BURY turned on the style to earn a morale-boosting 3-1 win against Stoke's Under-21s and reach the Checkatrade Trophy's last 32.

Caretaker manager Ryan Lowe recalled Nicky Ajose for his second game in charge and the striker fired in a superb fifth-minute opener.

Greg Leigh then doubled the Shakers' lead on18 minutes, and just over 60 seconds later, Callum Reilly's shot deflected in off Stoke defender Scott Wara.

Former Barcelona forward Ibrahim Afellay pulled one back on 74 minutes but that was not enough to stop Bury finishing second in the group and booking a place in the knock-out stages.

However, the main concern was that the Shakers regained that winning feeling ahead of Saturday's crucial game at Gillingham, who are just two points above them in the League One relegation zone.

Lowe made seven changes to the starting line-up after Sunday's 1-1 draw at Woking in the FA Cup, with summer signing Chris Sang handed his first appearance up front.

Ajose had been frozen out by Lee Clark and was quick to make his mark, unleashing a dipping strike from over 20 yards that fizzed past Josef Bursik and just inside the post.

Ajose saluted his goal by putting a finger to his lips, and he and left wing-back Greg Leigh shone during the opening stages.

Stoke almost drew level when Leo Fasan's poor kick gifted the visitors possession but the keeper made amends by diving low to his right to parry Saido Berahino's shot.

Leigh then burst down the left and although his shot from a tight angle was saved, Bury kept the pressure on and Neil Danns crossed from deep on right for Leigh to rise above his man and head home.

Yet, from the restart, Stoke swiftly gave up possession and Reilly drilled in a low left-footed shot which looked to be going wide before going in off Wara.

Bury were playing the positive football Lowe had called for after the Woking draw, although the Shakers can't expect to be allowed the same amount of space on Saturday.

Ajose and Rohan Ince combined to find Reilly, whose shot from the edge of the box was turned over by Bursik.

Stoke replied as Dan Jarvis' cross was turned goalwards by captain Lewis Banks and Fasan had to claw it to safety, but another well-worked Bury attack resulted in Danns flashing a 20-yard shot just wide.

Berahino hasn't scored since February 2016 and it showed as he hit a tame effort wide just before the break.

The Stoke youngsters went close again after half-time through Oliver Shenton and Jarvis, but the Shakers should have stretched their lead as Reilly and Sang spurned good openings.

Ince then stung Bursik's palms, although the young Potters gained some reward for their efforts as Afellay fired into the top corner from 25 yards.

The introduction of youngsters Rob Harker, who clipped the bar with a late effort, and Cameron Hill offered a glimpse of the future for Bury.

But first they must see if they can reproduce this kind of performance when it really matters on Saturday.

Match ratings

Bury (3-5-2): Fasan 7; O’Connell 8, Aldred 8, Whitmore 8; Williams 7, Danns 8 (Hill 83, 5), Ince 8, Reilly 8, Leigh 8; Sang 7 (Harker 75, 6), Ajose 8 (Maguire 80, 6). Not used: Cooney, Shotton, Styles, Moloney.

Stoke (3-3-3-1): Bursik; Souttar, Martins Indi, Wara; Pemberton, Adam, Banks; Jarvis (Campbell 75), Afellay, Shenton; Berahino. Not used: Ayoola, Cherdieu, Hill, McJannett, Szereto, Gyollai.

Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).

Attendance: 686 (84 away).