When news happens, text BONEWS and your photos to 80360 or phone 01204 537274
VERDICT: Shrewsbury Town 0 Bury 0
THIS trip to Greenhous Meadow may have come a little early for a Bury team in transition, but Kevin Blackwell believes the hard-earned point could prove crucial come the final reckoning.
His Shakers side – third bottom in League One – started eight points behind their opponents but with two games in hand, meaning a win would have pulled Shrewsbury into the relegation dogfight.
Yet Blackwell, who handed debuts to his three latest loan signings, saw it as a point gained rather than two lost.
“We’ve chalked off another little target, so we’re pleased with that and we’ve just got to keep it going,” said Blackwell, whose side may not have won for nine league matches but have at least drawn four out of their last six.
“We knew it was important that we didn’t get beat, that was key, to keep Shrewsbury in the frame.
“So that’s another box ticked for what we wanted to achieve between now and the end of the season.”
The new central-defensive pairing of Stephane Zubar, pictured – loaned from Bournemouth – and Blackpool’s Ashley Eastham – returning after a successful loan spell last season, provided the bedrock for the point.
Zubar, a 26-year-old Guadeloupe international led by example with a series of crunching challenges and uncompromising headers.
Eastham described his performance as colossal, but the 21-year-old defender was also quietly effective in helping to snuff out Shrewsbury’s threat.
In fact, the home side’s first scuffed shot on target on the hour mark was met by ironic jeers from the Shrewsbury faithful, a sure-fire sign the new partnership had done its job.
“I’m pleased with the lads that came in,” said Blackwell.
“I thought the two centre-halves looked solid and gave us a good platform to work from.”
The fact they didn’t manage to build on that will have irked the Bury boss, although he put their lack of attacking fluidity down to the weather, which has stopped his players from training on anything other than five-a-side pitches since before Christmas.
Bury did create some decent chances though. Captain Steven Schumacher had a close-range effort blocked in the opening five minutes while Shrews keeper Chris Weale did well to claw out a curling Joe Skarz free-kick in the first half.
The introduction of Andy Bishop midway through the second period almost paid instant dividends.
The striker showed no sign of the heel injury that had kept him out for eight matches as he acrobatically fired an overhead kick just over from five yards with his first touch.
That seemed to spur Shrewsbury into life, but ,after midfielder David McAllister saw a deflected effort bounce back off the crossbar and another saved by Trevor Carson, they went back into their shell for the remaining 10 minutes.
Turner’s side were fortunate to block a late Ethan Ebanks-Landell shot on the line, and even luckier to survive two decent penalty appeals – the first for handball and the second with the final kick of the game when third new signing Nicky Ajose was brought down in the box.
It was a highlight of a quiet second debut for the Peterborough striker, returning after playing a key role in Bury’s promotion to League One two seasons ago.
But the 21-year-old Edenfield-born forward will surely be itching to reprise his goalscoring form for Bury in a more advanced role after being asked to fill in on the left of a five-man midfield.
“There will be other times he will play as a second striker,” promised Blackwell. “But I thought he did a tidy job and showed that ability to get round and through people right at the end.”
SHREWSBURY: Weale; Gayle, D Jones, Mambo, Jacobson; Taylor, McAllister, Richards, Purdie (Summerfield 69); Bradshaw (McGinn 69), Morgan.
Not used: Ward, Hall, Parry, Goldson, Wildig.
BURY: Carson 6; Worrall 8, Eastham 8, Zubar 8, Skarz 8; Ebanks-Landell 7, Thompson 7 (Carrington 89), Schumacher 6; Soares 6 (C Jones 85), John-Lewis 5 (Bishop 6 65 ), Ajose 6.
Not used: Hughes, Dibble, Healy, Carole.
Referee: Phil Gibbs
Attendance: 4,795 (254).