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Sharp-shooting middle men seal Shakers win: Walsal 2 Bury 4
RICHIE Barker was rightly delighted with another excellent away win after the Shakers moved to within four points of the play-off places.
Four sublime finishes from Peter Sweeney, Michael Jones, skipper Steven Schumacher and late substitute Lenell John-Lewis were the icing on the cake for manager Barker amid growing belief in the Gigg Lane ranks that the season could be more than just a battle for League One survival.
Barker’s message to his midfielders in recent weeks has been to finish off their slick passing with end product – and boy did they deliver at the Banks’s Stadium.
“For a long time I’ve tried to encourage them to shoot,” said Barker. “There’s no doubt that we keep the ball well and we pass it about.
“But I think sometimes it just fizzles out without us having an end product, so we’ve just tried to encourage the midfielders to get higher up the pitch.”
Sweeney – who spent several months at Walsall on loan in the 2007-8 season – opened the scoring after only six minutes when he was given enough time and space by the Saddlers to unleash a thunderous left-foot shot from 25 yards which went in off the underside of David Grof’s bar and stunned the home crowd.
Walsall – without a home win since August – rallied and deserved their equaliser when it came on 28 minutes. Jones was adjudged to have fouled Jamie Paterson just inside the Bury penalty area and Jon Macken fired home from the spot.
Bury keeper Cameron Belford was then required to make two excellent saves from Mark Wilson to make sure it stayed at 1-1 until the interval.
“There were a few home truths said at half time,” said Barker.
“Cameron kept us in it towards the end of the first half. We were sloppy and their midfield was overrunning us.
“He played a massive part in the win.
“We can’t go home thinking we controlled the game from the first to the 90th minute.”
But his men resumed normal service after the restart and, within two minutes of the kick off, Grof was picking the ball out of his net again after Jones curled a lovely shot from the edge of the box.
Skipper Schumacher then weighed in with his first goal of the campaign following a Sweeney corner, firing home low and hard from 20 yards on 63 minutes.
John-Lewis, who came on late in place of the excellent David Amoo, then hit another quality strike – his first since January – beating Grof at his near post after another excellent break by Sweeney.
Walsall substitute George Bowerman’s injury-time strike gave the scoreline more respectability than the hosts deserved and there was more than a suspicion of a push on Belford as the ball went into the net from the shot.
Substitute David Worrall, meanwhile, escaped with a yellow card following a post final whistle confrontation with Walsall defender Manny Smith, who was also cautioned.
The win moved Bury above Saturday’s visitors to Gigg Lane, Preston, and Barker’s side are now believing their season can be much more than a battle to stay in League One.
“We’re closer to the play-offs than we are to the relegation zone,” observed Barker.
“We’ve still got a long way to go and we won’t get carried away, but we should enjoy it while we can.”