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VERDICT: Bury 1 Colchester United 2
“BOTH boxes” is a phrase Kevin Blackwell keeps coming back to and there was no better evidence of why than Saturday’s showing at home to relegation rivals Colchester United.
Blackwell’s side had to win this six-pointer to stand any realistic chance of surviving in League One and, but for a crazy two-minute spell in defence and a lack of composure in front of goal, they would have done that comfortably.
The Shakers could not have been given a better opportunity after referee Robert Madley reduced Colchester to 10 men in only the third minute – showing a straight red card to George Porter for a stamp on Mark Carrington.
And it looked like Bury would seize their chance after Craig Fagan opened his account for the club on 26 minutes.
The former Hull forward had already wasted one clear sight on goal when the ball fell at his feet in the box following a miscued Steven Schumacher shot, and he did not need a second invitation to blast it past Sam Walker.
But that was the only time the inspired Colchester stopper was beaten on what felt like a season-defining day for both sides.
No sooner had Buy taken the lead their defence hit the panic button and, within five minutes of opening the scoring, they were behind.
On 29 minutes, central defender Josh Thompson – a former Bury trainee – rose highest to head home Billy Clifford’s corner, then, two minutes later, Clinton Morrison pounced on a loose ball in the box to curl the winner past Trevor Carson.
The quickfire blast rattled Bury, but they still looked capable of getting something from the game and, after a David Worrall goal was ruled out for offside shortly before the break, the scene was set for a barnstorming second half show.
Schumacher started the onslaught moments after the restart, blasting a gilt-edged chance wide from six yards.
And Nicky Ajose, who replaced right-back Carl Regan at the interval, picked up the baton, firing a shot bound for the bottom corner before Andy Bishop inadvertently deflected it into the Colchester keeper’s arms.
After a Worrall miss and a crazy goalmouth scramble, Walker then took centre stage, tipping over a blistering Schumacher free-kick in the first of a series of bewildering saves.
He blocked a close-range Craig Jones effort and hacked clear an Ajose toe-poke at the back post that the Bury forward was adamant had crossed the line.
Walker then underlined his heroic display 10 minutes from time, pulling off a stunning double save, first to palm away a deflection from his own defender before tipping Ajose’s header on to the bar.
Frustration spilled over, with chants of “Blackwell out” ringing around Gigg Lane at the final whistle.
That will have been music to the ears of the Colchester contingent who ended the day still just two places above the League One drop zone but, more importantly, opened up a 13-point gap over rock-bottom Bury.
BURY: Carson 7; Regan 6 (Ajose 46 8), Eastham 6, Ebanks-Landell 6, Skarz 7; C Jones 8 (Healy 85), Carrington 9, Schumacher 7, Worrall 6; Fagan 7 (Clarke-Harris 72 6), Bishop 6.
Subs: Belford, Z Thompson, Mezague.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker; Wright, Okuonghae, J Thompson, Garmston; Porter, Bond, Clifford (Bean 76), Massey; Smith (Ladapo 90), Morrison (Olufemi 70).
Subs: Duguid, Izzet, Phillips, Wright.
Referee: Robert Madley.
Attendance: 2,018 (179 visiting).