VERDICT: Fleetwood Town 2 Bury 1
SEVEN games into a season is far too soon to predict a likely outcome, but Fleetwood Town posed serious questions of Bury’s promotion credentials and, not for the first time, they were found wanting.
Defeat, albeit by the narrowest of margins, was the Shakers’ fourth of the season.
Three of those have come against League Two’s current top three following a 2-0 opening-day loss at home to leaders Chesterfield and a 2-1 defeat at second-placed Oxford United.
It is still early days, of course, with plenty of time for the Gigg Lane outfit to make up the eight-point gap to Fleetwood in the third automatic promotion place.
But while the scoreline may not have been conclusive, the disparity in chances carved out by both sides provided evidence of the work that needs to be done.
Bury had two serious efforts on goal in the opening 45 minutes.
One of them was finished by fit-again vice captain Tom Soares, while the other – a 35-yard lob from Anton Forrester – cannoned back off the crossbar.
Blackwell bemoaned his side’s luck after being denied a two-goal advantage, but opposing manager Graham Alexander must have been the one feeling cursed.
The Cod Army’s record signing Jamille Matt had proved a real handful up front, while former Gigg Lane triallist Junior Brown posed a constant threat from the wings.
Gareth Evans steered Brown’s cross just wide on eight minutes before a one-two with Matt allowed man-of-the-match Brown to get in behind the Shakers defence, only for Bury stopper Trevor Carson to block his low shot.
Yet, after withstanding early pressure, Soares helped Bury steal the advantage on 28 minutes, curling the ball into the bottom corner following a neat interchange between Forrester and Craig Jones.
The goal was followed by a frenetic period which saw Bury old-boy Ryan Cresswell go close with a header and Carson stand up well to a Jeff Hughes effort before Forrester’s brush with the woodwork.
Scott Davies in the Fleetwood goal rushed out to provide the teenaged loan striker with a sizeable target after he raced clear of the hosts’ defence.
The Blackburn 19-year-old should probably have done better and a goal would have been just reward for a performance full of endeavour and fancy footwork.
The half ended with a timely offside flag as Matt drifted past the last man before deflecting right-back Conor McLaughlin’s angled drive into the Bury net.
Fleetwood’s hard luck story continued after the break as Brown struck a post with a 25-yard free-kick, but it came to an end on 52 minutes when the ball bounced up nicely for Antoni Sarcevic and he let fly from 30 yards.
Carson, who was beaten by swerve as much as power, was made to look a little silly as the ball fishtailed through his flailing arms.
The Bury stopper made no mistake with another Sarcevic volley moments later, but was beaten all ends up on 63 minutes when a heavy touch from the goalscorer saw the ball land at Evans’ feet and he stroked it home.
Blackwell laid the blame at the feet of Nathan Cameron, who failed to track Evans’ run inside.
Admittedly, the central defender looked all at sea on the Fylde coast in his first ever run-out at right-back as cover for on-loan Shaun Beeley, who was unable to play against his parent club.
After fighting back, Fleetwood got nervous in the closing stages and Bury put them under serious pressure without carving out any clear-cut chances.
The attitude and application shown by Blackwell’s players is what Bury must now cling to if they are to mount a serious challenge for promotion.
Fleetwood Town: Davies; McLaughlin (Hogan 84), Pond, Cresswell, Howell; Evans, Schumacher (Murdoch 78), Hughes, Brown; Sarcevic; Matt (Ball 84). Not used: M Roberts, Parkin, Blair, Lucas.
Bury: Carson 7; Cameron 5, Hinds 7 (Jackson 90), Edjenguele 6, G Roberts 5; Procter 5, Miller 5; Jones 6, Sinnott 6 (Grimes 6 65), Soares 7 (Mayor 6 65); Forrester 8. Not used: Holden, Sedgwick, Jensen, Lockwood.
Goals: Fleetwood Town 2 (Sarcevic 52, Evans 63) Bury 1 (Soares 28).
Yellow cards: Fleetwood Town – Schumacher 16, Matt 59, Bury – G Roberts 30, Jones 47, Miller 79.
Referee: Andrew Madley.
Attendance: 3,520 (visiting 997).
Star man: Anton Forrester – The Blackburn loan striker came in for some heavy criticism after a flat display in the previous weekend’s defeat at Rochdale.
There was nothing flat about his response, however, as the 19-year-old led the line on his own with enthusiasm and not a small amount of skill.
Time and again Forrester’s fancy footwork helped to earn a vital breather for his embattled team-mates and the youngster also played a key part in Tom Soares’ opener.
The fact his attempted lob hit the crossbar and denied Bury the chance to go into the break 2-0 up probably changed the course of the game in Fleetwood’s favour. But any further criticism would be harsh on the youngster after putting in such a mature performance.
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