MATCH VERDICT: Bury 1 Southend 1
KEVIN Blackwell may have sent his assistant Ronnie Jepson to speak to the media but the Bury boss still had plenty to say after Saturday’s 1-1 stalemate.
If those fans questioning whether Blackwell is the right man to lead the Bury revolution think he doesn’t care, they may think differently had they witnessed his post-match exchange with chairman Stewart Day.
At 6.15pm, an hour-and-a-half after Anton Forrester’s stoppage-time equaliser had rescued a point for the Shakers, Blackwell was still deep in conversation with Day by the Gigg Lane dug-out.
It wasn’t an argument. Nor did it seem Day was demanding an explanation after narrowly avoiding a fourth straight defeat.
It was more a manager expressing his frustration at his team’s shortcomings that day, and a new chairman interested in exactly where they have gone wrong since blowing away Cheltenham in their previous home game.
Basic errors are hurting the Shakers. They conceded a free-kick on the right side of their box in the 23rd minute which Southend left-back Ben Coker curled in from a tight angle.
They then struggled to break down a Southend side managed by Phil Brown, who Blackwell beat to the Bury job last September, until Coker's second yellow card in the 88th minute gave them hope to launch a successful late rally.
“We were undone by a sloppy goal which came from our throw-in,” said Jepson. “That took the wind out of our sails because we were attacking at will.
“As soon as they got the goal they slowed the game right down, which was frustrating for the players and supporters.
“But the positive thing is we kept going. A few heads were down at half-time because we'd had so much of the ball but we had a rallying call.
“They kept going, they dug in there and they got the point, which could prove to be crucial come the end of the season.”
Despite bossing possession, Bury only had two shots on target, the first an early Tom Soares strike which was turned wide by Southend keeper Dan Bentley.
Shaun Beeley then exchanged passes with Shaun Harrad to get down the right and his cut-back ultimately found Tommy Miller, whose shot was blocked.
Trevor Carson was then called into action to keep out a powerful header from Southend centre-half Mark Phillips before Coker curled in a fine free-kick.
The Shrimpers, who had lost their last four, had a great chance to double their lead as Nathan Cameron was caught in possession by winger Anthony Straker, who squared for an unmarked Freddy Eastwood. But the striker's control was poor and Carson scrambled across goal to smother his shot.
Barry Corr tested Carson with a long-range strike while Bury replied with William Edjenguele heading wide from a Craig Jones free-kick.
The boos that greeted the half-time whistle, admittedly from only a small number of Bury fans, did seem harsh. But Blackwell acted at half-time, bringing off Soares and Harrad for Danny Mayor and Jessy Reindorf.
Mayor had an immediate impact, repeatedly collecting the ball in tight situations but managing to beat his man and cross from deep on the left wing.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, as soon as they'd got to their feet they were sitting back down again as Mayor was failing to pick out the men in the middle.
Southend threatened on the break, with Kevan Hurst volleying narrowly over before the winger saw a shot blocked, with Eastwood blazing over from the loose ball.
Will Atkinson then fired wide for the visitors and when Mayor did find his range, Cameron's header was disallowed for a foul as the free-kick came in.
With Bury running out of ideas, Coker handed them a lifeline as he was booked twice in nine minutes.
And that set the platform for Forrester to head home from substitute Jordan Sinnott's free-kick in the first minute of stoppage time for his fourth goal on loan from Blackburn.
There were still some grumbles at the final whistle. How the mood of the fans and Blackwell has changed since that thrilling win over Cheltenham.
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