CHRIS Brass says realisation has hit home after Bury dropped into the League One relegation zone for the first time this season following Saturday's 3-2 defeat at home to Oxford United.

The Shakers will spend Christmas in the drop zone after twice surrendering the lead as they fell to a 12th straight loss in the league – extending the club's record-breaking losing streak.

James Vaughan and Tom Pope had twice put Bury ahead in the first half, but each time Chris Maguire levelled with expertly taken free-kicks.

Left-back Greg Leigh then put into his own net 19 minutes from time to hand victory to the U’s – prompting Brass to call for patience as he plots a way out of the bottom four.

“We know where we are at now,” Brass said. “We have been skirting with it (falling into the relegation zone)m but it’s not the elephant in the room anymore.

"We now know what we have got to do – climb to get out of it.

“I am disappointed with the goals conceded.

"It was a decent enough performance but I had to change it again from what the plan was (due to injuries).

“We are not going to hide from anything, we know what we need to address and we have got to be patient."

Individual errors, which have been a factor in Bury's nightmare run of results, once again cost them a much-needed point.

Leigh played the role of villain on Saturday, frantically turning Marvin Johnson’s cross into his own net when it seemed he had plenty of time to clear, much to the frustration of boss Brass.

“It was a disappointing result, again, and a mistake, again,” Brass added. “It’s frustrating.

“He’ll (Greg Leigh) be frustrated and disappointed but (it is down to each individual player) to make sure they eradicate the mistakes, and that it’s not you – week in, week out – making those mistakes.”

With no clean sheet in 24 games, Brass made the bold call to drop goalkeeper Ben Williams – who had started every game so far this season – and handed reserve stopper Paul Rachubka his Bury debut.

Explaining his decision to switch keepers, Brass said: “We need competition in every area and there has been a dip in form as of late.

“You get your shirt sometimes by default and sometimes the way the game goes I think nobody is entitled to that, whether you’re a goalkeeper or a seasoned pro, you have got to earn the right to take it.”

Only five minutes into his debut, Rachubka provided the assist for Vaughan to open the scoring. The forward latched on to his long pass before delicately lobbing Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood as he rushed off his line.

Bury showed a glimpse of their attacking potential in what was an electric start – but once again they showed it was in defence that their problems lie.

Oxford drew level against the run of play when Maguire curled a free-kick into the bottom corner after Tom Soares had given away a needless foul on the edge of the box.

The visitors were then in the ascendancy and only a string of fine saves from Rachubka kept the scores level before Pope headed the Shakers back in front six minutes before the break.

The striker's sixth goal of the campaign – his first since the end of September – came at the second attempt after his initial effort following a fine cross by Scott Burgess was blocked.

It could have been a different story for the Shakers had they been able to take a lead into half time, but Oxford equalised for a second time four minutes later.

Maguire produced a carbon copy of his first – curling another free kick past Rachubka's despairing dive.

Oxford pressed for a third after the break and their good play was finally rewarded when Leigh turned in Johnson’s low cross.

And as if a 12th straight defeat was not hard enough to take, Bury lost teenaged defender Jacob Bedeau and star midfielder Danny Mayor to injury during the match.

Brass believes the run of games simply caught up with Bedeau and a rest cure could suffice, but he admits Mayor's fitness is a concern ahead of the trip to Fleetwood on Boxing Day.

“Jacob has done fantastic,” Brass said. “He’s only 16 and I think everything has just caught up with him – the emotion, the physicality. He’s honest enough to say that. In an ideal world you dip them in and dip them out and he’s more than coped.

“He will have to work to keep them levels up to 90 minutes at this level but I think he has done well.

“Danny has had to go off, we carried him until half time and he couldn’t make the second half. He is tight around the pelvic area but we’ll have to asses it.”

Match ratings

Bury (4-3-3): Rachubka 6; Soares 5, Kay 6, Bedeau 6 (Maher 60, 6), Leigh 5; Burgess 7, Etuhu 5, Mayor 7 (Walker 46, 6); Vaughan 7 (Hope 73, 6), Pope 7, G Miller 7.

Unused subs: Williams, Cooney, Styles, Dudley.

Oxford (4-4-2): Eastwood; Edwards, Nelson, Dunkley, Johnson; MacDonald, Ledson, Lundstram, Hall (Roberts 80); Maguire, Hemmings (Taylor 90+2).

Unused subs: Buchel, Ruffels, Giles, Rothwell, Raglan.

Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).