BOLSTERING his attacking options remains a top priority for Bury manager David Flitcroft after his new-look side failed to live up to expectations in a disappointing opening-day defeat.
Robins teenager Joe Hanks came off the bench as an eighth-minute replacement for injured midfielder Asa Hall to rewrite the script with his first ever senior goal.
The 19-year-old’s 42nd-minute strike turned out to be the winner as former Shakers stopper Trevor Carson pulled off a string of second-half saves for the visitors, including one to deny new-boy James Poole in injury time.
The former Hartlepool striker signed on non-contract terms on Friday and was the only forward on the bench, a situation Flitcroft hopes to soon remedy.
“We have got three or four players we are talking to,” said Flitcroft, who tasted defeat at the JD Stadium for the first time in 14 matches since being appointed Bury manager.
“The season has started now. No player wants to sit at home on a Saturday when the results are coming in, so we will be ready to pounce because we need more impact from the bench.”
The stage had been set for returning heroes Nicky Adams and Ryan Lowe to shine – two of nine summer signings included in the matchday squad.
The air of celebration and anticipation was only intensified as the Lancashire FA Senior Cup – which Bury won last week for the first time since 1987 – was paraded around the newly laid pitch before kick-off.
But Flitcroft admitted high expectations may have affected his players, especially full-backs Chris Hussey and Craig Jones, whose usual pinpoint delivery deserted them.
It was goalkeeper Shwan Jalal who shone brightest of the new recruits in the first half, turning behind a shot from Jason Taylor before standing up well to gather a close-range Hanks strike.
It looked as if Jalal had finally been beaten on 39 minutes when Matt Taylor’s header looped in, only for the goal to be disallowed for pushing.
But there was nothing he could do about Hanks’ 25-yard strike just three minutes later, which curled away from his desperate dive.
Tom Soares went closest for Bury in the first half, deflecting a Hussey shot inches wide, but the Shakers carried much more of a threat after the break.
Carson stood in their way, however, pulling off a one-handed stop on the line to keep out a Pablo Mills header before palming away an Adams effort in acrobatic style.
The Northern Ireland stopper then came to Cheltenham's aid in injury time, clawing out Poole’s audacious chip before captain Jim McNulty blazed over a free header from the resulting corner.
Flitcroft may have longed for more options on the bench, but with better execution the result could have been different.
“We believed Cheltenham would come to park the bus and they have done, but another 22 teams will come and do that,” he added.
“We have not hit Nards (Danny Nadiello) and Lowey with enough quality and that’s something I need to work on. We’ve looked at ways to penetrate through our full-backs, but the quality was just poor.”
BURY: Jalal 7; Jones 6, Mills 7, McNulty 6, Hussey 6; Adams 6 (Cameron 82) Soares 6, Tutte 7, Mayor 6; Nardiello 6 (Poole 76), Lowe 6.
Not used: Lainton, O'Brien, Widdowson, Sedgwick, Thompson.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: Carson; Vaughan, Brown, M Taylor, Elliott, Braham-Barrett; Richards, Hall (Hanks 7), J Taylor; Harrison (Arthur 75), Gornell.
Not used: Haworth, Deaman, Black, Sterling-James, Reynolds.
Goals: Bury 0 Cheltenham 1 (Hanks 42).
Yellow cards: Cheltenham – J Taylor 85.
Referee: Eddie Iderton.
Attendance: 3,376 (166 visiting).
Star man: Shwan Jalal – It was hard to pick out a man-of-the-match, exemplified by the decision in the ground as Danny Mayor was given the nod despite putting in a muted display by his standards. Jalal, signed as a replacement for Brian Jensen, arguably had the biggest shoes to fill of any of the nine new recruits in the squad and, by and large, he did a pretty good job. Barring one or two breakdowns in communication in the box, he handled everything Cheltenham threw at him and was not at fault for their goal.