Bury remain unbeaten as Swindon come from two-nil down to rescue a point, after superb goals from Tom Pope and Danny Mayor.
An impressive pre-season carried over into the opening league game at Doncaster, as Flitcroft’s men continued to show what they are all about with a terrific result and turnaround at Wigan in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night. Now it was Bury’s turn to host their first home league game of the 2015-16 season against Swindon Town who finished as play-off finalists, losing out to Preston North End in their quest for promotion to The Championship.
The last time Bury and Swindon met at Gigg Lane was back in early October 2012 when The Robins took the points with a narrow 1-0 win.
The Shakers named another strong and attacking line-up, with the only change from the midweek cup victory being Tom Pope coming back in for Hallam Hope.
Today’s game was also a time for the club as a collective to pay their respects to Neville Neville. There was an emotional speech by the Bury FC Club Chaplin and a minute’s applause for the club stalwart straight after, as the players wore black armbands throughout the encounter.
It was The Shakers who got the game underway in the sunshine, with the visitors getting an early corner in the opening 30-seconds, after Walton let the ball trickle out. Nothing came of it though.
Bury were one-nil up in the 3rd minute as Tom Pope put a thunderous headed effort into the top right from an exquisite Joe Riley cross. Seconds later and L. Clarke nearly doubled The Shakers lead, skipping past Swindon players with ease and then poking his effort just wide.
The excellent high-intensity start got the crowd on their feet as Riley delivered another cross from the right, but Lawrence Vigouroux held it at the second attempt.
Pope had another headed effort saved just before the 20-minute mark, Riley floating a cross in, but this time Mark Cooper’s side dealt with it. A minute later and Swindon’s keeper was booked for catching L. Clarke, who skipped past him with the ball in the box. His subsequent effort from the spot struck the left post with venom, keeping the game at one-nil and Clarke on three goals in as many games.
Chris Hussey’s free kick on the edge of the box then flew over the goal, as he tried to direct his effort into the top left.
The free-flowing attacking football on show brought great excitement to the game as The Shakers took charge and controlled possession, as well as chances.
On 25-minutes L. Clarke had another effort saved at close range as Bury continued to look for that all-important second goal.
With The Shakers fans cheering on the lads, the pressure from attack to defence gave Swindon no time on the ball, forcing them into errors in the process.
Just after the half-hour mark Swindon had their first bit of pressure. P. Clarke failed to see out the ball, as Nathan Byrne cut inside and flashed a cross that wasn’t met. The resulting shots were blocked and moved away from danger.
Five minutes before the break and Kelvin Etuhu picked up a booking for taking a free kick too early. Hussey’s effort from the retake was saved well, as the ball was destined for the bottom right corner.
The opening 45-minutes came to a close with the home side well on top. Pope headed another chance into the ground, as Riley found him with pinpoint accuracy once again. Then L. Clarke tried to feed him the ball, but the chasing Swindon defence got the final touch at the crucial second. The resulting corner was headed just wide at the back post from L. Clarke.
HALF-TIME: THE SHAKERS 1-0 SWINDON TOWN
As the second-half got underway, Mark Cooper made his first change of the game on 49-minutes – looking to get his Robins side back in the game.
Unfortunately things got worse for the away side, after Danny Mayor curled a beautiful effort into the right-hand side of the goal on 52-minutes, after a short spell of pressure from The Shakers. His shot was hit perfectly from outside of the box, after the ball fell to him from a lacklustre clearance.
On the hour mark the game came to a halt as Hussey received treatment, before coming back on. Shortly after the away side brought on their second substitute, Anton Rodgers - the son of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
Swindon were restricted to long-range efforts, as Bury worked together as a unit to close down any kind of danger.
On the 65th minute there was another minute’s applause for Neville Neville around the ground as the message, ‘Rest In Peace Neville Neville’ was displayed on the scoreboard.
The link-up play between L. Clarke and Pope was a joy to watch as they continued to twist and turn the Swindon defence.
Flitcroft made a double substitution on 70-minutes, as Danny Pugh and Jacob Mellis came on for Kelvin Etuhu and Tom Pope – both getting a standing ovation.
Swindon got a goal back on the 74th minute, as the substitute Fabien Robert ran across the box, receiving the ball unchallenged and scuffed his shot across goal, finding the bottom left corner. It was a well-worked move that stunned the home support, but resulted in a reaction from the lads in white and blue.
A couple of minutes later and Mellis received the ball on the right; his cross was too close to the Swindon keeper though, who held onto it.
10-minutes before the end, the second Bury goal scorer, Danny Mayor came off to a brilliant reception too, Hallam Hope replacing him on the left wing.
L. Clarke then broke into the box, putting his shot across goal. Again, Vigouroux held well as Hope was breathing down his neck.
Anton Rodgers equalised for Swindon on 82-minutes with a well-placed free kick that nestled into the top right of Walton’s goal to complete the unlikely comeback.
Five minutes before the end and Pugh put a delightful cross into the box, Mellis’ header was on target, but central, giving the keeper the chance to get both hands to it.
Both sides tried to look for the vital winning goal in the 5-minutes of additional time, neither side creating a clear-cut chance though.
FULL-TIME: THE SHAKERS 2-2 SWINDON TOWN
After Swindon’s emphatic opening day victory, David Flitcroft was undoubtedly disappointed with the result, to go from looking so comfortable at 2-0 to drawing the game against a tough side that is tipped for another promotion push.
Next up for The Shakers is another home league game on Tuesday night (18th – 7:45pm KO) against Fleetwood Town. A quick turnaround for the club and an excellent opportunity to make amends.
STARTING LINEUP: 1. C. Walton (GK), 2. J. Riley, 3. C. Hussey, 4. A. Tutte, 5. P. Clarke, 6. K. Etuhu (OFF 70’), 9. L. Clarke, 10. D. Mayor (OFF 80’), 11. T. Pope (OFF 70’), 19. T. Soares, 27. N. Cameron (C).
BENCH: 26. R. Lainton (GK), 7. H. Hope (ON 80’), 8. J. Mellis (ON 70’), 12. C. Sedgwick, 22. D. Pugh (ON 70’), 32. D. Rose, 40. R. Brown.
BURY BOOKINGS: K. Etuhu (41’).
BURY MAN OF THE MATCH: Joe Riley
REFEREE: Mr. C. Boyeson
ATTENDANCE: 3,947 (439 Away Fans).
Report by Michael Brown