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VERDICT: Carlisle United 2 Bury 1
BURY will have been glad to see the back of December after Carlisle hung on to inflict the Shakers’ fifth defeat in eight winless games in the month.
There is a feeling at Gigg Lane that, without bad luck, Bury would have had no luck at all during the final month of 2012, when they were knocked out of two cups on penalties and picked up just two league points despite a series of decent performances.
That pattern, which also included financial difficulties, a subsequent transfer embargo and a glut of injuries, continued at Brunton Park on Saturday when the Shakers went 2-0 down in the opening 10 minutes but then missed a host of chances to at least leave with a point.
Centre-back Efe Sodje just compounded the misery by picking up a booking that ruled him out of the New Year’s Day encounter with Tranmere.
Yet manager Kevin Blackwell was in a surprisingly philosophical mood after seeing his inexperienced side put in another spirited display.
“I’m proud of the way the players have come here to Carlisle and given them a right good game,” said the Bury boss.
“When you look at the make-up of the team – kids, non-league players and non-contract players on no money – I think the lads have got to take a lot of credit.”
Bury were put on the back foot from the opening minute when Brad Potts tempted Sodje into a rash challenge in the penalty area and Lee Miller converted the spot kick.
Striker Tom Hopper then missed two gilt-edged chances before Matty Robson popped up with a calm finish to slot home Frank Simek’s 10th-minute pull-back to make in 2-0.
Captain Steven Schumacher capped another fine personal display with his sixth goal of the season eight minutes after the break, but, despite hitting the woodwork twice in the second half, Bury were unable to force a result.
“We were always going to be in a long hard battle,” said Blackwell. “As you’ve seen today there’s not much wrong with the team other than in the two boxes.
“In recent games we absolutely dominated at Crewe and got nothing, we’ve dominated Shrewsbury and we’ve dominated Preston, but I haven’t got the players in the two boxes, it’s as simple as that.”
Blackwell had seven first-teamers missing through injury or illness, including strikers David Healy (sickness bug) and Lenell John-Lewis (foot), who were both ruled out 24 hours earlier, joining fellow front man Andy Bishop (heel) on the sidelines.
It was left up to the tiring Hopper to once again lead the line, and when Carlisle’s man-of-the-match, keeper Mark Gillespie, tipped his close range header on to the bar in the sixth minute, the 19-year-old’s confidence was clearly shaken.
Two minutes later, the Leicester loan man scuffed an easy chance at the back post with the goal at his mercy and Bury fell two behind almost immediately after that.
But they slowly recovered and put in a fine second-half display. The captain led the charge, arriving late in the box in the 53rd minute to head home Gregg Wylde’s cross, but Bury's revival was thwarted by a combination of woodwork and inspired goalkeeping.
Joe Skarz and second-half substitute Sebastian Carole struck the post either side of Schumacher’s goal.
Gillepsie also made some great saves, denying Carole and Schumacher with a double stop, and doing well just to get in the way of a thunderous David Worrall strike before turning behind Hopper’s close-range toe-poke at the death.
CARLISLE: Gillespie; Simek, Edwards, Livesey. Chantler; Noble, Potts, Berrett (Beck 67); McGovern (Symington 85), Miller, Robson.
Not used: Collin, Murphy, Welsh, Loy, McGinty.
BURY: Carson 6; Doherty 6, Sodje 6, Hughes 5, Skarz 6; Worrall 7, Schumacher 9, Thompson 7, Wylde 7 (C Jones 85); Hewitt 6 (Carole 7 46), Hopper 5.
Not used: Sweeney, Dibble, A Jones, Soares.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton
Attendance: 4,435 (306 visiting)