.

The all-Yorkshire top two is completed by Doncaster Rovers, who are three points clear of the Blades but having played a game more.

Brian Flynn is continuing the good work Dean Saunders put in before going to the npower Championship with Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Rovers are continuing to pick up the wins - they face Carlisle United this time around.

Making up the Play-Off places at the moment are Tranmere Rovers in fourth and Yeovil Town in fifth, with Ronnie Moore's Rovers heading to ninth-placed Walsall and Gary Johnson's Glovers at home to Crawley Town, who are 13th.

Bournemouth are the only team able to break in to the top six on Tuesday night, though they would need Brentford to lose to Swindon and also collect three points themselves, away to Stevenage, while overturning a goal difference disadvantage that currently stands at three.

Two points behind Bournemouth are Coventry City, whose new manager Steven Pressley will be looking to make it two wins from two as the Sky Blues host Colchester United, who are two places and three points clear of the relegation zone.

A single point above Colchester are Shrewsbury Town, who are on the road to 12th-placed Milton Keynes Dons, while the night's fixture list is completed with 10th-placed Notts County's home fixture with 17th-placed Preston North End.

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