Despite losing captain Steven Schumacher and David Worrall in Tuesday night’s defeat at Doncaster Rovers, there was much cause for optimism ahead of the Shakers’ trip to the Ricoh Arena. That’s chiefly down to perhaps Bury’s biggest ever signing. Northern Ireland’s top goalscorer David Healy arrived from Rangers on Thursday to a media storm. Caretaker manager Peter Shirtliff pulled off a real coup bringing the striker to the club, and there was more good news – Shane Byrne returned from Leicester City, but this time on a permanent basis.
Both went straight into the starting line–up, with goalkeeper Trevor Carson taking the armband for the first time. Coventry City, relegated from the Championship, were clear favourites. Although they are still going through financial troubles, they fielded a strong side spearheaded by captain Kevin Kilbane.
Cody McDonald created the first opportunity – racing past three Bury players before getting a corner. Chris Hussey swung it in, but Richard Wood headed over. A second effort minutes later from Kilbane’s free–kick was easily saved by Carson.
McDonald should have scored on 7 minutes when he was sent through on goal. However, his shot was saved by Carson’s feet. The resulting corner was then very nearly poked home by one of a number of players but once again the Shakers were let off the hook.
It took nearly 15 minutes before Bury could muster their first real move. Good build up play from Craig Jones, in for Worrall, led the ball to Mark Cullen but his through ball couldn’t find Healy. But Coventry took the lead on 19 minutes when it seemed that Bury were getting into the game. Adam Lockwood gave the ball away cheaply, allowing Adam Barton to fire in a terrific shot from 20 yards into the far corner.
Bury reacted with Jones’ cross just missing the head of Cullen but the home fans had been stirred to life by the goal. City were controlling possession, forcing the Shakers to go deep. Another error, this time from Byrne, gave the home side a great chance to double the lead but McDonald fired his shot wide.
The Shakers responded with a Joe Skarz long ball which was headed wide by Cullen. But a soft free–kick was given away at the edge of Bury’s box – Carl Baker converted it brilliantly into the bottom corner. All the optimism and good feeling of the last couple of days had evaporated within half an hour.
Healy made his first significant contribution, winning the ball before sending it wide to Cullen. He held it up on the right wing before crossing for Sweeney, who could only head straight at goalkeeper Joe Murphy. Carson tipped over another free–kick over the bar and watched as another corner whistled wide. The passing was loose and the players were getting frustrated.
Coventry could afford to stroke the ball about at a leisurely pace, only Baker shooting wide in anger from 30 yards. Skarz whipped in a searching cross into the box but without much height up front there was no hope of any connection. City then had another long range effort that sailed over the bar before the break, but Bury needed a lift for the second 45.
Half–time: Coventry City 2– 0 Bury
Peter Shirtliff made the bold change of Lateef Elford–Alliyu for winger Craig Jones – making the formation a 4–3–3. McDonald had the first chance of the second half, nearly converting from a Kilbane ball. There were later appeals for handball in the Bury box when Chris Hussey’s cross was charged down.
Just as the sun came out the Shakers got going. Bury had the perfect chance to pull a goal back on 50 minutes when Cullen was sent clear to the left of the penalty area. He turned his man inside out but couldn’t direct his shot on target. The breakthrough came when a difficult Andrai Jones cross wasn’t dealt with and a defender climbed all over Healy. The referee pointed to the spot and the international kept his cool to send a confident penalty past Murphy on his debut.
City came out fighting and but for Mark Hughes’ timely interception the two goal lead was nearly restored. Steven Jennings then headed over from a deep corner. Shirtliff made his second substitute after 59 minutes – Marcus Marshall on for Byrne.
Excellent football from Mark Carrington and Lateef nearly saw a breakthrough opportunity on the hour as the game was becoming more end–to–end. All three subs were made when Lenell John–Lewis replaced goalscorer Healy on 61 minutes.
Baker had a good opportunity to score City’s third when he miskicked a good centre from Hussey wide of the mark. There seemed to be shouts for a penalty every time someone fell over in the Bury box, but Mr Madley was thankfully having none of it. A long Jones throw was nearly converted by Cullen but his shot was blocked.
The football was coming together and the equaliser arrived on 69 minutes. Sweeney found Skarz on the left wing and his pinpoint cross was headed home by Lenny. What a spirited comeback from the seemingly down and out Shakers.
Andy Thorn’s men had to find something to get back into a game in which they had complete control over for the first half. Club legend Gary McSheffrey replaced Baker and Callum Ball came on for McDonald. Richard Wood nearly got on the end of a dangerous Hussey corner and Hughes had some more last ditch defending to do to keep out another ball in the box. On 77 minutes a fine Kilbane cross was again headed over – this time from Stephen Elliott.
At the other end, Lateef had a thirty yard shot that went nearer to the corner flag than to the goal, but the forward had a made a big difference in the second half. Marshall then won the ball well in the middle, sending it on for Lenell, who attempted an audacious lob over the advancing Murphy but his effort went over.
McSheffrey had a brilliant chance to retake the lead for Coventry on 82 minutes when he turned past his man before his shot was well parried by the right hand of Carson. Jones sent Lenell through on the break, and with the striker bearing down on goal the flag went off for offside. Barton was close to getting his second on 85 minutes but his header went tamely wide.
A huge clearance should have been dealt with by two City defenders, but Lenell’s strength won the ball for Bury. He played in Lateef, but he side–footed his shot wide. The pair linked up perfectly seconds later, but this time it was Lenny who blasted wide of the post. Amazingly a third chance presented itself to Lenny on 88 minutes. A great ball down the line from Sweeney found the forward but his shot was again off the mark when it would have perhaps been better to square for Cullen.
As the board went up for 3 minutes additional time it would be tense for the travelling fans, despite Bury looking the side more likely to grab a winner. Boos were sounding around the stadium and the home support started to leave in their dribs and drabs. Some superb defending from Skarz and Jones prevented potential attacks on the break and the job was done. As the final whistle blew, The Shakers had scored a sterling fightback with the match looking like it was over after half an hour – the just reward for battling Bury.
Attendance: 10,285 (633 Bury)
Bury: Trevor Carson (c), Joe Skarz, Shane Byrne, Adam Lockwood, Peter Sweeney, Craig Jones, Mark Carrington, Mark Hughes, Mark Cullen, Andrai Jones, David Healy
Subs: Christian Dibble, Phil Picken, Andy Bishop, Marcus Marshall, Lenell John-Lewis, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Max Harrop
Coventry City: Joe Murphy, Chris Hussey, Kevin Malaga, Carl Baker, Cody McDonald, Steven Jennings, Stephen Elliot, Kevin Kilbane (c), Adam Barton, Richard Wood, Reece Brown
Subs: Chris Dunn, Gary McSheffrey, Callum Ball, Roy O'Donovan, William Edjenguele, Jordan Willis, Billy Daniels