CHRIS Lucketti lamented a momentary lapse as Bury’s improving form stalled at play-off chasing Portsmouth.

Matt Clarke’s 62nd-minute header meant the Shakers came away empty-handed after a dogged showing at Fratton Park.

That means they are now five points from safety after a loss in front of a crowd of 17,549.

Lucketti’s men would have feared the worst after their travelling plans were hindered by their coach breaking down, as they made the long trip south.

But the Bury boss and the 176 hardy travelling fans were upbeat about a return for two-thirds of the game, following a display of graft from their team.

A crowd with a reputation for being among the most raucous had been quietened, with murmurs of discontent beginning to surface.

Which made the manner in which Clarke was afforded the freedom of the penalty area to head in the decisive goal galling.

The defender was unopposed when he headed home Gareth Evans’ corner from a few yards out.

That meant a rearguard action which spoke of the graft put in on the training ground since Lucketti’s appointment went unrewarded.

He said: “The lads gave it a lot of effort out there but sadly we lacked quality in possession and it cost us.

“I thought we generally defended well as a team. So it’s really disappointing to concede in the way we did, from a set-piece, and to lose the game in that manner.

“It is a tough place to come and they had lot of possession but I thought we did really well to limit them to two or three chances.

“But the one thing we work on (most) is set-pieces and there are two people who didn’t do their jobs.”

Lucketti hoped top scorer Jermaine Beckford would be back from injury but he “had a niggle” on Friday so remained out. But the Bury boss still went with an attacking formation as he continued with two men up top.

Jay O’Shea was utilised behind former Portsmouth striker Michael Smith and Nicky Ajose at the tip of a diamond formation.

In reality, however, it was a display all about being difficult to break down.

Ajose forced Luke McGee into a routine 10th-minute save in an even opening.

The home side assumed control but struggled to get behind the Bury back four with Eoghan O’Connell dominant.

Twice, however, Leo Fasan was called upon to make impressive saves. The Shakers’ keeper went full-length to keep out Danny Rose’s 15th-minute 30-yarder, before saving sharply from Evans 11 minutes before the break.

The game then spun on Clarke’s intervention 17 minutes after the restart, which forced Lucketti into a more expansive approach.

Danny Mayor and Chris Maguire were both introduced as the game was chased.

Both had chances over the final 12 minutes, with Maguire flicking a head at O’Shea’s free-kick and the ball sailing not too far over.

Then Mayor had space with six minutes left, but failed to work the keeper with his header.

Lucketti’s disappointment after the clash was justified, with the gameplan looking increasingly likely to reap dividends.

There’s no shame, of course, in losing to a team who have won seven of their last eight games and look like play-off material.

And there was enough evidence to give Lucketti and Shakers fans reasons to be cheerful.

The Bury boss added: “We need goals to win games so we went with an attacking formation, and the way we finished the game was even more attacking.

“We came here to get three points and not to just take part in a great stadium and a great atmosphere.

“We frustrated the fans and we frustrated Portsmouth. They are a good team and they are flying, so to limit them to two or three chances was something the lads can be proud of.

“I can’t fault their effort at all but the players that have got the quality in possession weren’t good enough.”