Stylish Bury were good value for their 2-0 victory over Mansfield Town at an icy Gigg Lane this afternoon.
In a one-sided first half, a mistake from goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov on 40 minutes saw him fail to hold onto a shot and gift Ryan Lowe the only goal of the half.
Stags came back out full of fire and Simon Heslop volleyed a good chance over the bar from seven yards.
But the Shakers looked dangerous every time they came forward and put the game to bed on 78 minutes after Danny Mayor had got past Jamie McGuire on the by-line before unleashing an unstoppable finish.
Junior Brown kept battling and almost pulled one back near the end on three occasions. But the game was gone by then.
The win left Bury only outside the play-off spots on goal difference and Stags boss Adam Murray with another yardstick of what it will take to be challenging to get into this year’s play-offs.
On the two Festive games, Stags are still a fair way off that standard and, with no game now for 12 days, all eyes will be on what Murray does in the transfer window.
The Stags side showed four changes from the 1-1 home draw with Hartlepool 48 hours earlier in a 3-4-1-2 line-up.
Out went Lambe, Rhead and Clements while Tafazoli joined Taylor in serving a ban.
In came Rakish Bingham up front, Simon Heslop and Lee Beevers into midfield and Martin Riley into central defence.
The game was halted inside the first minute after the first challenge in the centre of the pitch, in an area that looked quite frosty, saw Bury’s Cameron stay down hurt after colliding with a team mate.
A stretcher was brought on but, after a five minute hold-up, he was eventually able to continue.
A scrappy opening then saw Bury force the first corner on 11 minutes which was punched away by Evtimov.
Home keeper Lainton also safely clutched a long Freeman free kick four minutes later.
Bury finally warmed up on 20 minutes and Riley did well to hack clear a low ball in the six yard box after Hope had wriggled his way to the left by-line.
Then Hussey ran purposefully across the box before finding Lowe who warmed Evtimov’s hands with a vicious shot on the turn.
On 27 minutes Hussey played a long ball down the line which skimmed off the head of Freeman invitingly for Lowe who, stretching, could only poke a low effort at Evtimov.
A short home corner saw Evtimov fail to hold Mayor’s high ball in, Waterfall stepping in to help it on its way out the box as the home side continued to dominate.
Soares somehow escaped a booking on 32 minutes after he completely took out Brown, who had beaten him to the ball in the frozen area centre-pitch.
From the free kick, Beevers and Oliver had shots from outside the box comfortably blocked.
On 39 minutes the Shakers almost went ahead as Mayor skipped between two defenders to get in a shot that Waterfall blocked with his head, Tutte firing the follow-up inches wide from 20 yards.
But a minute later Bury were deservedly ahead thanks to a mistake by Evtimov.
Hope let fly from over 20 yards straight at the keeper. But he failed to hold the ball with Lowe in hot pursuit for any seconds and the Bury man gratefully rolled it past the helpless keeper to break the deadlock.
After all the first half hold-ups, eight minutes were added on.
Oliver was being held in the box as he tried to reach a left wing cross from Beevers. But, as he protested, the ball flew to McGuire who met it with a volley that deflected wide for Mansfield’s first corner.
That came to nothing as Bury went into the interval a goal to the good with much work to do for Murray and his men.
Mansfield’s best chance so far came two minutes after the break as Brown got the ball in from the left by-line at the second attempt and, from seven yards, Heslop blazed a first time left-footed high into the stand.
This was a good start to the half and two minutes later they won a corner which Lainton clutched well as he fell backwards.
Soares again took both Brown’s legs late, but again the referee incredibly didn’t book him.
Bury finally got into the Stags half and forced their third corner of the contest on 55 minutes which Brown finally cleared off an opponent for a goalkick.
On the hour Lambe was sent on for Bingham while Bury replaced Hope with Rose.
McGuire took a needless booking on 63 minutes as he lost a chase with Adams and flung an arm round his neck to wrestle with him.
A late tackle by Tutte on McGuire then saw the game’s second booking on 67 minutes.
At this point Rhead was thrown on for Beevers as Stags went 4-4-2.
The visitors suddenly enjoyed another good spell of pressure and when Rhead headed on a long Freeman throw, Brown’s volley was too high.
Rose wanted a penalty for Waterfall’s challenge as the ball ran out, but the referee pointed for a goalkick.
With Cameron off the pitch for more treatment and Bury down to 10 men, a good run down the left by Mayor saw the move end with a sliced finish by Lowe that didn’t even go for a goalkick.
This time Cameron stayed off and was replaced by McNulty.
Mansfield’s third corner of the day was easily gathered by Lainton.
Sutton then conceded a corner at the other end which was cleared.
However, the points were secured by a moment of individual brilliance by the dangerous Mayor on 78 minutes.
Mayor cut past McGuire on the left by-line and left him for dead, cutting back outside slightly to get the angle for a shot that simply zipped past everyone into the far top corner.
Palmer was thrown into the mix for Mansfield at this point in place of Oliver with 11 minutes to go.
Palmer was soon hurt going in bravely with his head as a defender and keeper came to meet him.
Brown almost pulled one back on 88 minutes as Brown cut in from the left and blazed a superb effort towards the near post where El-Abd got in the way for a corner.
Brown got in again a minute later, his low shot deflecting towards the bottom far corner until Lainton pushed it round for a corner from which that man Brown headed wide.
Four minutes of added time were announced, but the damage had long been done for the visitors, despite the late rally, and an excellent late Bury move saw Rose a fraction wide from a third.
BURY: Lainton, Tutte, El-Abd, Etuhu, Hope (Rose 60), Adams, Mayor, Hussey, Lowe (Sedgwick 82), Soares, Cameron (McNulty 74). Subs: Jones, Burgess, Ruddy, Dudley.
STAGS: Evtimov; Sutton, Waterfall, Riley; Freeman, McGuire, Heslop, Beevers (Rhead 67); Brown; Oliver (Palmer 79), Bingham (Lambe 60). Subs; Studer, Bell, Fletcher, Clements.
REFEREE: Richard Clark of Northumberland.
ATTENDANCE: 3,196 (276 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Waterfall.
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