A TACTICAL half-time switch of goalkeepers showed just how ruthless David Flitcroft is willing to be in pursuit of his brand of total football.
With the game finely poised, the Bury boss risked the points by pulling experienced stopper Brian Jensen out of the fray and handing 19-year-old rookie Reice Charles-Cook his league debut.
As Flitcroft explained, he believed Jensen’s safety-first approach to clearances, disobeying orders to retain possession at all costs, was at the heart of their below-par display in the Roots Hall stalemate.
“It was the right decision – it wasn’t brave,” said the 40-year-old Shakers boss.
“I can’t keep calling for people to do their jobs and then, when they are not, fail to do anything about it.
“He was giving away possession. If that was a centre-half I would have done something about it.”
The only other major talking point of a strangely low-key match was Southend substitute Barry Corr’s 83rd-minute red card for an apparent head butt on Bury defender Frederic Veseli, which was missed by referee Lee Collins but picked up by his assistant.
Bury were hamstrung by the absence of their leading goalscorers, Daniel Nardiello and Anton Forrester, and influential midfielders Craig Jones and Tommy Miller, all through injury.
However, they carved out the best chance of the opening half when Andrew Tutte broke Southend’s offside trap and tried to roll the ball to unmarked striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, but his centre was cut out and Danny Mayor’s shot from the rebound was blocked.
Charles-Cook was clearly nervous following his unexpected introduction and endured a hairy moment early in the second half when his attempted short pass to Jim McNulty was intercepted by Anthony Straker, who found Freddie Eastwood in the box but his shot on the turn went wide.
The debutant grew in confidence as the half wore on, though, and produced a confident take above a ruck of players in the dying moments to relieve some late pressure.
It was a third straight draw for Bury against teams in the top seven following hard-earned points against League Two promotion contenders Fleetwood Town and Rochdale.
Southend manager and former Wanderer Phil Brown, whose side continue to cling to the final play-off spot despite a run of 11 league matches without a win, was certainly impressed by their resilient performance.
“I loved the way David played the game - he was an ‘up-an-at-em’ character - and he wants his teams to play the same way, but he also wants them to play football and you could see that,” he said.
“Tactically in the first half they absolutely baffled me, playing something like a 3-6-1, but don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t negative, they quickly got support up to Akpa Akpro.
“So David has certainly got a future in the game as a coach and as a manager and I would be delighted if they survive.”
Results elsewhere went in Bury’s favour as they moved up two places to 17th in the table, but they remain just four points above the drop zone.
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley; White, Sokolik, Egan, Coker; Laird, Leonard, Clifford (Atkinson 57); Hurst, Eastwood (Corr 57), Straker (Barnard 75).
Not used: Smith, Prosser, Timlin, Payne.
BURY: Jensen 5 (Charles-Cook 6 46); Veseli 6, Mills 6, McNulty 5; Sedgwick 6, Soares 6, Tutte 6, Hussey 5 (Young 88); Mayor 5; Akpa Akpro 6, Grimes 5 (Platt 5 58).
Not used: Hinds, Carroll, Burke, Dudley.
Yellow cards: Southend United – Leonard 65, Egan 82. Bury – Hussey 43, Mills 52.
Red cards: Southend United – Barry Corr 83.
Referee: Lee Collins (Surrey)
Attendance: 5,680 (181 visiting)
Star man: Reice Charles-Cook – The teenager looked shaky at times and with good reason after being handed a shock league debut in a crucial match for both sides. But, thankfully, manager David Flitcroft’s bold decision to replace experienced goalkeeper Brian Jensen on a matter of footballing principle did not backfire and the former Arsenal trainee grew into his gloves as the match wore on. His debut was made all the more special as his extended family – mum, dad, brothers and granddad – travelled down from London to see him and ended up cheering on their pride and joy with the rest of the Bury fans behind the goal.