Bury record their win first win of the league season and in the process keep their first clean sheet, as Walsall taste defeat for the first time.
Bury came to the Banks’s stadium still searching for their first three points of the season, but had an interesting statistic on their side before the encounter; Walsall had not beaten the Shakers in six matches – a run which has lasted nine years.
Currently top-of-the-league and unbeaten, Walsall were looking for a fifth consecutive victory, but were knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the week by Morecambe, the club who will visit Gigg Lane in the next round after the draw this morning.
David Flitcroft named a very strong line-up; Rob Lainton made his third consecutive start in goal, and the return of Leon Clarke to the strike force was a welcomed boost. Tom Pope was named on the bench with Anthony Dudley, a graduate from the youth team last season and also top scorer. Danny Rose wasn’t named in the squad due to injury.
Dean Smith, who was awarded ‘League One Manager of the Month’ for August made a few changes to his Saddlers side. Defender, Jason Demetriou and Goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge were absent due to international commitments with Cyprus and Philippines respectively. New acquisition, Isaiah Osbourne, an ex-Aston Villa Premier League player, wasn’t included in the squad of 18.
The last time the two met was back on the 20thApril 2013 when Bury took home a point with a 1-1 draw in League One despite relegation already confirmed, a late Efe Sodje goal cancelled out a Febian Brandy strike.
It was the home side that got the game underway, winning an early free kick on the edge of the box; the tame effort however was collected well by Lainton in the Bury net.
Bury got off to a terrific start though when Craig Jones smashed a low effort across goal from the right on the 5thminute. A well-worked move after a spell of pressure got the away fans into the spirit.
The Saddlers tried to tackle the increasing attacking threat of Bury, with another tame shot that went well wide of the left post by Walsall’s Reece Flanagan.
The Shakers chanting in the opening 15-minutes dominated the Bescot Stadium crowd, who had their first bit of action to cheer when Sam Mantom flicked the ball up just outside of the 18-yard area, volleying it towards goal, Lainton pushing it out for a corner, after Jacob Mellis received treatment for a ball to the face a couple minutes before on the 20-minute mark.
As Walsall grew into the game they had a flurry of chances on either wing, wasting many with crosses that didn’t beat the first man.
Bury’s Danny Mayor had a volleyed effort in the box blocked at the crucial moment, after a spell of pressure on the hour-mark, picking up loose passes in midfield from the hosts.
A minute later and the Walsall keeper, Craig MacGillivray collected a shot from Joe Riley on the right, Jones touching it into his path.
With 36 minutes on the clock, Joe Riley flew over the pitch boundary wall after seeing out the ball for a thrown-in, although it looked nasty he was soon back up and raring to go.
The Shakers had a glorious chance to double the lead five minutes before the break, Danny Mayor having his shot from the left blocked after a high cross from the other side.
The Saddlers came close to equalising just before the interval when James O’Connor’s back post header was pushed away again by Lainton.
With two minutes of additional time indicated, Walsall had another effort saved – a powerful strike from Romaine Sawyers, which was also the last memorable chance of the half to round off an excellent display of defending by the visitors.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 0-1 THE SHAKERS
Walsall were sent out early by their gaffer, Dean Smith, as Bury got the proceedings back underway.
The hosts started brightly but again couldn’t produce any clear-cut chance on goal. A quick one-two between Mayor and L. Clarke nearly put the latter through on the Walsall goal, as they looked to counter.
Five minutes in and Flitcroft made his first change, bringing off Joe Riley for Reece Brown, who was tasked with the defensive-midfielder role, as Craig Jones moved to the right back position for Bury.
Just before the hour-mark, Lainton pulled off another great save in the Bury net, pushing away Mantom’s drilled shot away from danger, as Walsall stepped it up a gear in search for the equaliser. Soon after they had a headed effort cleared off the line by Peter Clarke, Paul Downing with the final touch from a corner by Walsall’s number 12, Anthony Forde.
Both teams made double substitutions on 61-minutes, Bury choosing to replace Leon Clarke and Jacob Mellis with Tom Pope and Danny Pugh.
Understandably given the circumstances, Walsall were dominating possession and attacking chances in the second-half, as The Shakers did well to frustrate the home supporters and team with a disciplined and well-drilled defensive performance.
Danny Pugh received the first caution of the game on the 74thminute with a blatant handball in the attacking third, as The Saddlers tried to clear. The home side made their last change seconds later, Milan Lalkovic coming on, an ex-Chelsea player ahead of their big Capital One Cup tie against the Premier League champions.
The Shakers fans nearly erupted with 7-minutes remaining as Pugh guided his effort just wide after a cutback from Tom Pope on the left wing. It was Bury’s first chance of this half as Mayor carried the ball forward on the counter. Seconds later and Lainton held onto the ball at his near post, continuing his impressive performance.
Another shot by Mantom was pushed away by Lainton, as the duel between the two continued; this was, as four minutes of added time were shown by the fourth official. Shortly after Craig Jones picked up the second yellow of the game and for Bury with what looked like time wasting.
As the Bury fans sensed that all-important first win of the league season, Walsall’s star-striker, Tom Bradshaw shot well over the bar and seconds later, Lainton finally collected the ball as it bounced around in the Bury box, hitting several Shakers players in the process.
Tom Soares could of put the game to bed with the last kick of the game, he broke free in midfield and as he raced onto the Walsall goal his shot got stuck under his feet and went well wide of the goal; as the Shakers players fell to their feet with the final whistle to record a terrific three points, knocking Walsall off the top spot in the process.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 0-1 THE SHAKERS
Next up for The Shakers is another tough test away from home, as they make the trip to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane next Saturday.
We’d also like to wish Walsall all the best when they play Chelsea in a few weeks time!
STARTING LINEUP: 26. R. Lainton (GK), 2. J. Riley (OFF 49’), 3. C. Hussey, 4. A. Tutte, 5. P. Clarke, 8. J. Mellis (OFF 61’), 9. L. Clarke (OFF 61’), 10. D. Mayor, 14. C. Jones, 19. T. Soares, 27. N. Cameron (Capt.).
BENCH: 34. J. Ruddy (GK), 11. T. Pope (ON 61’), 12. C. Sedgwick, 22. D. Pugh (ON 61’), 28. A. Dudley, 35. M. Foulds, 40. R. Brown (ON 49’).
BURY BOOKINGS: Pugh (74’), Jones (90’).
REFEREE: Mr F. Graham (Essex).
ATTENDANCE: 4,829 (440 Shakers Fans).
Report by Michael Brown