The Kevin Blackwell era began at the Lamex Stadium, and by making two changes as well as changing the shape of the starting eleven to what on paper looked like a 4-3-3, but actually played as a 4-3-2-1.
The new era started brightly with the Shakers closing down players quickly, chasing balls and a strong step up in the physical challenge – and the home side showed sides of not liking it.
Within seconds of the game started a long ball down the middle of the park from David Worrall just flew over the top of a leaping Tom Hopper, and straight into the arms of Chris Day the Stevenage keeper. Moments later, David Worrall and David Healy showed quick feet in the Stevenage corner as they crisply played a series of short passes that was eventually cleared away by the home defence.
A seventh minute Schumacher corner, delivered with pace and accuracy into the middle of the box, brought a good flying header from Mark Carrington that just flew wide of the home post. It took the home side almost 15 minutes to produce their first notable chance on the Shakers goal. A corner from the workmanlike Freeman saw Andrai Jones bring the ball down on the far post, as he attempted to clear the delivery, his strike cannoned off Akins and into the path of a charging Dunne, only for his shot on goal to drift high and wide of the target
On 17 minutes, Lenell John-Lewis put a challenge in on a long ball from the back, defender Jon Ashton and John-Lewis both challenged for the ball and both players went to ground, though it was the Shakers striker that came off worst. As he attempted to get back to his feet, his leg buckled under him and he collapsed to the floor. Lenny attempted to get up again, but with the same result. He was obviously finished for the afternoon and manager Kevin Blackwell confirmed after the game that he fears the worst possible news for Lenny, but a scan on Monday will confirm any doubts over the injury – watch this space for news.
Marcus Marshall replaced the Shop and proved to be more than an adequate replacement with a man of the match performance. Greg Tansey meanwhile was beginning to take charge of affairs in the middle of the park and a clever turn and shot on 19 minutes almost broke the deadlock. A lack of accuracy in the shot though kept the scores level.
The first yellow card of the afternoon came to Tansey on 23 minutes following a challenge from behind on Andrai Jones, a decision that turned the home fans against the referee following some fairly hefty challenges from the Shakers.
Bury took the lead on 26 minutes when Mark Hughes lobbed the ball from just inside the Stevenage half into the home box. Defender Ashton and Tom Hopper both leapt for the ball. Ashton made first contact with a strong header, but his attempted clearance struck Hopper on the head, and looped behind him and over keeper Day to drop into the back of the net. Something of a lucky goal – but a goal is a goal, no matter how they come and Hopper sprinted into the corner to celebrate his first ever league goal
Stevenage attempted to get back into the game almost immediately with the industrious Freeman letting a good stern shot fly at goal just two minutes later, but Trevor Carson was more than equal to the effort and produced a good stop.
Tom Hopper could have doubled the Shakers lead on the half hour when he collected the ball just inside the Stevenage box, his first time struck shot though crashed into the ground, over the top of a defender and looked to be looping over the top of Day, but the keeper managed to claw the effort away and out for a Bury corner.
Schumacher’s corner again brought a good delivery, but was quickly cleared by the home defence only for Healy to take a shot from a long way out that drifted wide of the target. Another chance came Bury’s was on 39 minutes when a Hopper flick on found David Worrall, but his first time volley and dipping shot from the corner of the box beat both keeper and crossbar.
Bury went in at the break deservedly in the lead and the arrival of Kevin Blackwell on Thursday looked to be having an immediate effect.
Stevenage started the second half the brighter with Lucas Akin producing the first shot on target almost from the restart, but again Carson was more than a match and held the effort well.
On 50 minutes some clever football form the home side down the flank was stopped in its track by a clever interception from Marcus Marshall. His quick ball forward looked to have released David Healy, but as he touched the ball, skipper Roberts managed to push the ball clear.
Stevenage managed to get themselves back in the game on 53 minutes when a corner delivered by Freeman to the far post found. Marcus Haber seemed to get the final touch to prod the delivery under Trevor Carson and past Mark Carrington into the back of the net.
The home side then stunned the Shakers two minutes later when Greg Tansey picked the ball up half way inside the Shakers half; he managed to manoeuvre himself towards the corner of the Shakers area before he unleashed a stunning effort across Trevor Carson and into the top corner of the Shakers goal.
Peter Sweeney eventually replaced David Healy just after the hour and his introduction seemed to have a positive effect on the Shakers. David Worrall produced some good work on 67 minutes to get the ball down the flank before he delivered a telling cross into the area. Hopper arriving at the far post found the angle just too acute and his header found the side netting, but his pace saw him smashing into the advertising hoardings behind the goal – thankfully without damaging himself.
Bury suddenly found themselves with lots of possession and for a good ten to 15 minutes moved the ball around the pitch with accuracy and pace – though with no end result on each occasion. Mark Cullen was eventually brought on to replace Mark Carrington with just nine minutes of the game remaining.
Just after Peter Sweeney produced a good shot on target that keeper Day did well to hold. Moments later a stunning ball into the box from Marshall just needed a touch from either Cullen or Hopper, but Chris Day again managed to thwart the Shakers strikers.
The second Shakers goal was coming, and when it did, it came from a moment of quality. A stunning diagonal ball from David Worrall found Marcus Marshall. His first touch took the ball past David Gray before he produced a stunning cross into the box where an unmarked Mark Cullen rammed the ball into the bottom corner of the Stevenage goal to claim his first career goal.
Bury could, and probably should have won the game on 88 minutes. Another Marshall cross found Tom Hopper just inside the six yard box, he rose the meet the ball and got a good contact, but watched as the ball agonisingly drifted wide of the target. Mark Cullen had a half chance just before the final whistle, and although his shot was on target, a lack of power behind the ball saw Chris Day easily save the effort.
As the final whistle crept closer, Stevenage had a good half chance when substitute Filipe Morais burst into the Bury box looking for a shot, he didn’t see Andrai Jones coming across him and the Shakers youngster produced the challenge of the game to clear the ball from his feet as he was pulling the trigger.
With the final whistle gone, the Shakers looked to have reached Kevin Blackwell’s first target – arrest the slide, next stop is a win. One game at a time but it’s getting closer
Bury: Trevor Carson, Joe Skarz, Adam Lockwood, David Worrall, Steven Schumacher, Lenell John-Lewis, Mark Carrington, Mark Hughes, Andrai Jones, David Healy, Tom Hopper
Subs: Shane Byrne, Peter Sweeney, Marcus Marshall, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Efe Sodje, Mark Cullen, Cameron Belford
Stevenage: Chris Day, David Gray, Darious Charles, Jon Ashton, Greg Tansey, Anthony Grant, James Dunne, Marcus Haber, Lucas Akins, Mark Roberts, Luke Freeman
Subs: Steve Arnold, Filipe Morais, Matt Ball, Miguel Cummings, Dani Lopez, Oliver Risser, Robin Shroot