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VERDICT: Bury 0 Crawley Town 2
THROUGHOUT this difficult season, Kevin Blackwell’s Bury side have made up for a shortage of skill and experience with fight and determination. None of that was evident on Saturday.
After a tough month of fixtures against many of League One’s promotion chasers, this was supposed to be the Shakers’ chance to put their survival push back on track.
But this disjointed, nervous display against a Crawley side that had won just once in their previous six matches threw up little hope that Bury have what it takes to bridge the eight-point gap to safety.
Blackwell certainly was not prepared to talk up their chances in a short and not particularly sweet post-match press conference following a third consecutive 2-0 defeat on home turf.
The Bury boss was long on apologies but short on explanation, especially on the back of an altogether more spirited performance in the 1-0 win at Swindon last time out.
“That’s the worst I’ve seen us,” said Blackwell.
“It was awful. I just can’t see where that’s come from.
“They were high as kites, full of confidence (going into the match).
“All I can do is apologise to the fans. I thought it was absolute rubbish. I don’t think anybody can take any credit whatsoever.
“We just have to put that in its box, send it on its way and start again.”
The fact the humbling came at the hands of former Bury boss Richie Barker, who left Gigg Lane to take over at Crawley five days before the start of the season, probably did little to improve Blackwell’s mood.
Barker was forced to field two debutants and a 20-year-old striker still waiting for his first goals in a Crawley shirt.
Yet former Preston forward Jamie Proctor repaid his manager’s faith, netting with a well-placed shot in the 17th minute before doubling his tally with a neat header just after the break.
Both goals owed as much to Bury mistakes as fine finishing.
On-loan Wolves defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell failed to connect with a wild lunge that left Proctor plenty of time and space to pick his spot for the opener.
It was all Crawley deserved after Jake Taylor breached Bury’s poor attempt at an offside trap moments earlier, but Trevor Carson was on hand to palm away his close-range shot.
Crawley did not get any closer to doubling their advantage in the first half, but they were never troubled either, with Zac Thompson the only Bury player able to muster a shot on target. The midfielder’s volley from the edge of the box was well held by Paul Jones.
Proctor’s second goal, three minutes after the break, dashed any hopes Bury had of an unlikely comeback.
The young striker stole a march on marker Joe Skarz to head home a cross from Mike Jones – one of three former Bury players in the Crawley squad.
Blackwell flung on Andy Bishop, who put a decent header just over the bar, while a blistering shot from strike partner Craig Fagan went the same way.
And Craig Jones, a second-half replacement for Tom Soares, who pulled up with a torn hamstring early in the second half, just failed to connect with a flick-on from Ebanks-Landell.
But Crawley never looked too stretched and the defeat, coupled with a good win for Colchester United, left Bury’s position looking even more precarious.
Saturday’s match at Portsmouth is the first of five against relegation rivals in the bottom six.
And three points at Fratton Park are vital if Bury are to build any kind of momentum for the all-important run-in.
BURY (4-2-3-1): Carson 6; Worrall 6, Eastham 5, Ebanks-Landell 5, Skarz 6; Carrington 4, Thompson 5 (Bishop 6 56); Ajose 6 (Healy 80), Schumacher 5, Soares 5 (C Jones 55); Fagan 6. Not used: Regan, Clarke-Harris, Belford.
CRAWLEY TOWN (4-1-4-1): Jones; Dumbaya, Walsh, Essam, Sadler; Bulman; M Jones (Torres 84), Sparrow, Taylor, Adams (Hunt 90+2); Proctor (O'Brien 88). Not used: Elford-Alliyu, Smith, Maddison.
Referee: Richard Clark
Attendance: 2,491 (128 visiting)