THE players’ huddle before the kick off and just after the final whistle following a superb win said it all.

A healthy siege mentality among Alan Knill’s former side and the Bury fans, whose ranks swelled to above 3,000, sent the message out loud and clear – it will take more than the departure of the manager to derail the Shakers promotion aspirations.

Youth team coach Richie Barker’s head must be spinning. Plunged into the role of caretaker boss on Thursday when it was clear Knill, his assistant Chris Brass and goalkeeper coach Neil Cutler were on their way to Scunthorpe United, his men were a goal up within 53 seconds of his temporary reign.

Nineteen-year-old Nicky Ajose – on loan from Manchester United – showed all the class drilled into him at his parent club, when he controlled the ball on the edge of the Oxford penalty area, and, spotting goalkeeper Ryan Clarke off his line, he cheekily lobbed the ball into the net.

But United, managed by Knill’s former assistant at Bury, Chris Wilder, were in no mood to let their own League Two play-off aspirations falter and the hosts had to endure some functional pressing by the visitors.

Barker decided to restore the back four which has put Bury fourth, a point outside the automatic promotion places, having played a game less than their rivals, with seven games to go, and he was richly rewarded for his faith.

For all their pressing, Oxford failed force Shakers keeper Cameron Belford to make one serious save. With captain Steven Schumacher suspended and acting as Barker’s number two on the sidelines, leading scorer Ryan Lowe took the armband and he characteristically led by example.

He scored his first goal in five matches to put Bury 2-0 up to take his season’s tally to 25.

It was a quality goal from the 32-year-old, who cut in from the left, on 63 minutes to slot the ball under Clarke’s body.

Ajose showed more of his quality seven minutes later when he cut in on the same flank to beat Clarke at his near post from a tight angle to send the Gigg Lane faithful into raptures.

Who is to say Barker, who has been taking counsel from senior players Lowe, Efe Sodje, Schumacher and Paul Futcher, could not guide Bury into League One?

He was refreshingly humble when reflecting on the win.

“Whoever comes in and takes over this team and stands where I was, will be an extremely fortunate manger,” he said.

“Because in close on 20 years I’ve been involved in professional football, these are probably the most professional bunch of players I’ve been with.

“It was a doddle because they made it one – not because of anything that I’ve done. Whoever comes in is going to find it reasonably easy.”

BURY: Belford 7, Picken 7, Lees 7, Sodje 9, Skarz 7, M Jones 7 (Haworth 7), Sweeney 7, Mozika 8, Worrall 7 (Bennett 7), Ajose 8, Lowe 8 (John-Lewis 7). Subs not used: Futcher, Holroyd, Branagan, Eckersley OXFORD: Clarke 6, Batt 6, Worley 6, Wright 6, Tonkin 6, Heslop 7 (Hackney 6), Payne 6 (Hall 6), Burge 7, McLean 6, Constable 6, Craddock 6 (Doble 6). Subs not used: Sangare, Potter, Eastwood, Hanson Ref: D Coote Atte: 3,515