VERDICT: Accrington Stanley 0 Bury 0
IT was hard to argue with David Flitcroft’s claim that Bury were the only side that wanted to win this tense League Two basement battle.
The stats alone tell the story with Accrington – albeit playing with 10 men for 60 minutes – mustering just one shot on target compared to the Shakers’ 14.
But a lack of match sharpness from a Bury side playing for the first time since February 4 following three successive postponements, combined with a fine performance from Stanley stopper Marcus Bettinelli, ensured they would remain fourth-bottom of the table.
“I don’t think they had much ambition from the start because they couldn’t get the ball off us,” said Flitcroft of their hosts, who remain one point and one place better off than Bury.
“With 11 men or 10 men, I don’t think it mattered.
“Credit to them, they have a lot of brave players who have put themselves on the line and their keeper has also done fantastic, but we were the only side that wanted to win the game.”
Accrington defender Laurence Wilson was shown a straight red card on 32 minutes, but the Shakers failed to force a victory that would have seen them not only leapfrog their Lancashire rivals but also jump up three places in the table.
The left-back was rightly given his marching orders for a rash challenge on Craig Jones, winning the ball but going straight through the Shakers captain.
The drama did little to interrupt the flow of the game, which had already been pretty much one-way traffic up to that point.
Accrington winger Lee Molyneux may have produced the first shot of the match in the 10th minute, forcing veteran keeper Brian Jensen into a decent save after being put in behind the Bury defence with a neat flick from striker Kayode Odejayi.
But the Shakers bossed the game from there on in.
Anton Forrester was on the end of most of their chances, but each time Bettinelli was equal to his efforts.
The on-loan striker’s first opening came in the 16th-minute after Andrew Tutte slid a ball into his feet in the right channel but Bettinelli was able to block his drilled shot back across goal.
The Blackburn forward had a similar effort from the left saved 10 minutes before the break before he failed to connect properly with a header from a pin-point Craig Jones cross.
Danny Mayor also tested the Stanley stopper with a swerving shot, which he gathered at the second attempt, while Daniel Nardiello headed a corner over and Tutte had a cross-shot cleared off the line by Luke Joyce.
Stanley shut up shop after the break, reverting to just Danny Webber up front, with the remaining nine men kept firmly behind the ball.
And the chances dried up for Bury.
A half-time switch of his own from Flitcroft, taking off the ineffective Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and switching to a back four, failed to have the intended impact.
It was not until veteran centre-forward Clive Platt was introduced on the hour that Bury got back into their stride.
The big striker headed down for Forrester with his first touch, but the 19-year-old’s nonchalant effort curled the wrong side of the far post.
Tutte produced a couple of fiery strikes on goal, one that went just wide and the other blocked again by Bettinelli.
And the Accrington keeper had enough time to produce one more match-saving stop at the death, getting down to turn away a side-footed Nardiello shot on the line.
But while Bury’s attacking threat may take a while longer to click into gear following their enforced mid-season break, the defensive unit picked up where they left off, claiming their fourth clean sheet in the last six matches.
“Before I came in it (the defence) was a car crash, an absolute train wreck,” said Flitcroft.
“We are now limiting teams on the number of chances they are creating, which pleases me because we are set up so offensive in our play.
“So there is a lot to be happy about.”
BURY: Jensen 6; Veseli 7 (Obadeyi 87), Mills 7, McNulty 7; Jones 6, Miller 7, Tutte 7, Mayor 6 (Platt 6 61); Nardiello 6; Akpa-Akpro 5 (Sedgwick 6 46), Forrester 7.
Not used: Hinds, Procter, Soares, Charles-Cook.
ACCRINGTON STANLEY: Bettinelli; Hunt, Winnard, Aldred, Wilson; Mingoia, Murphy, Joyce, Molyneux (Atkinson 89); Odejayi (Liddle 46), Webber (Gray 80).
Not used: McCartan, Hatfield, Windass, Bowerman. Red cards: Accrington – Wilson 32.
Yellow cards: Accrington – Winnard 82. Bury – Mills 85.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire).
Attendance: 2,184 (1,037 visiting)
Star man: Anton Forrester – The young striker was unlucky to come up against an Accrington keeper in Marcus Bettinelli who was in inspired form. The Stanley stopper did well to keep out two decent efforts from the on-loan teenager. And while Forrester could and probably should have done better with a headed chance late in the first half, his willingness to run the channels and show for the ball was a highlight of an otherwise frustrating evening.