TOP BOSS BOTHER FOR SORRY SMITH
Ace Craig does the business for Bury
THE dreaded Manager of the Month curse struck again on a day of firsts at the Banks’s Stadium.
Having led Walsall to the top of the table, League One’s top boss in August Dean Smith saw his Saddlers slip to a first league defeat.
Craig Jones’ sixth-minute strike handed promoted Bury a first league win of the season after the Shakers had endured a shaky start to life at the new level, particularly at the back.
And that was why the most pleasing ‘first’ for Bury boss David Flitcroft was a maiden clean sheet as he looks to get his side back to their old stingy ways.
Barring crisis club Blackpool, Flitcroft’s men had the worst defensive record in the division going into the game but they comfortably kept the free-scoring Saddlers at bay.
And Flitcroft beamed: “We had to defend in numbers and we showed a high amount of resolve.
“Our two centre-halves, Peter Clarke and Nathan Cameron, were fantastic here.
“It was a strong part of our game last season. We kept a lot of clean sheets – out of 17 games at the back end of last season, I think we kept 13 clean sheets.
“It was a character of the team so the mistakes we have been making this season have been out of character.
“This team can defend, even though the stats don’t show that.
“So we’ve gone back to basics as we know we always look threatening.”
Indeed, they looked very threatening in the opening quarter of the game and Flitcroft was proud of how his side played against a team that has set the early pace in League One.
He added: “We were organised and structured but for the first 20 minutes I think it was better than that. We caused them real problems, especially down the left-hand side.
“There were times when we should have put the game out of sight but we’ve beaten a very, very good team. “What Dean has built here should be a blueprint for lower league English football, it really should.
“Six years in the building process and they play football the right way, the philosophy is great and they can attack you with a real verve so to get this result was fantastic.”
Bury have scored in every game they have played this season and took just six minutes to extend that streak into another week.
Danny Mayor’s clever ball slipped Jones into space in the right side of the box and he flashed a fine finish across keeper Craig MacGillivray into the far bottom corner.
After the goal, Bury sat back and though they defended well, they still owed much to keeper Rob Lainton for ensuring the lead stayed intact.
He made flying saves to foil wellstruck long-range efforts from Sam Mantom and Romaine Sawyers, and reacted well to claw James O’Connor’s header out of his near post.
After the break, it was a similar story as Bury defended superbly and when Walsall did get through, Lainton pulled off a fine save to thwart Mantom’s strike.
The keeper reacted smartly late on too, preventing what would have been an unfortunate own goal from Tom Soares, who then went and fluffed a golden chance to seal it at the other end.
But his miss did not matter as Bury held out, leaving Walsall manager Smith frustrated, but not too downhearted.
Smith said: “It was frustrating. But you don’t always get what you deserve in life and here we didn’t get what we deserved.
“We didn’t start the game particularly well and they got their noses in front and that gave them something to hold on to.
“The difference was in the 18-yard box. Their keeper has made some good saves and our finishing could have been a bit better.
“My players have given everything but it just wasn’t to be.”
HAVE SOME OF THAT: Craig Jones scores the only goal of the game
STAR MAN NATHA