BURY boss Ryan Lowe lamented that his side produced a performance befitting of nearly-men as they slipped to their first defeat in seven league games at Port Vale.

Tom Pope proved their undoing, the former Shakers man netting the only goal of the game early in the second period to cook Bury’s goose.

Lowe’s men registered a whopping 22 shots on goal to Vale’s five but that offered few crumbs of comfort for the Gigg Lane chief. “Stats like that mean nothing when you’ve been beaten in the manner we have here,” said Lowe.

“You need to put those chances away when they come along. We weren’t effective enough in the final third and in the end, that has cost us.

“We might have dominated possession and chances, but the final score was 1-0 to Port Vale and that’s what it’s all about.

“We’ve probably got the best strikeforce in this division but when you come away with nothing like that, it’s really disappointing.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we’re nearly a good team but we’re not there yet.”

Pope decided the contest with a predatory strike just after half-time as Lowe’s men paid the price for missing too many chances.

Vale created the first chance of the game after a pedestrian opening 10 minutes.

Theo Vassell hooked in a cross from the left but defender Connell Rawlinson could only direct his header onto the roof of the Bury net.

The Shakers’ first sight of goal came shortly after when Neil Danns cracked in a shot from 25 yards that fizzed harmlessly wide.

Once Bury’s widemen Nicky Adams and Callum McFadzean started to see more of the ball on Vale’s vast pitch, the visitors looked more of a threat.

It was Adams who played in Nicky Maynard after 18 minutes but the Shakers striker’s shot on the turn was saved by Scott Brown.

Both sides were struggling to make inroads as the midway point in the first half passed, and that was reflected by the almost hushed atmosphere at Vale Park.

Bury almost broke through on the half-hour mark.

Danny Mayor wriggled free of two challenges before teeing up Maynard but his low strike from 15 yards was inches wide.

Bury’s final opportunity of a largely uninspiring opening 45 minutes saw midfielder Jay O’Shea hit a deflected shot into the side-netting.

Vale stunned the Shakers by taking the lead just six minutes after the restart.

Mitchell Clark’s cross from the right was only cleared into Pope’s path by Will Aimson and the former Bury hitman didn’t waste his chance, drilling home from 10 yards.

The visitors needed a response and they almost got one, with Mayor and Maynard both going close to a leveller in the next five minutes.

Vale had clearly been lifted by their goal, however, and Luke Hannant almost made it 2-0, only for his shot to be blocked by Chris Stokes.

Bury pressed hard for an equaliser late on and Mayor thumped a shot against the crossbar, then Maynard was denied by a super stop from Brown.

Port Vale (3-4-3): Brown, Legge, Rawlinson, Smith, Clark, Joyce (Kay 84), Conlon (Hardcastle, 46), Vassell, Miller (Whitfield, 63), Pope, Hannant.

Subs not used: Gibbons, Hornby, Kanu, Dodds.

Bury (3-5-2): Murphy 7, Stokes 6, Thompson 7, Aimson 6, Adams 6 (Moore, 54, 7), Mayor 8, Danns 6 (Styles, 69, 7), O’Shea 8, McFadzean 7, Dagnall 5 (Telford 54, 6), Maynard 7.

Subs not used: Miller, Dawson, Hudson, Barjonas.

Referee: Alan Young.

Attendance: 4,375.