Shakers defeated in Kent
With International Football heavily featuring over the weekend, the surprise for many that travelled down to Priestfield Stadium was that of our own international keeper suddenly appearing in between the sticks. John Ruddy was not appearing for his home country, instead he was forced into a career debut after Paddy Kenny collected a calf tear on Thursday.
The number of injuries to the Shakers ravaged squad was clearly evident with only four subs named and no sign of any players making a return from the treatment table.
Despite the adversity though, the Shakers got the game off to the best possible start with their first foray into the Gillingham box. Tom Pope chased what seemed to be a lost cause to the touch line, and having gained control of the ball played a delightful little reverse ball through the legs of a hapless defender to find Danny Mayor bursting to the bye-line. His cross into the box fell perfectly to Leon Clarke who rose above the defence to eloquently head the ball home for his eleventh goal of the season.
The lead however wasn’t to last that long, in fact a mere 90 seconds. A foul by Jacob Mellis some forty yards out saw Bradley Dack drive the ball at goal from the full distance. Jack Ruddy watched the flight of the ball and shifted his shape to get something onto the drive, he did enough to beat the shot away from goal but could do nothing about debutant Dominic Samuel driving the ball underneath for the equalising goal.
With the weather worsening minute by minute, Gillingham hoisted a long ball down the park that seemed to hang in the wind, a loud and vocal shot of ‘Jacks Ball’ was heard by virtually the entire Stadium as Ruddy leapt over everyone to confidently claim the ball, but he could do nothing minutes later as the home side took the lead.
A Bradley Garmston free kick was floated into the Bury box and expertly headed down by Donnelly, his ball fell to the feet of an unmarked John Egan who had the simplest task of driving a shot through the legs of Jack Ruddy to give the home side the lead – and we only had ten minutes on the clock.
The weather and swirling winds began to become a force in the game and it took the Shakers another 8 minutes to create another half chance. A Leon Clarke delivery into the box found the ball drop onto the head of Jacob Mellis, in a more or less carbon copy of the Gillingham goal, his header looked to be heading to Tom Soares on the edge of the 6-yard box but Egan somehow managed to claw the ball out of the air and smash it away from danger.
Moments later and another chance came Bury’s way when a Chris Hussey free kick from wide was whipped into the box at pace, but perhaps too much pace as both Tom Pope and Peter Clarke missed the opportunity to connect with the delivery at the back post as the ball zipped harmlessly out of play.
Gillingham were also creating half chances and one fell their way on the half hour when the ball found Harry Lennon some 30 yards out, his ferocious drive looked goal bound, but for the deft intervention of Peter Clarke who somehow managed to get a toe on the ball to put it away for a home corner.
Another chance came on 37 minutes when a quick counter from the home side found Rory Donnelly shooting from the corner of the box, but Jack Ruddy was more than confident with the shot and held the ball with a good clean catch.
Half time saw the Gill’s heading into the warmth of the dressing room complex in the lead, but the Shakers had their lion’s share of chances and would have felt aggrieved that they were going in at the break on level terms.
Another good chance fell to Leon Clarke on 55 minutes when Chris Hussey suddenly found space down the left hand side. The home side had controlled the runs of Hussey and Mayor for the majority of the game, yet Hussey suddenly found space. His delightful ball curled into the box and flew like an arrow for Leon Clarke. The Bury striker got a good touch on the ball but it seemed to hang in the wind and it failed to drop for Leon to get a strike on goal before the home defence recovered and smashed the ball out of play.
A quick succession of corners on the hour saw Hussey deliver the final delivery of three onto the head of Leon Clarke, but he failed to find the target and could only watch as his effort flashed wide.
Shakers should have pulled it all square on 63 minutes when Hussey again delivered a stunning ball into the box, the cross found Danny Rose and his powerful header on target was somehow cleared off the line by the home defence.
Ten minutes later and Jack Ruddy showed some good urgency to drive a monstrous clearance from the edge of the Bury box. The ball bounced in front of Rose on the edge of the box and spun away towards the home keeper, leaving Rose stretching.
With three minutes of the game remaining, the controversial moment arrived. Danny Rose attempted to take the ball into the box, but a Gillingham defender clearly wanted his shirt so badly, he almost pulled it off the Bury striker. The ref waved played on and the ball was fed to Emma Osaoabe, who then proceeded to dance and jink his way the full length of the pitch, and despite being forced wide of the target, somehow still managed to shot from wide and find the target for the Gills third and final goal of the afternoon.
The final goal killed the game and despite five minutes of injury time, the closest the Shakers came was when a scrambled Reece Brown effort was again cleared just before the line leaving the home side to take all three points, and the Shakers management looking or praying that some of these injured players are back in action soon – the gaffer needs options.