Date: 16th August 2015 at 10:46am
Written by: Ian Crowther

Match Day Report: Bury FC vs. Swindon Town – Gigg Lane, 3pm, 15th August 2015

A reversal of fortune could be the headline at Gigg Lane today, which saw 3,947 fans witness Bury FC draw with Swindon Town when the game should have been over as a contest by half time.

Tactically, the game played out as a reverse of the League Cup encounter at Wigan, except Bury’s dominance in the first half contained several guilt edged chances, including a missed penalty, which resulted in 1 point instead of 3.

Bury were nothing short of outstanding in the first half. Swindon`s game plan must have been to soak up the pressure, as they found it incredibly difficult to get hold of the ball never mind create any chances in the first half. The Bury keeper Walton was exceptionally quiet.

Bury went 1-0 up at 4 minutes. A terrific driving run by Jo Riley who’s cross was met by Tom Pope who got in front of his marker, and headed the ball into net giving the Swindon keeper Vigouroux stranded.

A few minutes later, a pass from the Swindon midfield was challenged as Bury pressed the ball hard. The ball ended up rolling back towards the keeper with Leon Clarke charging down the chance only to be taken out by the Swindon keeper Vigouroux. The referee awarded a penalty. Leon Clarke stepped up to make it 4 goals in 3 matches, struck the ball extremely well, however it rebounded off the post. The first guilt edge chanced missed.

Several good chances ebbed and flowed, Leon Clarke should have scored a few minutes later, when to his credit he managed to challenge the right midfielder Branco, 35 yards out from the Swindon goal. Leon Clarke also bobbled the ball past the centre back Williams and then used his right foot to scoop it past Vigouroux and the ball went wide right. Another fantastic chance spurned.

During the first half, Bury’s possession must have been in the 70%’s. The pressing game was excellent and the defence was great again (short of one or two slips by Peter Clarke early on), aligning itself well with Etuhu and Tutte as they fought to keep control of the football. This really was impressive football, a joy to watch an attacking team in full flow. However, the team failed to make the possession and chances count, and they later went on to rue such dominance as the tables were turned later in the second half.

There were no substitutions at half time, and Bury came out fighting. Riley again made several darting runs down the right wing, when there were a couple of challenges for the ball on the edge of the box, and it looked like Soares fouled the left back Ormonde-Ottewill, however the referee let the play go on, the ball was crossed for Danny Mayor who slotted home with a cracking right foot shot from 18 yards to Vigouroux’s left which curled into the net. Bury 2-0 nil up on 52 minutes.

From here on in, the reversal of fortune happened. Several issues crept up on Bury all at once. Mayor was not involved in the game and feeling his injury, and both Tutte and Pope appeared to be fading. Mayor is still carrying a knock and Tutte had run himself ragged in the first half – he was clearly today’s man of the match, no matter what the club’s sponsors thought. Bury began to sit back 5-10 yards, giving Swindon more time to play out from the back. Bury’s pressing game had dried up.

Mark Cooper, the Swindon Town manager saw an opportunity to introduce Rodgers for Stewart at 59 minutes and drive at the Bury midfield and defence. Swindon, now in the ascendancy, began to take hold of the game.

The visitors scored a good goal from the right hand side of the Bury penalty box after several midfield passes through Rodgers and Smith which carved open an opportunity for Robert who shot and left Walton looking back into the right hand side of his goal as the ball nestled into the corner of the net. 2-1 at 74 minutes.

Swindon could smell blood as Bury began to sit back further in defence, which became problematic with Etuhu receiving a booking as the pressure mounted. Bury must learn that they cannot defend for long periods in League 1.

At 71 minutes, Flitcroft made two substitutions; Etuhu for Danny Pugh due to a tweaked hamstring, and Pope for Mellis. Pugh slotted in, but found it difficult to meet the speed of play and passing ability of Swindon’s midfield. The Bury manager brought on Hallam Hope for Danny Mayor in a left wing position at 80 minutes, probably in an attempt to reconnect midfield with Mellis. Flitcroft took Mayor off, probably to protect any reoccurrence of the hamstring tweak from two weeks ago.

Hope gave a foul away 25 yards out on Bury`s left – the Bury Manager Flitcroft suggested it was not a foul based on video evidence and the referee made a mistake. Rodgers, the son of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who was in the crowd today, stepped up and walloped the ball with venom into Walton’s top left hand corner – a cracking free kick and goal to make it 2-2, and Bury were left asking how has this happened given the first half’s dominance?

The difficulty now was to try and grab the winner with a defensive formation and personnel that were not quite up to the task. Leon Clarke was left as the lone striker with Mellis playing off him. Leon Clarke’s speed was somewhat lacking by this stage and the drive from midfield was tempered as it sat deep trying to combat Swindon’s dominant attacking play.

Mellis and Leon Clarke appeared isolated during the last 15 minutes. The out-ball from midfield had to travel distance to find Mellis and was often cut out. The midfield required a reset, and pace was needed to try and stretch Swindon’s back four.

Similar to the Wigan game, Hope struggled to find a way into the match despite a clear energy advantage. Hope was caught in possession, could not beat a man and failed to deliver any meaningful crosses to Leon Clarke or to pass the ball inside to Mellis.

Hallam Hope is a challenge for the wing position, and is somewhat of an enigma as to how the manager sees him fitting on to the team? Hope appears to be lacking the required pace and skill for such a role in League 1 – this is becoming more apparent as Flitcroft continues to give the lad a chance.

It is easy to be critical after the event, however what Flitcroft was thinking at this stage of the game is anybody’s guess? Mellis could have gone back to midfield, Soares out to the left and Danny Rose could have made a tactical difference with his pace against a tired Swindon defence? (Different permutations were available)

There were two more chances to speak of before the final whistle, one from Danny Pugh, a great cross 30 yards out on the Bury right, straight to Leon Clarke who rose above the Swindon defence and headed the ball towards the back post but the chance was saved by Vigouroux. Finally, Riley made a surging run, dodging several tackles and beat 3 players, however the shot lacked power and was saved by Vigourox. There were 5 minutes of added time, and Bury managed to see out the game for a draw.

The match finished 2-2, and although a draw is not the end of the world, the result felt like a loss to Bury fans given the chances spurned. The positives, well, there were too many to sum up in the first half as Bury carved Swindon open at will, but the dominance must be converted into successful opportunity and goals. Positively, the chances are being created and Flitcroft has been quick to highlight this fact, how the team will build upon this now, and how the team have nothing to fear in League 1 (GMR Radio) – to this end the majority of fans agree.

Flitcroft will need to analyse the second half as Etuhu leaving the pitch made a massive difference in team shape and defensive ability at a time when Swindon were ramping up the ante. Leaving the diamond in place without Etuhu present needs looking at. Any team losing Danny Mayor will not be as competitive, but looking forward to Tuesday night, Flitcroft needs key personnel fit for the next match. The fans remain unsure about what the introduction of Hallam Hope did for the team today given the circumstances at the time? However, the Bury manager must make more use of his wider squad and develop his reading of the game so as to not keep using the same players as substitutes and realise what the requirements of the game are at different times.

We should also heed the managers point on what a tough start the team has had in playing Doncaster, Wigan and Swindon in succession, all fancied for promotion. Bury have not looked out of place in any of these matches and should take comfort from this. Notwithstanding this point, the team must begin taking 3 points in the next few matches versus Fleetwood and Crewe in particular – no pressure then!

Swindon should gain credit for getting back into the game, and the second goal from Rodgers was a peach. The second half performance and result was a harsh one for Bury to swallow today. However this reinforces a lesson for them to learn from as regards the difference in opposition quality in League 1 and to ensure that in future the team makes hay whilst the sun shines!

We look forward to the next home game against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night, and what will hopefully be a successful night and 3 points at Gigg Lane. UTS!

Ian Crowther – 15th August 2015.