Bury lost to bottom side Skelmersdale United in a frustrating day away at the Community Stadium in Burscough.

There were a few surprises in the Bury line-up ahead of kick off. One enforced change came from the suspension of centre half Oli Jepson requiring Bury manager Dave McNabb to shuffle his defensive line, shifting Jordan Butterworth to the centre and Chris Rowney to play at right-back.

Up front, Bury were boosted by the return of Connor Comber and he was joined in a front three with Sam Burns and Andy Kellett. As a result there were no recognised strikers in the starting line-up with the usual forward line left on a very attacking-looking substitutes bench.

In opposition, Skelmersdale United seemed like easy prey for the high-flying Shakers. Rock bottom of the league with only two wins during the season so far, the West Lancashire club are managed by former Premier League defender Pascal Chimbonda and had lost 6-0 at home in midweek and seemed unlikely to break their long-running poor form.

Bury started brightly in the opening exchanges of the match, Comber and Burns combining well to test a leaky Skem defence. The hosts defended in large numbers and deeply. Burn’s early cross was snatched out the air by goalkeeper Ben Barnes, while a cross to Comber perhaps ought to have been finished with a first-time shot, as by the time the Bury number seven had the ball under control he had been swarmed by defenders.

Charlie Doyle blazed a shot well over the bar, a Tom Moore header was off target and a Comber shot was just the wrong side of the post. Bury had many chances to open the scoring but were wasteful when given the opportunity.

At the other end chances to score were few and far between but had often come about through mistakes in the Bury defence. Both Butterworth and goalkeeper Harry Wright had misplaced passes that lead to good chances for Skelmersdale, the defence had been let off the hook thus far but it wasn’t to last.

With half time approaching the Bury defence failed to contain the tricky wing play of Yasir Salim. Combining well with Dana Amaral on the left, he got in behind the Bury defence and sent a cross to Skem’s top goalscorer, Mark Bollongino, who had an easy finish from close range.

The Shakers went in at the break dejected and frustrated. They had failed to take their chances in the first half and paid the price. What was of greater concern for some however was the failure to carry out the basics. Simple passes were misplaced, communication was poor and this was starkly apparent at the start of the second half.

A back pass by Jordan Butterworth slipped under the foot of keeper Wright and despite racing back to try and save an embarrassing own goal Wright could not reach the ball in time. Conceding a second goal right at the start of the second half Bury now had a mountain to climb.

Bury had corrected their mistake and introduced their attacking complement to the fray but it already felt like too little, too late. Skelmersdale had a two-goal lead and with a famous victory on the cards defended even more stoutly. Comber had a shot from a tight angle saved by Barnes, while a long-range Benito Lowe effort was off target.

A foul on Lewis Gilboy sparked a furious reaction from home defender Omar Ibrahim who remonstrated at the assistant and appeared to manhandle him. Many in the crowd were surprised only a yellow card was shown when the Skelmersdale man’s reaction surely warranted a spell on the sidelines. Chimbonda may have wished his defender had been sin-binned as a few minutes later Ibrahim again fouled Gaz Peet, giving away a penalty and receiving a more permanent dismissal. Burns dispatched the resulting spot-kick and with one goal back and a man advantage Bury were back in the match.

Bury had by now added all their subs, centre-back Moore operated as a forward for the closing stages and with the rest of the defence either substituted for a forward or committed to the attack themselves defensive duties fell to just midfielder Billy Reeves and Wright as Bury lay siege to the Skelmersdale goal. Andy Briggs sent a close range effort over the bar, Peet had a shot saved by Barnes and Doyle missed the target with a header.

Briggs hit the post from a Moore cross, Barnes saved well from shots by Gilboy and Burns, while Burns put a shot well over the bar when clean through on goal. Bury could just not find the equalising goal. A series of late corners saw Harry Wright come up to the opposing penalty box but it was all in vain. Despite the relative positions in the table, the extra man, the possession and the hunger in the side Bury could not find a way past the Skelmersdale defence except from the penalty spot.

The full-time whistle rang out as Skelmersdale celebrated a great win and Bury were left humbled by a difficult defeat that leaves them five points adrift of first place with an extra game played on the league leaders Wythenshawe.

Bury have the chance to right the wrongs of the weekend in a Tuesday night home match against Pilkington, but with both Benito Lowe and Briggs getting injured late on, they might once again be without strikers in a side crying out for more ruthless finishers.