On a day of seismic change in the political arena, Bury produced their own historic result.
David Flitcroft’s side arrived without an away victory over Sheffield United since 1925 but departed, after more than an hour and a half of sometimes extremely tetchy action, having ended that wait at the 28th time of asking.
With a few much-derided exceptions, the hyper-sensitive nature of modern football forces managers to frame unexpected defeats in broad, Blairite terms. So, while Nigel Adkins chose his words with almost surgical precision, it was David Edgar who adopted the straight-talking Corbynista role.
“We have to deal with teams coming in with a gameplan,” the United centre-half said. “We have to work out how to break them down.
“There are going to be lots of different plans that people use against us. We’ll figure it out as we go along but hopefully sooner rather than later because we don’t want any more results like that at home. Definitely not.”
Bury’s game-plan included disrupting United’s rhythm and, when the opportunity arose, accentuating the gravity of any physical contact or fouls.
It was an approach which, combined with the talent assembled by Flitcroft and referee David Webb’s erratic decision-making, proved remarkably effective.
It also contributed, after Leon Clarke’s touchline skirmish with Billy Sharp, to some pushing and shoving between the players during the closing stages when United’s stoicism finally cracked.
“Handbags,” Edgar, a Canada international, said dismissively afterwards. “It wouldn’t even count as a fight in ice hockey.”
“I think the referee let a few things go. One of their lads, I think, could have been sent off in the first half for two challenges. There were a few late tackles and so I wasn’t surprised to see it flare up.
“It had been bubbling away a bit at the end of the first half. We’re going to get that, people who want to kick us and push you.”
Adkins, whose side slipped to fifth ahead of tomorrow’s match against Colchester, believes there are lessons to be learned from every positive, negative or indifferent experience. Here, they included a reminder about the importance of not being lured into an arm-wrestle and that fortune does not always favour the brave. United loaded their attacking options when Sharp cancelled out Tom Pope’s opener from the penalty spot but, rather than overpowering resilient opponents, they instead got caught by what both Adkins and Edgar described as a sucker-punch from Joe Riley before Leon Clarke, scoring for the sixth time in five outings against the hosts, pounced.
“Is it a foul on Jay McEveley who is coming out with the ball? The referee has had a very interesting afternoon,” Adkins said. “We get ourselves back in it and with 10 minutes to go I’m thinking ‘come on let’s win the game’ because we are in the ascendancy.
“Their lad has scored the second goal, a thunderous shot from a long way out. Then, there’s a big melee in front of the dugout and the player who scored the final goal could potentially have been sent to the stand.”
Bury, now ninth in the table and unbeaten in their previous 15 outings away from home, were every bit as awkward as Adkins had predicted during his pre-match address. And talented too.
Pope was introduced to deliver some divine intervention but, despite him obliging when Danny Mayor’s deflected shot fell into his path, Riley delivered the goal from God with an unstoppable long-range finish which left Mark Howard grasping at thin air.
But, as Edgar mentioned afterwards, Bury are also accomplished in football’s darker arts. Clarke was fortunate to be on the pitch when he chipped home deep into added time after appearing to strike Sharp as they wrestled on the floor.
“The crowd showed their frustration with the referee and both sets of dugouts will share their opinion when they send their reports in,” protested Adkins. “We can’t change the complexion of the game now, but obviously we will reflect on what happened. I have been to see the officials, I wanted their view on it.”
The biggest source of frustration for United, however, was the knowledge they had failed to build on an encouraging start, with Conor Sammon seeing a header parried away to safety and Sharp sweeping over the crossbar.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Louis Reed both impressed before the latter tired following his international exertions with England Under-19s earlier in the week. His replacement, Kieran Wallace, was responsible for winning the penalty which Sharp converted.
“We went gung-ho then and conceded a third,” Edgar said. “It’s tough to take, but we’ll dust ourselves off.”
Sheffield United: Howard 6, Freeman 6, Basham 6, Sharp 6, Collins 6, Woolford 6 (McNulty 82), Sammon 6, McEveley 6, Campbell-Ryce 7 (Flynn 60, 6), Reed 7 (K Wallace 60, 6), Edgar 6. Not used: Scougall, Alcock, Higdon, Long.
Bury: Lainton 7, Riley 6, Hussey 6, Tutte 6 (Brown 38, 6), P Clarke 7, Mellis 6 (Pugh 70), L Clarke 6, Mayor 6, Jones 6 (Pope 57, 7), Soares 6, Cameron 6. Not used: Dudley, Rose, Ruddy, Foulds.
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire).