A classic ‘game of two halves’ went from misery at the break for the shell-shocked Shakers to almost complete delirium as they narrowly avoided taking all three points as a stunning comeback claimed a share of the spoils.
Three goals down at half time, Bury manager David Flitcroft made changes at half time and watched confidently as goals from Leon Barnett, James Vaughan and Danny Mayor claimed a point at the Banks’s Stadium, although they could have snatched all three points from a James Vaughan shot
Manager David Flitcroft handed full debuts to Niall Maher and new addition James Vaughan as he was, again, forced to make changes to the starting eleven due to injuries.
Bury’s first raid on the Saddlers goal came with three minutes on the clock. A Ben Williams goal kick was expertly flicked on with a glancing header from James Vaughan, the flight of the ball fell superbly into the path of Danny Mayor whose quick turn and poke forward saw Hallam Hope and Walsall’s Liam Kinsella chase the ball into the corner, though it was the Saddlers defender who got the vital touch to put the ball out for a Bury corner. The delivery to the back post, from Ismail, found the head of Leon Barnett but his header down to Hope was, perhaps, just too close to a Walsall defender, but Hope swung his foot through the ball to connect with ball and defender, resulting in a free kick to the home side.
Moments later, Zeli Ismail caused a problem to the home defence as he took a long ball from Craig Jones deep into the corner, with a quick change of step and a flick from his right foot, he managed to completely deceive his covering defender before firing a stunning cross into the box flew narrowly wide of Hallam Hope’s forehead and out of play on the far side, though the officials had seen a foul from Hope and awarded a free kick in their own box.
From that free kick, Saddlers ‘keeper Neil Etheridge played a long ball forward that seemed to have been cleared by Leon Barnett, however, Kieron Morris had other ideas and took the ball wide before heading into the Bury corner. His ball into the box flew harmlessly through the area and out to the far side for Makris. His pass found the impressive Oztumer who slipped the ball back to the six-yard line from the touch line where Kieron Morris was on hand to smash the ball into the roof of the net, from close range, to give the Saddlers the lead.
Goal: Walsall 1 Bury 0 - Morris 6
From the re-start, the Shakers could, possibly, have equalised straight away. Jones and Ismail combined well down the flank, before Ismail delivered another quality ball into the middle where debutant James Vaughan rose superbly to meet the cross but he flashed his header just wide of the target.
Walsall doubled their lead on 14 minutes thanks to a poorly placed Bury pass. Leon Barnett had collected a header, under pressure, from Antony Kay and played the ball forward to Maher whose pass to Tom Soares lacked enough pace to reach its target and Oztumer, quickly, latched upon the loose ball. He took a couple of touches as he came forward with the ball before lashing it across Ben Williams from outside the area.
Goal: Walsall 2 Bury 0 - Oztumer 14
Following the restart, Bury moved the ball well from left to right and down the right hand flank in an attempt to get the ball into the box. The cross from Ismail, when it did come, though was easily cleared, but only as far as Danny Mayor, he took a touch to flick the ball around a covering defender before hitting the ball at goal, though his shot was straight at Etheridge.
A quickly taken Greg Leigh throw, on 20 minutes, brought Bury’s best chance of the game thus far. He played a clever one-two with Hallam Hope, into the corner, before the former Everton man cut inside his man and across the face of the area and, when his curling shot on goal came, it showed accuracy and pace but the diving save from Etheridge was more than equal to the shot and the ball was palmed away to the far side enabling the home side to clear the danger.
Shakers manager David Flitcroft made a tactical change on 27 minutes by replacing Niall Maher with striker Tom Pope and, with the resulting change in shape to the starting XI, hopefully the Shakers could get back into the game.
The change in shape, however, had little effect as, within five minutes, the home side had increased their lead again. The ball was fed down the Shakers flank were Makris managed to get the ball into the six-yard area where Simeon Jackson stole in front of Ben Williams and managed to flick the ball beyond the Shakers despairing ‘keeper to make it 3-0.
Goal: Walsall 3 Bury 0 - Jackson 32
Within four minutes of their third goal, Walsall should have put a fourth goal away. A long clearance from Williams was won in the air by the Saddlers defence and they quickly moved the ball forward. A long pass, through the middle, saw the bounce of the ball deceive both Antony Kay and Leon Barnett and Jackson stole in to charge at goal. With only Ben Williams to beat, Jackson attempted to place the ball across Williams from the edge of the area, but the Shakers ‘keeper was more than a match to it and dived, to his left, to tip the ball around the post for a corner.
A 38th minute Zeli Ismail free kick, taken from a wide position, was Bury’s next chance to get back into the game. Ismail attempted to put the ball towards the back post where Pope and Vaughan loitered with intent, but ‘keeper Etheridge was having none of it and rose above everyone to palm the ball away for a Bury corner.
The next chance came, again, from Danny Mayor with a long range drive which came, after some clever work from Leigh and Hope down the flank, saw Mayor collect the ball half way inside the Walsall half, but his long range drive was, again, dealt with by the home goalkeeper with a sprawling save to push the ball off the target.
Walsall had another chance just before the break and it was Jackson, again, causing the problems. A back pass from Greg Leigh seemed to stick on the sodden turf following torrential rain and Jackson was quick to latch onto it taking the ball to the corner of the six-yard box before firing at goal, though, thankfully, Williams was on hand yet again to keep the scoreline down with another excellent stop.
Half time duly arrived and a weary set of Shakers players trudged off the field, soaked to the skin following the torrential downpour during the first half. The mood amongst the 310 travelling supporters was not good and many wondered what the second half would bring and it’s probably fair to say none of them expected what happened next.
Half time: Walsall 3 Bury 0
Bury made another change at the break, with Jacob Mellis replacing Hallam Hope, and the change brought an almost instant reaction. James Vaughan collected a short pass from Craig Jones in the Walsall corner and his quick turn and cross almost caught Neil Etheridge napping as the flight of the ball looked to be dipping under the bar, and from a very acute angle, Etheridge was quick to leap and tap the ball over the bar for a Bury corner. Ismail’s resulting corner was collected on the chest by Leon Barnett and he allowed the ball to drop before unleashing a rocket from eight yards that left the ‘keeper and defenders with absolutely no chance of stopping the ball hitting the back of the net, for his first Shakers goal.
Goal: Walsall 3 Bury 1 - Barnett 47
Within two minutes, of Walsall restarting, the Shakers were back in the game and Barnett was involved again with a great assist. A long ball forward from Craig Jones, into the Walsall box, found the head of Leon Barnett whose leap saw him connect with the ball and he dropped it on a plate for James Vaughan just inside the box. Vaughan took one touch to take the ball past his man before striking it into the bottom corner to make it a stunning start to the second half as two goals in four minutes had brought Bury back into the game.
Goal: Walsall 3 Bury 2 - Vaughan 49
With the home defence visibly shocked and the Shakers fans now in fine voice, Bury came back at the hosts almost immediately looking for, what had appeared at one point, a highly unlikely equaliser. Bury worked the ball in and around the home box, with some excellent running from Tom Pope who fed the ball wide to Danny Mayor. Mayor took a couple of strides, cut inside his man before driving the ball at goal but, this time, Etheridge was equal to the shot and held the ball.
The Shakers were now rampant and were causing no ends of problems to the home side. Zeli Ismail and Craig Jones linked superbly down the right flank whilst Greg Leigh and Danny Mayor were doing a similar role down the left and, with both pairings using pace and trickery on the ball, the home defenders simply did not know which way to turn.
The Shakers next chance came on 53 minutes after more impressive work from Greg Leigh down the flank and into the corner brought a cross into the box. Tom Pope rose superbly to head the ball down to his new strike partner Vaughan and the former Birmingham City man took one touch to control the ball before shooting the ball inches over the bar. The Bury fans could now smell the fear in the Walsall defence and they could sense the equaliser coming with chants of “We’re going to win 4-3”.
Walsall did, however, manage to work the ball into the Bury box on 57 minutes when Oztumer worked his magic in the middle of the park. He fed it wide to Jackson who looked to return the ball back into the six-yard box for Oztumer to latch onto but, again, Ben Williams was on hand to smother the chance.
Within minutes though Bury were, once again, applying the pressure on the home goal looking for the equaliser. Danny Mayor and Greg Leigh, in particular, were causing the home side no end of problems down the left wing and it was another cross from Leigh that saw Pope and Vaughan both leap for the ball with ‘keeper Etheridge and it was Vaughan who connected first but he could not direct the chance on target.
Another stunning ball from Ismail brought the next chance when his cross found the head of Tom Pope on the corner of the six-yard area and his header flew at goal but, unfortunately for Pope and Bury, it was straight at the ‘keeper.
The equaliser finally arrived on 66 minutes. Good work from Craig Jones, just inside the Walsall half, saw him intercept a Walsall pass, he took one look up towards the box and delivered a curling ball towards the penalty spot. Saddlers’ defender Jason McCarthy rose to head the ball away, but all he did was to push the ball to the feet of Danny Mayor on the edge of the area. Mayor took a touch to kill the ball then smashed it on the half volley into the bottom corner to complete a stunning second half comeback.
Goal: Walsall 3 Bury 3 - Mayor 66
The Shakers were now on the hunt for a winning goal and it almost came two minutes later. From a Greg Leigh throw, half way inside the Walsall half, Danny Mayor delivered a high, looping, ball towards the back post where both defender Kevin Toner and Tom Pope challenged for the ball with the defender winning the battle but he lost control and watched as it fell to the feet of James Vaughan, standing just on the penalty spot. The Shakers new boy got an excellent connection with the ball and put the full force of his laces through it with a venomous shot that, agonisingly, took a coat of paint off the upright as it flew the wrong side of the post and out of play.
Moments later and another half chance appeared, this time it was Ismail’s turn, again, to deliver the ball into the middle. The ball sat up for Vaughan superbly but, with his back to goal and no time to turn or re-position himself, he went for the spectacular overhead shot and although he did connect with the ball, it was neither on target nor with the correct touch and was the ball was easily cleared by the thankful home defence.
Another chance came on 74 minutes and it was Ismail again. He took the ball to the touchline and with one turn and flick, left two defenders floundering and in a panicked state. Ismail had pushed the ball to Craig Jones and his cross into the box found a rising Danny Mayor but his header though flew harmlessly wide of the target.
Bury were now pushing the ball around the Saddlers half of the field with grace, confidence and, to be brutally honest – with ease. They won another corner on 80 minutes where Zeli Ismail’s delivery, although cleared, fell to the feet of Jacob Mellis some 30 yards out from goal but the former Chelsea man had only one thing on his mind – to shoot and, when he did connect, he wished he had passed as the ball flew well wide of the target.
The final minutes brought something of a fight-back from the home side and they won a free kick on the edge of the Bury box. Kieron Morris produced a stunning strike on goal that brought, arguably, the best save of the game with Ben Williams leaping across his goalmouth to dive and punch the ball away to safety.
Zeli Ismail was replaced, deep into injury time, by Anthony Dudley and, as the former Wolves man left the field to the 310 travelling Shakers gleefully singing his name, he turned and thanked the Shakers supporters after putting in a man of the match performance.
Final Score: Walsall 3 Bury 3
Walsall: N Etheridge, L Kinsella, J McCarthy, J Edwards, K Toner, A Makris (A Bakayoko 58), E Oztumer (M Kouhyar 73), K Morris, I Osbourne (G Dobson 43), A Chambers, S Jackson
Subs not used: C MacGillivray, J Ginnelly, J Sangha, M Preston
Bury: B Williams, G Leigh, L Barnett, A Kay, N Maher (T Pope 27), Z Ismail (A Dudley 89), T Soares, C Jones, D Mayor, H Hope (J Mellis, 45), J Vaughan
Subs not used: P Rachubka, N Clark, S Burgess
Gate: 4,393 (310 Bury)