Bury FC finished off a momentous 2023 in style with a comfortable 2-0 victory away at AFC Liverpool to regain top spot in the North West Counties Premier Division, writes James Beedie.

The Shakers faithful braved the high winds and torrential rain of Crosby visiting Rosett Park to see if Dave McNabb’s side could capitalise on what has been a promising festive period so far.

There were a few changes to the side that beat Prestwich Heys on Boxing Day. A bout of illness had swept through the squad over Christmas at one point reducing the squad to just 12 fit players. Goalkeeping coach Sam Ashton started between the sticks for Bury in his first league start for the club while Marine defender Kyle Hayde was brought in on loan for a single Shakers appearance. Luis Cantello became the latest member of Bury’s Under 23 side to be called up to the senior squad while a number of key players including Charlie Doyle and Andy Scarisbrick would pull themselves out of their sick bed and start for the Shakers.

Despite the depleted numbers and the inclement conditions Bury started the match strongly with Connor Comber and Andy Scarisbrick making early inroads into the Liverpool box and Comber himself forcing a good save from home keeper Danny Hamlett. Comber has made the full back position his own in recent matches lining up on either side of the back four and making harrying runs down the wings. His cross nearly found the head of Andrew Briggs while a Jordan Butterworth cross from the right flashed across the busy Liverpool penalty area.

Bury didn’t have everything go their way in the first half, a Tom Douglass cross beat the Bury backline and flashed across goal only missing a final touch to put it over the line while AFC Liverpool’s Liam Paton later found himself with a free header in the Bury box but missed the target by some distance.

When the opening goal arrived it was no surprise that Bury struck first. On a quick counterattack Briggs passed the ball out to Scarisbrick on the left. The Bury midfielder shot on goal and the slick ball squeezed underneath the grasp of Hamlett in the Liverpool goal. Bury fans appealed that the ball had crossed the line but Dec Daniels made sure the goal would stand, tapping the ball into the back of the net.

Bury continued to dominate proceedings with the hosts unable to contain Comber and the link up play between Daniels and Briggs up front continued to be fruitful. The second goal came about from another Comber attack forcing a corner on the left wing. Billy Reeves took the resulting set piece and found the head of Briggs at the near post. Bury’s top scorer made no mistake and extended his season’s tally to 15 goals.

There were further chances most notably a volley by Charlie Doyle that was fired wide but no more goals. Bury went in at the break two goals to the good after one of the most dominant 45 minute spells of the season so far.

Much of the second half went the same way for the Shakers, though they had to withstand an early spell of pressure from the home side.

Forward Liam Paton fluffed his lines after getting onto the end of a Douglas cross but failed to take a shot while Edan Bavelock had a decent effort from distance well saved by Sam Ashton.

Bury responded with a Doyle shot on target that was deflected away by a defender. From the resulting corner Briggs hit the Liverpool post. Later a Comber cross found Daniels, his header was on target but well saved by Hamlett.

As the rain began to pound the pitch and drench the players much of the earlier energy began to sap away. McNabb’s tactical changes however maintain the Shakers’ control on the match. Bury’s substitutes nearly created the third goal between themselves as a Kyle Hayde cross found Joe Hobson but his first time shot was just wide of the post.

The one part of Bury’s game that never tired was the impenetrable defence. After an initial five minute spell at the start of the second half AFC Liverpool never looked likely to score. One final chance the hosts had to get themselves on the scoresheet came from a Tom Douglas free kick late in the game. A long range effort fired on target was swatted away by the mighty paw of Sam Ashton who likely judged the slick ball a risk to try and catch.

At full time Bury could look back proudly on how well they had won the last match of 2023. Nothing has come easy for the Shakers over the past year, in fact nothing has come easy for a long time before that. To produce such an encouraging performance in the face of difficult odds was the most pleasing aspect of a very good day for Shakers everywhere.