Bury were keen to get over the dubious refereeing decisions of Saturday at home to Brentford, when they were harshly denied what looked like a blatant penalty in the last few minutes. A point was probably a fair scoreline on the balance of play but with two difficult away games this week against sides relegated from the Championship, caretaker manager Peter Shirtliff couldn’t bank on easy points being available.
Chances were at a premium until the latter stages, when substitute Mark Cullen twice came close. With that in mind, Shirtliff chose to bring the Hull City loanee into the starting line up in place of Lateef Elford–Alliyu. But a clean sheet was impressive and certainly a solid basis on which to improve on last season’s 80 goals conceded.
Doncaster Rovers edged past League 2 new boys York City before registering a resounding 3–0 win at Walsall. Former Shakers’ star Kyle Bennett has been catching the eye and was on the scoresheet at the Banks’s Stadium. Elsewhere, Donny could boast two ex–Premiership players on the bench in Robbie Blake and Neil Sullivan.
Bury, playing for the first time at the impressive Keepmoat Stadium, came close when a dangerous Peter Sweeney free–kic k nicked a Donny head before spinning out for a corner. Steven Schumacher’s resulting corner wasn’t dealt with by the home defence, allowing Mark Hughes to nod on for Joe Skarz, who eventually poked home from close range. Just the start we were after.
Doncaster reacted well though and Bennett was the inspiration. He played the ball wide to Tommy Spurr, whose cross was punched out by Trevor Carson. The equaliser nearly came seconds later when a close range shot was well saved with Carson’s feet.
The match was becoming more end–to–end with both sides creating chances. Hughes was inches away from doubling the lead on 9 minutes when his header whistled past the near post from Sweeney’s corner. But Billy Paynter then came closer still – a curling free–kick into the box from Spurr was headed narrowly over by the midfielder.
Rovers found room on the right wing before the ball was seemingly in the penalty area forever. After two blocked shots, the final effort from Bennett was deflected wide for a corner. Unfortunately David Worrall then had to hobble off after just 16 minutes, allowing Craig Jones to make his debut. And the Welsh winger looked lively – beating his man for pace before sending a cross into the area which was cleared for a corner.
Bennett couldn’t provide the equaliser on 22 minutes – his shot from outside the area went out for a throw in, much to the amusement of the near 500 Bury fans behind the goal. Dean Saunders’ side were having the possession and playing some eye–catching stuff, but were missing that killer instinct in front of goal.
An audacious chip forward from Sweeney nearly found Cullen in on goal, but Bury for now were content to try and hit Rovers on the break. This was frustrating the home fans, who were starting to get a little impatient.
Disaster nearly struck on 29 minutes when Sweeney’s wayward corner allowed Bennett and David Syers to break. Bennett raced clear to find his way past former Doncaster defender Adam Lockwood, but his shot was well pushed wide by Carson at his near post.
Jones again put in a great cross, which Rob Jones could only slice at. The ball then found Cullen, whose flick header sailed wide. Rovers had a half–hearted penalty claim turned awayby referee Christopher Sarginson on the half hour when Paynter fell over at the edge of the box. The right decision.
But Bennett proved what a quality player he is when he equalised after 35 minutes. A superb move involving four Rovers’ players ended with the winger being sent clear and putting a neat finish past Carson. This sparked the home side to life and another break ended with Painter’s long range shot going just wide after taking a big deflection off Mark Hughes. Hughes came to the rescue minutes later when he denied Chris Brown a goalscoring chance.
Sweeney put in a much better ball on 40 minutes, which beat the defence and even goalkeeper Gary Woods could only fumble. Sadly no one could smash home the ball, which landed on the edge of the six yard box. Spurr then raced to the other end and sent in a delightful cross for Brown, who could only head over from close range.
The Shakers stepped up a gear to close the half, with a brilliant passing move centred around Sweeney gaining a corner, which unfortunately came to nothing. Cullen should have given Bury a half–time lead in injury time but his shot went way over after being brilliantly fed by Sweeney. So, a thrilling first 45 with plenty of opportunities at both ends. Doncaster looked good going forward but Bury were more than a match for their opponents.
Half–time – Doncaster Rovers 1 – 1 Bury
The pattern continued into the second half, with both sides happiest when attacking rather than defending. Andrai Jones was the unlikely man who caused real problems for the Donny defence on 48 minutes. He beat two defenders on the wing before the ball just ran away from him and out for a goal–kick. Andrai showed what a good defender he can be when he thwarted a real chance for Brown – tackling the forward just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Mark Carrington should have done better when the ball broke to him at the edge of the box, but his effort went well wide. Paynter was becoming the focal point of Donny’s attacks, and he nearly took the lead with a stinging shot at the edge of the box, but it went safely wide with Carson having it covered.
On 55 minutes a Sweeney ball forward caught out Jamie McCombe, who was forced into heading out for a corner, but nothing came from it. The Bury fans were making the most noise and encouraging the players to keep going forward. And the Shakers were nearly caught out on the counter attack. David Cotterill was left in too much space on the right wing and his inswinging cross was headed on by Paynter to Brown, but he headed over from only two yards out.
Cullen had a chance to run with the ball on 60 minutes but was caught in possession by Bennett. The midfielder then played in Brown, who was again superbly tackled by Andrai Jones. The resulting corner was swung in, and Rovers came very close to taking the lead. An initial shot was blocked, before a final effort was deflected over the bar. The Shakers were coming under increasing pressure but were just about hanging on.
Cullen again should have done better after initially doing well to beat McCombe. He turned inside the box but couldn’t find a yellow shirt. Shirtliff then chose to replace Andy Bishop with Lenell John–Lewis up front after 64 minutes.
But the Shakers then shot themselves in the foot when upending Brown on the break. It was the captain’s second yellow card and so he could hardly complain when the red was shown. Bury would now have to close the last quarter of the match with ten men. Shirtliff sacrificed Cullen for Marcus Marshall, another debutant, creating a 4–4–1 formation.
Bennett then found time from have two efforts inside a minute – the first from a tight angle went nearer the corner flag than the goal and the second was easily gathered by Carson. Marshall later held the ball up well – bringing in John – Lewis, whose 20 yard effort went straight at Woods.
Paynter was the next to be given two good chances – first, a shot in the box that was well tipped over by Carson. The second, from the corner, was a header that he should have buried but could only direct wide of the post. At this point, Saunders replaced Martin Woods with James Harper as Doncaster searched for the winner in the last 10 minutes.
The Shakers had the odd counter attack with Marshall again using his pace to beat two mean and bring the ball inside the box, but he went too far and Rovers nearly capitalised on the break. Craig Jones then ran about 40 yards but couldn’t find the final pass when he had reached the penalty box.
Just as Doncaster appeared to be flagging, they finally made it 2–1 after 85 minutes. Paynter had the ball at his feet at the edge of the area and despite Lockwood’s best efforts to stop the through ball, his pass to Brown was well buried by the striker.
Mark Hughes was booked for something and nothing, bringing cheers from the home fans. Goalscorer Chris Brown brought even louder cheers when he received came off to a warm reception – James Coppinger coming on in his place. And the forward was nearly given the chance to make it 3–1 when he tried to race onto a long ball, but Hughes’ header did enough to divert it to Carson.
The four minutes of injury time were dominated by the visitors but there would not be time for one last chance. As the final whistle sounded, it felt like a disappointing finale to what was looking like a well–deserved point for Bury on their travels. The sending off made a difference, but instead of thinking back on what might have been, Peter Shirtliff will now look to set the record straight at Coventry City on Saturday – with Bury looking for their first win of the season.
Attendance: 6380 (492 Bury)
Bury: Trevor Carson, Joe Skarz, Adam Lockwood, Peter Sweeney, David Worrall, Steven Schumacher (c), Andy Bishop, Mark Carrington, Mark Hughes, Mark Cullen, Andrai Jones
Subs: Phil Picken, Craig Jones, Marcus Marshall, Lenell John-Lewis, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Max Harrop, Christian Dibble
Doncaster Rovers: Gary Woods, Paul Quinn, Tommy Spurr, Rob Jones (c), Jamie McCombe, Kyle Bennett, David Cotterill, David Syers, Martin Woods, Chris Brown, Billy Paynter
Subs: Neil Sullivan, Robbie Blake, James Harper, James Husband, James Coppinger