Photo courtesy of Harry McGuire
Lee Clark had been waiting for the best part of two months for his new look Shakers to click, and this performance and result certainly showed signs that the gelling process has been completed, though leading scorer Jermaine Beckford claimed after the game that the best is yet to come.
With the Shakers featuring three former Oxford United players within the 18, one of the three – Chris Maguire got the game underway and almost immediately released Greg Leigh with a flying run down the flank that saw the visiting defence hurriedly push out for a throw.
Jermaine Beckford warmed his shooting boots up on five minutes with a strong shot from the edge of the box that cannoned off a defender and deflected wide of the target. Fellow striker put enough pressure on the U’s defence to make sure the ball went out for a corner. The corner turned into four successive corners that the Oxford defence eventually cleared all the way back to Leonardo Fasan in the Shakers goal.
Beckford was at it again on ten minutes when he controlled the ball with a perfectly executed Cruyff turn before turning on the ball and firing a ferocious drive that keeper Simon Eastwood did well to tip over the bar for another Bury corner.
Bury’s opening 15-minute dominance was broken by Rob Hall on 12 and 13 minutes, the first a stunning shot on the volley from at least 30 yards that flashed inches wide of the post, and then a minute later when he danced the ball through the Bury defence before forcing Leo Fasan to make a stunning save from close range with a crisp shot on goal.
Bury should have taken the lead on 20 minutes when Mike Smith showed a pair of quick feet in superbly controlling the ball. Flicking it over his covering defender he took the shot as the ball dropped from outside the area that flashed over a diving Simon Eastwood and agonisingly crashed off the top of the crossbar and out of play.
Within four minutes, Van Kessell charged forward and shot on goal, only for Fasan to again pull off a smart save to deny the flying Dutchman. It was a case of Deja Vu moments later when the same player again found the Shakers backup keeper in stunning form as he again dived to save his shot.
Bury used the counter-attack to good effect on 37 minutes with Beckford leading the Shaker's charge. With Smith and Maguire keeping pace with the Bury striker, Beckford found Smith who shot first time from the edge of the box. A slight deflection from a defender took the ball wide of the target and out for a Bury corner.
A minute later and Smith reversed the role with a great flick to release Beckford, but as the Shakers' leading scorer touched the ball, an offside flag killed the move. That offside flag was to kill another Bury attack just before halftime. A stunning delivery from Maguire saw Beckford get a clean header from point-blank range on the target, only for Simon Eastwood to tip the effort over the bar, but again, the assistant referee had his flag in the air.
Within six minutes of the restart, Beckford managed to release another shot on goal, that again flew straight at keeper Eastwood. The U’s keeper again thwarted the Shakers striker, but again – the offside flag was quickly raised.
The game suddenly changed on 62 minutes when a Maguire cross into the box saw Beckford and defender both leap for the ball, Beckford went down heavily from the challenge and referee Ben Toner immediately pointed to the spot.
Chris Maguire grabbed the ball to take the spot kick and after what seemed a long delay, he placed the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal for the Shakers, and the opening goal in what would be a frantic eight minutes.
Four minutes later and Chris Humphrey took over from Maguire with the ‘stunning ball into the box’ routine, though this time the United defence coped and cleared. Almost immediately the visitors made three changes in an effort to get back into the game.
Two minutes later they were two goals down and Beckford chased the ball to the touchline, he somehow managed to turn and direct the ball towards the near post where confusion amongst the keeper, a defender and striker Michael Smith reigned. The ball ended up in the back of the net with Smith wheeling away to celebrate another first goal for the club.
A further two minutes and it was game set and match for the Shakers. Former Preston North End due Chris Humphrey and Jermaine Beckford linked up with Humphrey delivering the ball of the night, and Beckford rose to meet it superbly to plant an unstoppable header beyond Eastwood to seal the three points.
Bury had further chances to increase their goal tally with Smith, Maguire and Harry Bunn all forcing Eastwood to stop efforts, but the final whistle at the end of the game brought happiness and relief from everyone in the stadium as the Shakers finally got their season up and running.
Bury: Fasan, Leigh, Whitmore, Aldred, Edwards, Humphrey (Bunn 85), Maguire, Laurent, Reilly (Danns 54), Beckford (Dobre 77), Smith
Subs not used: Skarz, Ince, Maloney, Williams
Oxford United: Eastwood, Williamson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Nelson, Ruffles, Henry, Ledson (Rothwell 67), Hall, van Kessel (Payne 67), Mowatt
Subs not used: Martin, Xemi, Carroll, Shearer
Gate: 2,951 (287 from Oxford United)