McCallum 29, 56
UNITED ignored the wind, rain, thunder and a belligerent Bury side to record a superb 3-1 win at the former stomping ground of manager Alan Knill. Almost three years after since he left the Bury hot-seat, United’s main man was savouring a victory that has been coming for a long time.
Aaron Downes made his return from injury to notch the first with a powerful header but the home side quickly levelled through Nathan Cameron.
It was the only setback of a fine afternoon for the Gulls, as Paul McCallum quickly restored the Yellow lead and when the man on loan from West Ham scored again early in the second half, it was game over.
The team-sheet submitted by United’s boss had an immediate eyebrow-raiser with the decision to select Elliot Benyon ahead of Karl Hawley as strike-partner to McCallum.
The other Yellow change from last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Portsmouth saw Krystian Pearce drop down to the bench, allowing Downes to make his return to the centre of defence after a month out with knee trouble.
Bury’s caretaker-manager Ronnie Jepson only replaced Danny Hylton with Anton Forrester from the side that recorded a 2-1 win at Wycombe seven days ago and the boys in white were quickly testing the Gulls with a dangerous cross from the left, forcing Anthony O’Connor into an excellent clearance.
The experienced Chris Sedgwick maintained the early pressure with another tricky ball in the box and, once again, O’Connor was in the right place to remove the problem on a wintry day at Gigg Lane.
The siege on United’s goal continued with a ball over the top for Forrester and Downes did well to produce a super slide-tackle. The ball then fell to the lively Danny Mayor for a shot fired well over Martin Rice’s crossbar.
Mayor was a fraction closer from the next attack, heading just wide from a Sedgwick cross and the Gulls were thoroughly entrenched in survival-mode.
United finally relieved the pressure with fine work by McCallum, skipping in front of Bury ‘keeper Brian Jensen to poke a pass into the path of Lee Mansell, who was denied a certain goal by William Edjenguele’s brilliant block-tackle.
From nowhere, the Gulls won a corner and took a surprise lead. Kevin Nicholson whipped over a terrific delivery and Downes wanted the header more than anyone else, thumping the ball past Jensen from close-range.
Knill has repeatedly spoken of the importance Downes’ aerial ability brings to his side in both penalty areas and the Australian had taken just 18 minutes to endorse that view.
Sadly for everyone in Yellow, the lead was all too brief, as a routine cross in the box was nodded down by Edjenguele for Cameron to control on his chest and sweep the ball past a stranded Rice.
On the overall balance of play, Bury would have felt the goal was justified and the Gulls now had to suppress another home surge in the driving rain of a November day in Manchester.
No matter, the very next set-piece from Nicholson had the Bury defence closely marshalling Downes, which left McCallum free to head the ball into the home net and send those hardy souls from South Devon into delirium in the Gigg Lane stands.
After initially being in front for six minutes, it was now imperative for the Gulls to stand firm until half-time at the very least but it needed a desperate clearance to achieve that objective after an almighty scramble from Sedgwick’s corner.
The Shakers quickly had the ball back at the right end but when Mansell fouled Mustoe just outside the box, Shaun Harrad’s free-kick was charged down by young midfielder Jak McCourt.
United then did a fine job of slowing down the frenetic tempo to proceedings, although a clever pull-back from Shaun Beeley did give Harrad a chance to shoot, but Rice was more than equal to the tepid effort.
The half concluded with a Bury corner picking out Harrad on the edge of the box, who fizzed a low shot comfortably wide to maintain the Yellow advantage at the interval.
If United needed to stay in front before the break, a steady start to the second period was even more crucial, and McCourt read that script with an astute clearance after crafty work from Sedgwick on the right.
Rice was the next hero, brilliantly clawing out a certain goal after a Cameron header was diverted toward the top corner of the net. It was a sensational save and hugely significant to United’s momentum, and confidence.
Bury were having a right go in the Manchester mud but that policy left space for the Yellows to exploit at the other end, and they did so in magnificent fashion.
Benyon was the architect, showing marvellous strength to hold off Edjenguele and then feed the ball to McCallum, who slammed a supreme finish past the exposed Jensen and into the roof of the net.
Benyon had become a real thorn for the home defence, as he again nipped past Edjenguele and tumbled over an out-stretched leg for a very strong penalty claim, which was waved away by referee James Adcock.
The first change of the afternoon was the introduction of Regan Walker for Forrester on 63 minutes and it was a move that paid quiet respect to the defensive work done by O’Connor and Downes on Bury’s main striker.
United had the wind and rain in their faces for the second half, a situation that made it more difficult to clear the Yellow lines, but Bury were struggling to find the necessary rhythm to consistently threaten.
Ashley Grimes then came on for Harrad in the next Bury twist amid apocalyptic weather conditions and United did well to ignore the thunder in clearing a burst forward from the home side.
Karl Hawley replacing Benyon was the first Yellow change with 15 minutes left on the clock, while Craig Jones came on for Sedgwick in the Shakers’ midfield.
Despite the horrendous conditions, United were performing an admirable job of stifling any Bury attempts to reduce their deficit. It was professional work from the Gulls and McCourt was so unlucky not to add a fourth goal, but his shot ricocheted away from the outside of the post.
Jordan Chapell then limped off to be replaced by Nathan Craig and it was all about United, as Mansell was denied by tremendous Jensen save to keep the score down for a beaten Bury side.
Great result and well played United.
Bury(4-4-2): 21 Brian Jensen; 2 Shaun Beeley, 25 William Edjenguele, 5 Nathan Cameron, 28 Jordan Mustoe; 12 Chris Sedgwick (7 Craig Jones 78), 6 Andrew Proctor (capt), 19 Tom Soares, 15 Danny Mayor; 14 Shaun Harrad (10 Ashley Grimes 72), 9 Anton Forrester (31 Regan Walker 63). Substitutes (not used): 4 Richard Hinds, 8 Tommy Miller, 11 Euan Holden, 30 Reice Charles-Cook (GK).
United(4-4-2): 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 29 Anthony O’Connor, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 23 Ade Azeez, 7 Lee Mansell (capt), 17 Jak McCourt (36 Damien Mozika 89), 12 Jordan Chapell (20 Nathan Craig 83); 19 Paul McCallum, 26 Elliot Benyon (9 Karl Hawley 75). Substitutes (not used): 1 Michael Poke (GK), 5 Krystian Pearce, 21 Thomas Cruise, 31 Daniel Sullivan.
Attendance:2,997 (157 away).