New Year starts with a defeat for the Shakers
Bury began the new year in disappointing fashion as Sheffield United took all three points back across the Pennines thanks to two second-half goals.
The Shakers got off to a dream start when Jacob Mellis gave them an early lead, but Billy Sharp pulled one back for the visitors, before a Kelvin Etuhu own goal and Kieron Freeman secured victory.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to the visitors, with Sharp firing wide from just inside the area after being played in by Stefan Scougall.
After a fairly even start to the game, Bury seized the early initiative when Mellis picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and rifled a stunning strike into the top corner of the goal, leaving Simon Moore with no chance.
The goal appeared to provide the Bury players with belief as they pushed for a second goal on the break, but it was to be the visitors who struck next nine minutes later. John Fleck’s inswinging free-kick caused chaos in the Bury penalty area, with the ball landing at the feet of Sharp, who fired home on the turn from just inside the six-yard box.
And minutes later it could have been two as the visitors began to get a firm foothold in the game. Caolan Lavery slalomed his way through the Bury defence before finding space on the edge of the area, but his effort was met by a smart save from Ben Williams, who turned the ball behind for a corner.
The league leaders continued to threaten before the break, with Antony Kay making a superb block to deny Scougall what looked like a certain goal. Minutes later, Kay almost turned from hero to villain when his heavy touch gifted Sharp with an opportunity for his second, but the forward could only blast the ball over the bar from a tight angle.
As the teams returned for the second half, Bury should have been ahead again. Debutant Jack Mackreth found space down the right hand side following some excellent footwork, before picking out James Vaughan, who lashed his shot just wide of the post from close range.
The Shakers then had calls for a penalty waved away on 63 minutes, when Scott Burgess’s shot appeared to strike the arm of a Sheffield United defender, but the referee awarded a corner instead, much to the frustration of home players and supporters.
The visitors ramped up the pressure in pursuit of all three points, and it paid off on 72 minutes, when Lavery’s low cross cannoned off Etuhu and beyond Ben Williams to put the Blades in front.
The victory was sealed on 81 minutes when Lavery managed to get in behind the Bury defence and slide the ball across the six yard box for Freeman to poke home and spark jubilant scenes among the vociferous away following.
Bury could have had a route back into the game when, with time ticking away, Vaughan latched onto an under-hit back pass and found himself through on goal, but his powerful shot smashed against the crossbar and back into play to sum up the Shakers’ afternoon.
Next up for the Shakers is a trip to Scunthorpe United on Saturday, January 7.
Man of the Match - Callum Styles
Attendance: 6,123 (3,157 vistors)
Bury starting line-up: Williams, Leigh, Kay, Bedeau, Etuhu, Soares, Burgess, Mellis (Danns 65), Styles (Pope 79), Mackreth (Miller 79), Vaughan
Unused subs: Rachubka, Cooney, Hope, Dudley
Sheffield United starting line-up: Moore, Lafferty (Coutts 79), Basham, O’Connell, Ebanks-Landell, Wright, Fleck, Scougall (Duffy 54), Freeman, Lavery, Sharp (Done 90)
Unused subs: McNulty, Ramsdale, Brown, Wilson