Bury v Coventry, Tuesday, February 28
MATCH REPORT & ANALYSIS (as appeared in our live blog last night)
Two first-half strikes by an improving Bury sunk the Sky Blues deeper into the relegation mire – and 14 points from safety – despite a vastly improved second-half display.
Russell Slade’s tactical switch to three at the back at half-time, with Ryan Haynes frequently marauding down the left with skill and quality delivery into the box, left Sky Blues fans wondering why the change had not been made earlier.
The system for the second half – which saw Jordan Willis switch to the centre of defence for Farrend Rawson – matched Bury who as Slade predicted played with three at the back.
It suited Bury who were slicker and swifter with their passing and dominance in midfield, with their playmakers making use of the skiddy wet surface following a deluge of greater Manchester rain.
They created three good chances inside the first five minutes – a Paul Caddis shot outside the box, a James Vaughan header and a Caddis free kick that was blocked.
They took a deserved lead on 15 minutes with a classy turn inside the box from James Vaughan, and a right-foot low finish to Burge’s left, taking his goals tally to 19 for the season.
A potentially mortal blow for Coventry City’s League One survival hopes came after 39 minutes. And it was a familiar tale of some poor marking.
Bury’s 16-year-old starlet Callum Styles was gifted too much space midway inside City’s half and he had too much time to pick out former Port Vale forward Tom Pope with a clinical through ball. Pope’s finish, again low to Burge’s left from just inside the box, was equally clinical.
Prior to that, City’s only real impression on the first half came in a ten-minute spell when Stuart Beavon broke on the left and nearly found Kwame Thomas in the box, but ex-City keeper Joe Murphy anticipated and advanced to gather the ball. A powerful Kevin Foley strike on target was headed away for a corner.
The tactical changes at half-time – which also saw George Thomas make way for Dion Kelly Evans – saw City transformed, with Haynes putting on one of his best attacking displays for the club.
His runs were followed by quality deliveries into the box into which midfielder Callum Reilly was making well-timed and powerful runs. He had a string of chances, firing over the top on 50 minutes and narrowly wide on 53.
Striker Charles Vernam, making only his second start following injury after his arrival in January on loan from Derby, also came into the game with two chances, including a header straight at the keeper from another excellent Haynes cross.
And it was a Haynes cross that found Beavon – who had been holding up the ball well in the opposition penalty area on occasions in the second half – for City’s goal. The Slade signing from Burton firmly headed past the keeper’s right on 64 minutes to give hope to the 209 away fans in a crowd of 2,611.
But despite City’s continued dominance, including a Reilly shot from outside the box tipped over the bar on 82 minutes and his sharp shot from closer range straight at Murphy, it was not to be.
For full details and teams, see our live blog.