Shirtliff backs Bury in relegation battle
ASSISTANT manager Peter Shirtliff believes the spirit and character shown by his players to claim a last-gasp point against Shrewsbury will propel Bury clear of danger in the second half of the season.
Captain Steven Schumacher ensured the 2,200 Shakers fans who turned out at Gigg Lane on Friday night would enjoy a happier Christmas after nodding in Gregg Wylde’s 90th-minute corner to equalise.
A 12th defeat of the campaign looked on the cards after Jon Taylor put fellow strugglers Shrewsbury ahead for the second time on the night with 20 minutes to play.
But, after Schumacher extended his lead as the club’s top scorer with his fifth of the season, Shirtliff saw plenty of reasons to be optimistic that his side had what it takes to haul themselves out of the relegation places.
“You’ve got to give credit to the players – they just stick at it for 90 minutes and never give in and they’ve done great again,” he said.
“If we can just keep our performance level as it is and our spirit and endeavour as it is, then I think the results will take care of themselves.”
There was drama in the first minute as well as the last, when a slip from centre-back Efe Sodje let in Shrewsbury striker Marvin Morgan to start the move that led to the opening goal.
Joe Skarz and Mark Hughes combined to block the rangy forward’s determined run into the box, but the ball slid clear of the tangle of bodies and centre-midfielder Aaron Wildig pounced to finish from close range.
Both defences looked determined to get into the spirit of the season, gift wrapping chances in a kamikaze opening. So it was no surprise when David Worrall popped up all on his own on the right in the 10th minute with plenty of time and space to play Matt Doherty in for the equaliser.
He expertly picked out the run of the rampaging full-back with a clever reverse pass and the on-loan Leicester defender took the ball in his stride before burying a shot under the body of Shrews keeper Chris Weale.
The goal gave Kevin Blackwell’s side a real boost and they went close to taking the lead through a Skarz header before Weale did well to parry a fierce long-range strike from the lively Wylde.
But the visitors came back into the match late in the half, and Morgan went close with two chances, both shut out by last-ditch tackles from Skarz.
Bury started the second half the brightest, with Wylde’s angled drive turned on to his own post by Shrews centre-back Darren Jones.
The game became cagier as the half went on before Shrewsbury went back into the lead on 68 minutes following a bolt from the blue from Taylor. Skarz backed off just long enough for the diminutive winger to fire off a 25-yard snap-shot from the right that beat the unsighted Carson at his near post.
With Bury wobbling, Carson redeemed himself a minute later with an important block to deny Morgan in a one-on-one.
It looked like it was going to be another one of those nights when substitute Troy Hewitt had a late header tipped behind by Weale, but Schumacher stepped up to head home the resulting corner and earn a vital point for his side.
And Shirtliff admitted he was happy to be able to send the supporters home smiling for a change. “I think they appreciate the spirit the lads are showing and the effort and willingness to fight and play for 90 minutes,” said the former caretaker boss. “They (the players) are doing everything they possibly can and if we just get a bit more rub of the green I’m sure we will climb the league.”
The Shakers went into Christmas with renewed hope, although they remained third from bottom of League One, three points from safety.
BURY: Carson 5; Doherty 7, Sodje 6, Hughes 6 (John-Lewis 85), Skarz 7; Worrall 7, Thompson 5, Schumacher 7, Wylde 8; Healy 6 (Hewitt 6 54), Hopper 6 (Soares 78). Subs not used: C Jones, A Jones, Belford, Carole. SHREWSBURY TOWN: Weale; Goldson, Grandison, D Jones, Gayle; Taylor (Jacobson 81), Richards, Wildig, Parry (Purdie 46); Morgan, Rodgers (Doble 60). Subs not used: Anyon, Hall, Bradshaw, Woods. Referee: Scott Duncan.
Attendance: 2,536 (379 visiting).