THEY say lightning doesn’t strike twice but Aaron Downes’ double raid on Bury’s defences in the space of 10 first half minutes provided the exception to the rule on a stormy afternoon at Gigg Lane.
In fact, the Torquay defender’s two towering headers from Kevin Nicholson corners continued a worrying trend that has seen the Shakers concede four goals from set-pieces in the four games since caretaker boss Ronnie Jepson took charge.
It certainly sounds as if Jepson does not believe in coincidences as he pointed a finger at centre-back pairing Nathan Cameron and William Edjenguele after the match.
“It is disappointing to get done by two set-pieces,” he said.
“You’ve got to take a bit of pride. If you are designated a man to mark you make sure that man doesn’t score at all costs.”
To be fair to Bury, the blustery conditions made life difficult for both defences in the first half, but it was the Shakers who paid the heavier price.
Cameron was forced to throw his body in front of a Lee Mansell shot in the 14th minute after Bury stopper Brian Jensen flapped at a Torquay cross.
Jensen then chose to stay on his line for Nicholson’s 18th-minute corner, only for Downes to leap highest at the back post to open the scoring.
Cameron did briefly make up for his defensive frailties, volleying home after chesting down a headed centre from his centre-back partner Edjenguele to equalise in the 24th minute.
But Downes was back to haunt him five minutes later, scoring a carbon copy header from six yards out. The lead flattered Alan Knill’s Torquay side, but, despite some promising approach play, the home fans had few clear-cut chances to cheer.
Shakers striker Shaun Harrad did force a smart save from Martin Rice just before the break after turning a low Shaun Beeley cross goalwards.
And Rice performed heroics after the interval to tip behind an improvised Cameron header.
But a breakaway goal from striker Paul McCallum in the 56th minute knocked the stuffing out of Bury’s attempted fight back.
Torquay’s decisive third owed as much to Elliot Benyon’s persistence to cut back the ball before it rolled out of touch as it did McCallum’s cool finish.
And Benyon very nearly made it four, capitalising on a mix-up between Bury left-back Jordan Mustoe and Jensen before poking his shot at the Shakers stopper.
By that point, the game was a mere sideshow to a fierce storm that made flowing football virtually impossible as the players were battered by torrential rain and hail, while thunder and lightning circled the ground.
Referee James Adcock, whose only contribution was to award goalscorers Cameron and McCallum yellow cards for celebrating with the fans, could have been forgiven for stopping the match as puddles formed all over the pitch.
But the storm subsided long enough to allow Jak McCourt in for a late chance for Torquay that came back off the post, while Jensen stood his ground to deny Mansell before Bury substitute Ashley Grimes hooked a shot wide from close range.
It was a rare sight on goal for a Shakers striker, a fact not lost on Jepson who replaced both his forwards in the second half, preferring to throw on teenager Regan Walker for his first-team debut as they chased the game.
Harrad failed to add to his solitary goal so far this season, while Anton Forester – the club’s top scorer and the last Bury striker to find the net – stretched his barren spell to six games.
“It isn’t happening for any of the strikers at the moment in terms of goal return,” admitted Jepson.
“I’ve given people opportunities.
“Sometimes you have got to change it around and freshen it up. I’ve done that.
“I’ve given people a run of games, hoping they would come to the fore in terms of goals. It’s not happened.”
Jepson’s beleaguered troops face a tough first round FA Cup tie at home to Skrill Premier leaders Cambridge United this weekend.
But after falling to 22nd in the table – one place and three points above the drop zone – even a potential cup banana skin may be seen as a welcome distraction from Bury’s league woes. Let’s just hope the storm passes before Bury are sucked deeper into relegation trouble.
BURY: Jensen 5; Beeley 7, Cameron 5, Edjenguele 5, Mustoe 6; Sedgwick 8 (Jones 78), Procter 6, Soares 6, Mayor 6; Harrad 6 (Grimes 72), Forrester 5 (Walker 62). Not used: Hinds, Miller, Holden, Charles-Cook.
TORQUAY: Rice; Tonge, Downes, O'Connor, Nicholson; Azeez, Mansell, McCourt (Mozika 88), Chappell (Craig 84); McCallum, Benyon (Hawley 76). Not used: Poke, Pearce, Cruise, Sullivan.
Goals: Bury 1 (Cameron 24) Torquay 3 (Downes 18 & 29, McCallum 56)
Yellow cards: Bury (Cameron 24) Torquay (McCallum 56).
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 2,997 (157 visiting).
Star man: Chris Sedgwick – The veteran midfielder has been an ever-present under Ronnie Jepson after failing to get a run of games for previous boss Kevin Blackwell. But he played like a man living on borrowed time after the return of influential winger Craig Jones from injury to take up a place on the bench. On this showing it will be difficult to drop the wide-man, whose accurate delivery and intelligent running was central to Bury’s best approach play. The Yorkshireman is also developing a handy partnership with right-back Shaun Beeley.