LEE Clark praised his side’s defence after they kicked off the new League One season with a 1-0 win at home to Walsall.

The Shakers were afforded two penalty misses in a game where former Wanderers forward Jermaine Beckford’s first-half header proved the difference.

The match was scrappy from the off but Bury had the chance to take the lead inside two minutes when Stephen Dawson was fouled in the box.

Debutant Beckford’s spot-kick was saved by visiting goalkeeper Mark Gillespie, but he made no mistake when heading home Chris Maguire’s expertly-delivered free kick on the stroke of half time.

After the break, Maguire began to pull the strings and came agonisingly close to opening his account for the club, curling a 30-yard free kick inches wide, before being denied by Gillespie from the spot.

Walsall led a late surge but never looked like breaking through the Shakers defence, which held out for maximum points.

Boss Clark said: “I'm happy because you always want to start the season with a win and the clean sheet is a great start for us.

“Defensively we looked strong, we stopped them from hurting us in the areas they wanted to.

“Joe Murphy didn't have a lot of saves to make and we scored from a set-play, which can always happen when you've got Chris Maguire and his delivery.

“We missed two penalties and when that happens you get the feeling it's not going to be your day and they might sneak an equaliser, but the lads withstood the pressure.

“I don't think either penalty was a bad penalty, you've got to credit their keeper for two terrific saves, so I wouldn't hesitate for either Jermaine or Chris to take another one.

“The natural-born strikers miss a sitter and 30 seconds later they get the same chance and score it. That's what you've got to be like and that's how Jermaine is.”

Clark handed eight of his 18 new signings their debuts from the off, while 17-year-old youth team graduate Tsun Dai made his first senior appearance off the bench on the hour mark.

Clark added: “We had eight debuts in the starting line-up and three on the bench. It was a great credit to all the players.

“We won’t be at the level that we expect to be at and want to be at. We are still finding each other out.

“Tsun made his debut from the bench but he was very unfortunate not to start. I went for the experience but I thought he was terrific from start to finish.

“He is a special player. When he came on he gave us something a bit different.”

Meanwhile, Bury have signed former Celtic goalkeeper Leo Fasan on non-contract terms to cover number one Joe Murphy.

Fasan will provide back up until Clark is able to bring in his top target, believed to be Newcastle United’s Freddie Woodman.

“I have to be brave,” Clark added. “We did have a keeper sign a non-contract but because he came from another country we didn’t get international clearance, that’s why the young man (Mark Williams) was on the bench today.

“I need to be brave. I have a keeper earmarked and I’ve had that all summer. I need to hold my nerve and try to give myself the best opportunity.

“I would have too many regrets if I moved too quickly elsewhere and missed out.”

Bury (4-4-2): Murphy 6; Jones 6, Thompson 7, Aldred 7, Leigh 7; Maguire 8 (Lowe 86, 6), Reilly 7, Dawson 7, O’Shea 6 (Ismail 54, 6); Beckford 8, Ajose 6 (Tsun Dai 60, 7).

Unused subs: Edward-Williams, Tutte, Humphrey, Whitmore.

Walsall (4-4-1-1): Gillespie; Kinsella, Guthrie, Wilson, Leahy; Morris (Candlin 84), Cuvelier (Kouhyar 73), Chambers, Edwards; Oztumer; Jackson (Bakayoko 73).

Unused subs: L Roberts, Flanagan, K Roberts, Cockerill-Mollett.

Referee: Mark Heywood (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 4,240 (681 visiting).