THE Bury squad may not yet resemble David Flitcroft’s “A Team”, but the Shakers boss can certainly see his plan coming together.
Debutants Pablo Mills and Jim McNulty were drafted in to rescue a defence that shipped four goals at Chesterfield the previous weekend and they delivered a welcome clean sheet.
The Shakers forward line may not have been able to provide a goal to crown a much-improved performance, but a point against Gary Rowett’s promotion-chasing side was still a satisfactory return for Flitcroft.
“I thought (Mills and McNulty) were outstanding,” he said, at the end of a week that saw him release five players and bring in 28-year-old former Barnsley defender McNulty on a free transfer – his fifth defensive signing of the transfer window.
“Quite a few players have left the football club, but we are going to bring top quality players in and I think that was quite evident today.”
Mills, aged 29, looked made for his role at the heart of the back three, setting the tempo by dictating the side’s passing style of play.
And McNulty did not put a foot wrong on the left of the defence, with on-loan Ipswich defender Frederic Veseli looking far more at ease in his new company on the right of the back line.
But Flitcroft was dismayed to hear calls to get the ball moving more quickly from some home supporters – unimpressed with the patient build-up play that was the bedrock of a hard-earned point.
“I heard shouts from the stands to ‘boot it forward’, so clearly it is going to take a long time to turn around what has gone on at this football club,” he said.
“We’ve got a plan and we’ve brought in good players to fit in that plan.
“But we need to learn together. We all need to be on the same page – have the same vision and believe in the same vision.
“Otherwise, we will all just go off at tangents.”
Thankfully for Flitcroft, the five changes he made to the side beaten 4-0 at Chesterfield all had a positive impact, with his players certainly singing from the same hymn sheet.
It did take a little while to adjust, as Burton created the majority of the chances in the first half.
Albion striker Billy Kee’s powerful header was the best of them, forcing an instinctive save from Shakers stopper Brian Jensen.
Bury did show some guile moving forward in the opening stages, with the first of a series of raids down the right from fit-again captain Craig Jones creating a chance for Anton Forrester that was easy in the end for Burton keeper Dean Lyness.
A great pass out of defence from Mills, which was perfectly laid off by Daniel Nardiello, showed promise of good things to come, but the return ball from Ashley Grimes, playing just behind the front two, was well cut out.
At the other end, winger Zeli Ismail volleyed across goal, while striker Adam McGurk and midfielder Jimmy Phillips both worried Jensen with shots that flew just past his post late in the first half.
Bury assumed control after the break, however, as Albion backed off, seemingly content with a seventh clean sheet in 10 unbeaten league matches.
Forrester could have blotted their copy book after being put through by Grimes, but shot wide, while Nardiello threatened to break the deadlock with two late surges into the Burton box.
The first ended with a tame cross-shot from a tight angle that was deflected behind while the second produced a match-saving block from full-back Rob Edwards.
“We have got a lot of positives to bring out from today and certainly, after last week, it has lifted me massively,” said Flitcroft, whose revamped Shakers side are 20th in the League Two table.
“We contained them by keeping the ball better, but that last little bit just let us down.
“I’m still tidying up the squad and trying to find the right balance, which I can see coming now.
“I can really see it coming together.”
BURY: Jensen 7; McNulty 8, Mills 8, Veseli 8; Jones 8, Miller 7, Soares 6 (Dudley 87), Sedgwick 7; Grimes 6 (Procter 6 75); Nardiello 7, Forrester 6 (Obadeyi 6 58). Not used: Hinds, Burke, McIntyre, Charles-Cook.
BURTON ALBION: Lyness; Edwards, Diamond, Sharps, McCrory; Ismail (Hussey 65), Weir, Palmer, Phillips; McGurk (Bell 85), Kee (Knowles 65). Not used: Siegrist, Buxton, McDonald, Holness.
Goals: Bury 0 Burton Albion 0 Yellow cards: Bury – Frederic Veseli 90+3.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).
Attendance: 2,910 (319 visiting).
Star man: Pablo Mills – Few fans inside the ground will have had cause for complaint when the PA announcer declared Craig Jones as man of the match. The club captain was a tireless runner throughout the 90 minutes and provided the Burton defence real cause for concern with his raids down the right. But in a goalless match dominated by the defenders, it seems only right to highlight the work of Bury’s new “Efe Sodje”. In footballing terms, other than both being centre-backs, the comparisons couldn’t be more misjudged. But if the Bury fans were looking for a real character to provide presence and a winning mentality into the heart of the defence then perhaps Mills is their man. It is early days, but a clean sheet on his debut is not a bad start.