RYAN Lowe admitted his improving Bury team looked tired as they earned a hard-fought point against a resurgent Southend.

The visitors had the better of things on Tuesday night as they aimed for a fourth straight win since Chris Powell replaced Phil Brown as manager.

But the Shakers were indebted to Connor Ripley as their on-loan Middlesbrough keeper produced a string of fine saves to keep their unbeaten run going.

That made it five games without defeat since Lowe replaced Chris Lucketti as boss and edged Bury off the bottom of League One.

“Both teams huffed and puffed along the way, but I think it was a fair result,” Lowe said.

“It was a tired performance from both sides. They'd travelled a long way and we're scraping the barrel in terms of players.

“We tried to freshen things up as much as we could and the lads who came in did okay. We had three young lads on the bench too. We still felt we could beat them but it wasn't to be tonight.”

Lowe made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Bradford on Saturday, with Nathan Cameron rested while Neil Danns (calf) and Danny Mayor (illness) also made way.

In came Adam Thompson, Stephen Dawson and James Hanson, and with morale still high after Saturday's last-gasp equaliser, the Shakers made a positive start by earning a corner, from which Zeli Ismail scuffed a volley into the side-netting.

Southend's lone striker Freddie Ladapo then fired wide while winger Michael Kightly cut in from the left and shot straight at Ripley, who turned 25 on Tuesday.

Bury replied with Ismail's cross going just over the head of Hanson before Harry Bunn fired wide after his sharp turn created a shooting opportunity from a Greg Leigh throw.

The Bury players and fans shouted for offside as Shayon Harrison played in Ladapo, but his shot was too close to Ripley.

The former Oldham loanee was at full stretch to stop Harrison's low strike from just outside the box, though, before pouncing onto the rebound.

Ismail had a shot deflected wide but was brought off for Andrew Tutte as Lowe went for a tactical change at half-time.

That seemed to pay dividends as George Miller got in behind the Southend defence and rounded Mark Oxley before chipping back towards Hanson, but his header lacked enough power to trouble the visiting keeper.

Bunn then had a shot deflected wide for a corner, from which Peter Clarke had a header cleared off the line.

But the visitors got back on the front foot with Dru Yearwood's shot from the edge of the box creeping wide as Ripley scrambled across goal.

Ripley then parried a Jason Demetriou cross towards Yearwood, who failed to head goalwards with the keeper slightly out of position. Substitute Jermaine McGlashan also went close while Ben Coker's inswinging cross forced Ripley to punch clear.

A fierce 20-yard strike by Harrison then stung Ripley's palms, with Yearwood blazing over from the rebound, and as time was running out, Coker burst into the box and tried his luck from a tight angle, only for Ripley to keep the Shrimpers at bay yet again.

That helped Bury creep above Rochdale, although other results saw them slip 10 points from safety.

“They were the better team first half, we weren't at the races,” Lowe added.

“So there were some harsh words at half-time but it was constructive. The lads took it on board and I thought we were the better team second half.

“We made a change because their wingers kept coming inside and causing us a few problems. It was the same sort of shape, we just dropped George a bit deeper.

“By the lads' recent standards, bits weren't acceptable in the first half. We told them that, but they took it on the chin and went out second half and tried, so I can't fault them for that.”

Bury (4-4-1-1): Ripley 9, Edwards, 7, Thompson 7, Clarke 7, Leigh 7, Ismail 7 (Tutte 46, 6), Dawson 7 (O'Shea 81, 6), Laurent 6, Bunn 7, Miller 7, Hanson 7.

Subs not used: Adams, Cooney, Dai, Maguire, Murphy.

Southend (4-4-1-1): Oxley, Demetriou, Turner, Ferdinand, Coker, McLaughlin, Yearwood, Timlin, Kightly (McGlashan 46), Ladapo, Harrison (Fortune 82).

Subs not used: Bwomono, Klass, Kyprianou, Robinson, Bishop.

Referee: Martin Coy (Durham).

Attendance: 2,795 (224 away).