KEVIN Blackwell threw down the gauntlet to his players when he arrived at Gigg Lane and, a month later and with a second league win of the season under their belts, his shock tactics look to be paying off.
The 53-year-old’s initial barbed post-match interviews and incessant double training sessions at first seemed counter-productive as Bury struggled to turn their nightmare start to the season around.
But all the steely determination and improved fitness he has instilled in his team was evident at Boundary Park on Tuesday night, where Bury capitalised on a fortunate James Tarkowski own goal and a late Steven Schumacher penalty to claim their third win from their last four matches.
“I’ve been critical and I’ve made a few comments and I’m glad that they’ve started to throw them down my throat. That’s exactly what I was looking for,” said Blackwell after the final whistle.
Whether his players have responded to the manager’s methods or railed against them, the effect has translated to a real upturn in performances, as well as results.
The Shakers looked every inch a well-drilled side against Oldham – capable of playing the ball around the park and mixing it in what was a committed local derby.
After starting the brighter they went on to dominate the first half and could well have gone in three goals to the good. Tom Hopper headed against the post as early as the sixth minute, while Dominic Poleon had a great shout for a penalty inexplicably ruled out by referee Graham Salisbury midway through the half.
The match official had set his stall out early, booking Joe Skarz for an innocuous challenge in the third minute.
He went on to anger both dugouts with a series of unusual decisions, dishing out six yellow cards in total – including five for Bury – in what was a cleanly-fought contest.
Yet the referee was only a bystander, like most of the Oldham defence, for Bury’s 34th-minute opener.
When Shakers right-back Matt Doherty was set free following a neat David Worrall flick, his dangerous first-time cross was met by Oldham’s Cliff Byrne, whose attempted headed clearance rebounded in off centre-back partner Tarkowski.
It was no more than Bury deserved after ensuring the home side could only muster one weak shot on target in the entire half, but the roles were reversed after the break.
Bury stopper Trevor Carson was very nearly beaten by Oldham midfielder Robbie Simpson’s looping effort on the hour, while Lee Croft’s shot crept just wide of his near post.
Salisbury then angered the home fans by denying Oldham what looked like a clear penalty following a trip on Matt Derbyshire as he prepared to shoot.
And Carson had to get down sharply to smother a Jose Baxter volley.
But Blackwell’s steely outfit survived the onslaught before hitting the home side with a sucker punch five minutes from time.
Salisbury was again involved, ruling Worrall had been brought down by Byrne in the box following a tangle of legs and captain Steven Schumacher expertly dispatched the penalty in the top corner.
Simpson’s late header was not enough to deny Bury’s continued revival as they stretched their run to just one defeat in six league and cup matches.
OLDHAM: Bouzanis; Wabara, Byrne, Tarkowski, Grounds; Croft, Simpson, Wesolowski (Smith) Montano (Furman); Derbyshire, Baxter (Sutherland).
Not used: Cisak, Brown, M'Changama, Cooper.
BURY: Carson 7; Doherty 9, Lockwood 7, Hughes 7, Skarz 7; Worrall 8, Schumacher 7, Thompson 7, Poleon 8; Hopper 7 (Bishop 6), Healy 7 (Hewitt 6).
Not used: Sweeney, C Jones, Carrington, A Jones, Belford.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Attendance: 4,120 (734 visiting).