RICHIE Barker gambled to plug his leaking defence and it reaped rewards as his men kept their first clean sheet since the 1-0 win over Preston on November 26.

True, a 0-0 draw at home to the club managed by former Shakers boss Alan Knill, who returned to Gigg Lane for the first time since his departure to Glanford Park almost exactly a year ago, was nothing to write home about.

But in the context of the Shakers’ previous five games – in which they have conceded 17 goals – it was massive.

The key men proved to be 20-year-old right-back Andrai Jones, starting only his second league game, and holding midfielder Patrick Cregg, both of whom were man-of-the-match candidates against a Scunthorpe side reduced to 10 men on the half hour by Mark Duffy’s silly red card.

“I almost let Andrai go out on loan on Monday,” revealed manager Barker. “It was to a club a couple of leagues below us.

“The deal was all done and ready, but at the last minute I pulled the plug and stuck him in the team because he is a good athlete and Scunthorpe had two wide players with a lot of pace.

“I thought it was worth the gamble, because if you do what you always do, you get what you always get. Sometimes you’ve got to take a risk to make a difference.”

Jones and Cregg certainly provided more bite than has been evident in recent performances, but the Shakers might have been celebrating a win after twice hitting the woodwork and going desperately close to snatching a winner with virtually the last kick.

Bury almost took the lead in the 19th minute after Josh Walker felled David Worrall 25 yards out before Shaun Harrad’s thunderous free kick rattled Sam Slocombe’s upright.

The gods were against Barker’s men again moments later when Nathan Clarke’s howitzer of a throw into the United box found captain Efe Sodje, whose header zipped over Slocombe, but came back off the crossbar. Soon after Knill’s side gave themselves an uphill battle when midfielder Duffy was given a straight red card for raising his hands to Cregg.

The closest Scunthorpe came to scoring was when Sodje was dispossessed by John Parkin on the halfway line. The forward fed Andy Barcham, whose attempted lob was gratefully caught by goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

Clarke’s throw-ins continued to cause Scunthorpe problems and it was from the mayhem caused by one such effort that Giles Coke volleyed narrowly wide a minute into first-half stoppage time.

But the Gigg Lane men might have taken the lead three minutes after the restart when Worrall fed Harrad in space just inside the Scunthorpe penalty area, but he blazed his shot well over.

It was then Worrall’s turn to get on the end of a loose ball in the 56th minute when Coke made a blistering run down the right before flashing the ball across the face of Slocombe’s goal. Barker introduced substitutes David Amoo and Lateef Elford-Alliyu late on in a bid a break the deadlock, but Scunthorpe succeeded in snuffing out Bury’s attacking threat with some dogged defending until deep into injury time.

Worrall broke down the left and crossed for Elford-Alliyu, whose shot was saved by Slocombe. Amoo raced onto the rebound but his shot was turned on to the top of the crossbar by Slocombe with virtually the last kick of the game.

BURY: Carson 6, Jones 8, Sodje 7, Clarke 7, Skarz 7, Carrington 7, Coke 7, Cregg 7 (Elford-Alliyu 6), Worrall 7, Bishop 8, Harrad 7 (Amoo 6).

Unsused subs: Picken, Hughes, Branagan.

SCUNTHORPE: Slocombe 6, Byrne 7, Mirfin 6, Reid 7, Reckford 7, Duffy 5, Mozika 7 (O’Connor), Walker 7 (Togwell 6), Barcham 6, Parkin 6, Robertson 6 (Ryan 6).

Unused subs: Lillis, Nolan.

Referee: Gary Sutton Att: 2,351 (338 visiting).