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VERDICT: MK Dons 1 Bury 1
KEVIN Blackwell claimed a tactical victory after his under-strength side battled back from a goal down to earn a point at MK Dons.
Karl Robinson’s promotion chasers took a 15th-minute lead through a soft Dean Bowditch strike.
But Bury stuck to their game plan and reaped their reward – captain Steven Schumacher swivelling on the edge of the box before volleying the equaliser into the top corner 24 minutes from time.
It was no more than the battling Shakers deserved after putting in a disciplined performance with a makeshift defence that included winger David Worrall at right-back.
“What I’m trying to do is make sure that, when we can’t compete against people, tactically we are better than them and I thought today we out-thought them and it brought us a lot of joy,” said Blackwell.
“We came with a game plan to match MK Dons who, to be fair, are better on the ball than our players.
“So we conceded their half of the pitch, backed off into our own half and played it from there.”
If Blackwell had wanted to play for a clean sheet then that plan very quickly backfired when Bowditch, who scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Gigg Lane earlier in the season, drifted in off the left and curled a low shot past Trevor Carson.
Despite that early blip, the Shakers never panicked and kept to their task.
Lenell John-Lewis put in an energetic performance to lead the line on his own, and had two shots blocked before the home side took the lead.
He also had a header cleared off the line in the first half and should have been given a penalty when fouled by Dons keeper Dave Martin, but the referee inexplicably gave it the other way.
To make matters worse, Martin pulled off an acrobatic save to tip over an Efe Sodje header.
At the other end, Izale McLeod hit the post with a deflected shot late in the first half, but Bury always looked dangerous on the break and from set-pieces.
Ethan Ebanks-Landell put in a commanding performance in a holding midfield role to keep MK Dons chances down to a minimum, but it was Schumacher who once again stood out for the visitors, scoring his eighth goal of the season on his 100th appearance for the club.
“It was top quality – to turn and keep the ball under control and put it into the top corner – but that’s the capability of Schuey,” said Blackwell.
“He’s been scoring a lot of goals for us this season and, thankfully, he has again.”
Despite the point, which saw Bury move up a place to third-bottom, Blackwell left stadium: MK frustrated that his side stretched their winless run to 11 games, especially after John-Lewis squandered a great chance to win it, shooting just wide after being put through by Tom Soares in the 71st minute.
But the Bury boss, who only had three fit outfield players to choose from on the bench, was happy his side held firm after capitulating against MK Dons earlier in the season.
“The reason, partly, why things were changed at this football club was because MK Dons came to Gigg Lane and destroyed us,” said Blackwell, who took over the hotseat at the end of September, after the reverse fixture.
“You look at that today and let me tell you that could have been an opposite turnaround.
“I accept that they had a lot of possession but it was possession that we gave them.
“I can’t complain about the effort and commitment from the players. They stuck to it and could have come away with a win.
“If they keep doing that, someone up there has got to look down on this set of lads and give them a bit of luck.”
MK DONS: Martin; Chicksen, Kay, Williams, Lewington; Potter, Harley; Powell (Ismail 79), Lowe, Bowditch; McLeod (Smith 79).
Not used: Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Mackenzie, Alli, Rasulo.
BURY: Carson 5; Worrall 7, Sodje 7, Hughes 8, Skarz 7; Hopper 6 (C Jones 54 6), Thompson 6, Ebanks-Landell 8, Schumacher 8, Soares 6 (Carrington 90); John-Lewis 7.
Not used: Dibble, Wylde.
Referee: Fred Graham
Attendance: 7,384 (243)