Bury returned to winning ways beating Pilkington 3-1 on Tuesday night at Gigg Lane. A sorely needed result and a well controlled performance much improved on recent outings, writes James Beedie.

Manager Dave McNabb had a conundrum ahead of the match. With both Benito Lowe and Andy Briggs unavailable there was a gap in the forward line. He picked Joe Duckworth as the number 9 while Bury U23s top scorer Joe Hobson was promoted to the first team and handed a place on the bench. At the back the Shakers were boosted by the return of Oli Jepson allowing them to field the same defence that kept four clean sheets in a row through October and November.

Bury began the match on the front foot. Connor Comber and Sam Burns harassing a Pilkington defence that defended well and deeply to thwart the Bury attack. The Shakers’ first real chance came as a Comber shot was blocked, the rebound fell to Billy Reeves, he played in Sam Burns who just couldn’t keep his effort on target.

Bury took the lead on 25 minutes. A long Gaz Peet run took him all the way into the Pilkington penalty box as he weaved his way past three defenders in a smart passing move with Joe Duckworth. Peet was felled in the box and might have won his side a penalty had he not been able to square the ball to Connor Comber who had an easy finish from three yards.

The Shakers pushed for a second goal to secure their lead. A Burns cross was a little too high for Duckworth who was free in the middle of the box. Moments later an Andy Scarisbrick centre found Charlie Doyle. His header was only partially cleared allowing Duckworth a shot but he fired wide of the post.

Comber saw one shot of his blocked, another volley deflected wide and Scarisbrick had a goal from a corner disallowed due to a foul in the build up. Bury were dominant in the first half with the visitors Pilkington often struggling to get out of their own half and the Shakers enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

The Bury forwards kept the pressure on the Pilkington defence who even after going a goal behind did not crack. The halftime whistle sounded with Bury playing well and with the lead but perhaps a more narrow advantage than they would have hoped for.

The home side picked up where they left off as the second half began, Gaz Peet attempted a cross-cum-shot that only just cleared the Pilkington crossbar though the away keeper Jake Hilton looked to have the chance covered had it dipped below the woodwork. From a corner Bury nearly found the second goal they craved. An Oli Jepson effort was blocked in a busy penalty area, the ball fell invitingly to Bury captain Tom Moore but his volley cleared the bar from very close range.

The push for the security of a second goal pressed on with Burns seeing a deflected effort bounce wide of the mark while a Scarisbrick cross eluded everyone in the Pilkington box. There was a creeping feeling in the stands that Bury may regret not taking full advantage of their control of the match as surely the visitors would have a chance eventually and as it stood they would only need one.

This concern began to grow more as Pilkington had their first chance of note. Christopher Lomax getting in behind the defence fired a fierce shot that Harry Wright, largely a spectator all evening, did very well to save.

Bury’s control over proceedings was further hampered on 70 minutes when Charlie Doyle was sin binned. Aggrieved that a tackle on Scarisbrick had not been penalised but a foul was awarded to the visitors moments later Doyle’s complaints drew the ire of the referee and a ten minute spell on the sidelines was the Bury lynchpin midfielder’s punishment.

The loss of Doyle and the resulting gap in the middle of the park was a problem for Bury. Soon afterwards Pilkington took advantage. Winning the ball in midfield the ball was played into Lomax who saw a shot saved by Wright. The Bury keeper managed to palm the goalbound effort onto the post and out. However from the resulting corner kick the ball fell to Wade Rutherford at the far post to head home an equaliser for the St Helens side that felt so unlikely even a few minutes beforehand.

The Shakers saw out the remainder of Doyle’s sin bin without further incident and freshened up the attack bringing on Gilboy, Kellett and league debutant Joe Hobson. The home side returned to looking the side most likely to score but with time running out it was now a chase to regain the lead.

With less than five minutes remaining Bury finally scored their second goal. A long range Sam Burns free kick could only be parried by goalkeeper Hilton, the rebound fell to Moore who saw his effort again parried by Hilton. Finally it fell to Billy Reeves who slammed home to restore the lead, his first goal for the Shakers.

Finally as the match entered the 90th minute Bury gained the two goal cushion they had chased for most of the match. A misplaced back pass from Pilkington full back Callum Preston found Joe Hobson who suddenly had the entire freedom of Gigg Lane at his disposal. He lined up to fire a shot from just outside the box and his effort slipped underneath Hilton. An assured and confident finish from the young striker added some gloss to the result and ensured the three points would be staying at Gigg Lane.