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VERDICT: Bury 2 Exeter City 0
DAVID Flitcroft believes a team ethic instilled under his leadership has turned a rudderless set of individuals into a side capable of making a late-season charge for the play-offs.
Goals from Chris Hussey and Tom Soares, coupled with a 10th cleansheet in 18 outings, helped Bury to a third successive victory – the first time they have achieved that mark this season.
The 11th-placed Shakers will probably have to continue that winning run through their five remaining games if they are to bridge the seven-point gap to the League Two play-off places.
But with a collective spirit now flowing through the team, Flitcroft is not ruling anything out.
“They have become a group,” he said.
“When I came here Danny Mayor was an individual and he’s a team player now. He’s the same player and the same person but he’s built into a group.
“Tom Soares, you could argue, was an individual, but now whether he comes on as a substitute or starts he wants to win for the team.
“So they are a group - that’s what has changed.
“We have got a hell of a good team and real togetherness and it’s important that we try to drive them through.
“Certainly with five games left we are looking to win all our games. I want to finish with momentum.”
Despite bringing to an end an exhausting run of 13 matches in less than seven weeks, Bury did not look short of energy in a dominant first-half display that had everything but an opening goal.
Understandably, Flitcroft chose to stick with the starting line-up that beat Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers in their previous two matches and it looked to be a wise decision in the opening stages.
Craig Jones beat Exeter keeper Artur Krysiak to a Frederic Veseli pass in the third minute before failing to hit the target from a tight angle, under pressure from the stranded stopper.
Barring a suicidal roll out of goal from Shakers keeper Brian Jensen, which almost handed an opener to Exeter midfielder Elliott Richards, the chances rained down exclusively on the Grecians’ goal.
Krysiak atoned for his early rush of blood to make two telling saves to deny Andrew Tutte, before showing strong hands to palm away a couple of blistering strikes from Danny Mayor.
When Exeter did finally get a foothold in the game in the final 15 minutes of the half, Jensen was alive to the danger, blocking an angled drive from Liam Sercombe after the winger was put in behind the Bury defence by striker Tom Nicholls.
It looked as if all of the hard work over the past seven weeks may finally have caught up with the Bury players, but the half-time break came just at the right time.
And there was only one team in it after the interval.
Both Tutte and Daniel Nardiello went close after the break before Hussey, whose dangerous crosses from the left had caused Exeter problems all afternoon, put Bury ahead from a set-piece.
Exeter centre-back Danny Coles picked up a yellow card for a block on Mayor that led to the 65th-minute free kick. And Hussey made him pay, catching Krysiak off guard with a deceptive curling shot from 25 yards.
Coles made the Grecians’ task even harder after picking up a second yellow card just five minutes after his first for an off-the-ball challenge on substitute Danny Rose.
Rose twice went close to doubling the Bury advantage in the final 10 minutes before fellow substitute Soares finally killed off the game in the second-minute of stoppage time, poking home at the back post from a Mayor cross to score his second goal in as many matches.
“I think we hurt them from every part of the pitch in the first half – it was a real complete performance – and I am just happy for them the way it panned out in the second half,” said Flitcroft.
“They were out on their feet at times as we have had so many games in a short space of time.
“We were so aggressive, so dominant, so much on the front foot and while Exeter were fighting for their lives, I think we won it comprehensively.”
BURY: Jensen 8; Veseli 7, Mills 7, McNulty 7, Hussey 9; Jones 7 (Miller 6 73), Sedgwick 7, Tutte 7 (Soares 78), Mayor 8; Hope 6 (Rose 7 63), Nardiello 7.
Not used: Hinds, Procter, Platt, Charles-Cook.
EXTER CITY: Krysiak; Dawson (Wheeler 80), Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Bennett, Gill (Grimes 54); Sercombe, Oakley, Richards; Nicholls (O'Flynn 72).
Not used: Baldwin, Davies, Parkin, Pyn.
Goals: Bury – Hussey 65, Soares 90+2.
Yellow cards: Bury – Rose 88. Exeter City – Coles 64 & 69.
Red cards: Exeter City – Coles 69.
Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 2,718 (144 visiting).
Star man: Chris Hussey – The Burton Albion full-back has made a real telling contribution since joining Bury on loan with his wicked delivery from the left wing and on set-pieces. He was rightly awarded the man-of-the-match in the stadium for another cultured display and that all-important goal. His 65th-minute free kick was disguised perfectly to catch the Exeter keeper off guard, while his delivery from wide left was a threat to the Grecians all day long and led to Tom Soares’ late second goal.
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