WHILE leaving Gigg Lane after BURY’s defeat by Sheffield United, a colleague and I got chatting to one of the club’s backroom staff in the car park.
Despite seeing the team’s winless run continue, they echoed the sentiments of manager Chris Brass moments earlier in his post-match press conference – that the win was coming. However, they even insisted ‘someone’s going to get it soon. We’re going to stick 4 or 5 past someone!’
Anyone who saw Bury play over the festive period would probably agree that the Shakers’ performances merited better results. But given some of the unfortunate ways in which they had been denied victory – sometimes of their own making – the only way I could see them finally registering 3 points was by grinding out a 1-0 or 2-1 win. While I admired their optimism, it was wishful thinking, surely?
Bury lost 3-2 the following week at Scunthorpe, who admittedly are in League One’s top 2 along with Sheffield United, but most of the Bury fans that turned up for last Saturday’s home match with 9th-placed Peterborough must have done so in hope, rather than expectation, of ending a winless streak that now amounted to a whopping 20 games in all competitions.
It looked as though it would be another of those days when recalled keeper Rob Lainton parried a Gwion Edwards shot right into the path of Tom Nichols, who tapped in 4th-minute opener. But despite often giving themselves a mountain to climb in recent weeks, they had been making a fist of it and showed again that they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
James Vaughan had already sliced a shot hopelessly wide but that must have been a range-finder as when Scott Burgess latched onto a loose Peterborough pass and rolled it into Vaughan, the striker lashed it into the top corner from 20 yards. Off he went for his trademark celebration – a flying kick on the corner flag. Little did any of us know it but the poor things were set for a beating!
A lively start, and it continued with the action going from end to end, before Jacob Mellis unleashed a 16th-minute volley which might have topped his super strike against Sheffield United. Posh keeper Luke McGee turned it wide but Mellis delivered the corner and the defender guarding the far post failed to keep out Vaughan’s stooping header.
Although Vaughan had scored 10 goals after arriving from Birmingham in August, he hadn’t scored in the last 3 games and Brass said later that he reminded his star striker about recent missed chances. That was some way to get back in form and there was plenty of time to get a hat-trick too.
It arrived just 8 minutes later from Tom Pope’s low cross. Vaughan scuffed his first effort but had another go and this time it bobbled past McGee. It was a scrappy goal but did that matter to Vaughan? Not one jot. It was his first hat-trick since August 2013 with Huddersfield and, as he later revealed, it meant the 28-year-old could finally take a matchball home for his 18-month-old son Reuben.
Yet he wasn’t done there. Just 3 minutes later new loan signing Taylor Moore got down the right to put in a low cross for Vaughan to sweep in his 4th goal – in the space of 20 amazing minutes! And his one-man assault on Gigg Lane’s pitch furniture sparked much merriment of social media.
Bury, a side that hadn’t won in 20 games, were now leading 4-1 after 27 minutes. At one point I caught sight of the scoreboard in the corner of my eye and had to do a double-take. Yes, Bury really were leading 4-1 before half-time – and one fella had scored the lot! Vaughan became the first Shaker to score 4 in a game since Phil Stant in October 1995, but he should have joined an even more exclusive club.
Left-back Greg Leigh’s 38th-minute cross was right on his head. Up in the press box, I confess I was ready to let my professionalism slip for a moment and cheer his 5th goal – sometimes you just can’t help it. We were all waiting for the net to bulge as Vaughan glanced the ball towards the far post but it kept on going. It must have been inches wide.
Never mind, I’m sure he’d settle for 4 by the break. Yet he had another great chance 12 minutes after it as he shot against a post, with Burgess denied from the follow-up. This was ridiculous, there was still half an hour left. Sometimes as a reporter you’ve just got to stop trying to keep up with the action. Just let the drama unfold and pick the bones from it after you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor.
In fairness to Peterborough, they kept coming forward and could quite easily have got back into the game. Subs Lee Angol and Marcus Madison both struck the bar, and given the vulnerability Bury have shown at the back, it could have been squeaky-bum time if the visitors pulled just one goal back.
But Bury sub George Miller then chased a ball down the right channel on 71 minutes and got his reward. McGee came out to clear, only to kick it against Miller, and the Shakers’ youth product slotted it into the empty net for the 5th goal of his breakthrough season. At 5-1 with less than 20 minutes left, the Bury fans could finally relax.
As for Vaughan, the ex-Everton trainee now has 14 from 22 starts for Bury, and Brass insists his form since arriving near the end of the summer transfer window has come as no surprise.
“I did expect that from him, he’s got that goalscorers’ knack,” he said. “We all saw what qualities he has. He’s missed chances a few chances in recent weeks and I’ve reiterated that to him because he has to step forward, he’s a big player for us.
“But that’s a goalscorer’s life. Then he goes and scores 4 like that. He’s kept at it, that’s what goalscorers do, and he got his rewards today. I remember playing with Paul Barnes when he scored 5 in a game (in 1996 for Burnley against Stockport – sorry County fans!) and it’s great to see when someone’s in a purple patch like that.”
And that crazy afternoon could herald some exciting times ahead for the Shakers, who with that win climbed out of the League One drop zone on goal difference. After giving Macclesfield winger Jack Mackreth the chance to finally test himself in the League at 24, Brass has gone the other way with his latest signing. Yesterday (Thursday) Bury signed Jermaine Pennant until the end of the season.
Vaughan still holds the record as the youngest Premier League goalscorer at 16, for Everton in 2005, and Pennant was also a boy wonder. Arsenal paid £2m to sign a 15-year-old Pennant from Notts County in 1999 – then a record fee for a trainee – and while he went on to play in the 2007 Champions League final for Liverpool, he never fulfilled his potential.
He returned from a spell in India to finish the 2014/15 season with Wigan, failing to keep them in the Championship. The 34-year-old is now back from a spell in Singapore and has been training with Bury for a few weeks but they need international clearance before he is available for selection so is unlikely to feature in tonight’s match at Port Vale.
Boss Bruno Ribeiro resigned on Boxing Day and Vale are now 15th after winning just 1 of their last 8 in their league. Michael Brown is their caretaker boss and the ex-City and Wigan midfielder last week signed Bury flop Chris Eagles until the end of the season.
Knowing the Shakers’ luck, he’ll probably go and score the winner now. Stranger things have happened. Like a Bury striker scoring 4 goals in 20 minutes!