Lee Clark said after the game he’d only had 45 minutes with the players to assess them before Saturday’s crunch clash at the Proact Stadium against Chesterfield. As a result, very little changed in terms of team selection or even shape, with the exception of player-coach Ryan Lowe making his full ‘debut’ in his third spell at the club in place of the injured James Vaughan.
The Spireites on the other hand sprang a couple of surprises to their XI: Thorsten Stuckmann, released by Partick Thistle last month, was drafted in between the sticks. Sam Hird was restored to the back line and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake came in as a right-sided forward to what appeared to be a 3-4-3. Whilst going through a barren spell of his own, the former Wolves hitman was at the heart of most of Town’s good play in the first period.
The best early chance fell to Lowe after a searching pass from Mellis. One of his better traits is his first touch and he took the ball down expertly before finding Stuckmann equal to his near-post effort. Tricky winger Osman Kakay was having a ding-dong battle with the Shakers’ left wing-back Greg Leigh and managed to get a few deep crosses into the area without finding an equal to his good play in a blue shirt where it mattered most.
Bury were having the same problem since changing formation – an out-ball. Lowe and Tom Pope are an experienced pair of strikers but neither are known for their pace and again, the midfield trio weren’t too far in advance of the bolstered defence, allowing Town to dictate the play and have time to pick passes over them. Ebanks-Blake forced a good save out of Joe Murphy, dropping quickly to ensure all he could claim was a corner.
Not long afterwards, the tactic paid dividends. Cameron Burgess, otherwise faultless in his loan stint with the club, misjudged a ball over the top from Ebanks-Blake and whilst there was some fortune with the finish from Kristian Dennis, he showed great strength under pressure from the Fulham loanee to guide the ball past Murphy for the opening goal of the game with his knee!
Lowe then had a shot brilliantly blocked by the boot of fellow veteran Ian Evatt after a neat passage of play and very shortly afterwards, he found himself free in the area but contrived to miss an extremely presentable opportunity from a deep left footed cross by Taylor Moore.
Early in the second half, Clark made two positive substitutions in order to see more of the ball and retain it for longer periods. As is now customary, George Miller came on for Pope and Scott Burgess, again somewhat anonymous, made way for Callum Styles and together they changed the course of proceedings. Styles is more of a playmaker than S. Burgess and always wants the ball played to him. His first touch is excellent and he has a knack of wriggling out of tight spaces with it seemingly attached to him. His positivity, as well as team instructions, helped push up the wing backs and his midfield compatriots 10 yards further up the pitch.
Again, Lowe was on the end of another Moore cross, this time hitting the underside of the bar and must’ve thought it wasn’t going to be his day. After an earlier shouts for a penalty, Bury’s players were somewhat aggrieved when Lowe went tumbling in the area but nothing was given. A move involving all three midfielders, starting with irrepressible Styles, was ended with Lowe on the floor and waving play-on; the Derbyshire side countered immediately. A square ball was played in front of the onrushing Liam Grimshaw, who should’ve done a lot better and perhaps put the game beyond the visitors.
Finally, Bury did have a penalty. In a move eerily similar to the second claim, Lowe was behind the bandaged up Tom Anderson and shall we say, he used all of his years of experience to win a spot-kick for the Shakers. It was coupled with an undeserved red for the centre back, but he would’ve been somewhat pleased to see the Bury striker’s tame effort into the corner saved by Stuckmann. It really wasn’t Lowe’s day…
There was nothing Town’s keeper could do about the equaliser, however. Andrew Tutte, restored to full fitness, unleashed a 30 yard strike into the far corner after being laid off by Styles to send the away fans into rapture. Bury were camped in their opponents’ half almost the entire second period and the extra man was putting Chesterfield under immense pressure. Moore, shifted up the pitch as a right midfielder with Leon Barnett out wide behind him, was finding some joy drifting inside to the channel.
At the death, the source of Bury’s winner was another quick kick from Murphy from his hands. The deceptively quick George Miller followed the deflection and bounce all the way to Sam Hird, who hurriedly passed back to Stuckmann. Miller has come in for some criticism of his first touch by Bury fans but this time it was the goalkeeper’s lack of control that helped him out, allowing the youngster to nick the ball off his toe and divert it into an empty net. Stuckmann was not helped out by Hird but will still be disappointed to have conceded from what seemed a reasonably safe position.
He then found himself at the other end for a last-ditch free kick but it was headed away and the final whistle sounded, marking Bury’s first win on the road since I saw them do it at the end of last September against MK Dons. More significantly, it lifted them out of the bottom four and gave Clark a great start to his stint in charge. He waxed lyrical in the post-match interview about Styles’ ability and the second half performance overall, which had Bury playing some of the best football they have in months. They’re still not out of the woods by any means, but I hope to see for myself on Saturday against Charlton another positive team effort and hopefully another three points.