ZACH Clough won and converted two of penalties to give Bolton Wanderers a first league win at Bury in 87 years.
The Denton-born winger was the difference between the two Greater Manchester sides who were meeting in the same division for the first time this millennium, and finished the 2006-07 season 82 places apart in the football pyramid.
Phil Parkinson’s side were well organised and deserving victors as they stretched their winning sequence to five games across both League One and the Checkatrade Trophy.
Bury however were a huge disappointment, rarely threatening Mark Howard in the Trotters goal.
They have now lost all six of their fixtures in October.
Bolton could have gone ahead as early as the second minute when a mazy run from on-loan Newcastle winger Sammy Ameobi drew a smart save from Bury’s Ben Williams.
On 11 minutes the visitors took the lead with a swift breakaway goal.
Antony Kay headed Jacob Mellis’ corner straight at Howard who wasted no time in punting upfield for Clough to latch onto.
The 21-year-old winger made for the penalty area where ex-Trotters defender Niall Maher gave Clough little more than a light pull of the shirt, nevertheless that was enough for referee Geoff Eltringham who, after a moment’s deliberation, pointed to the spot.
Clough dusted himself down to coolly roll the spot-kick down the middle of the goal whilst Williams flung himself to his left allowing Bolton a lead they would never relinquish.
Two minutes later Clough nearly doubled the visitors’ advantage, capitalising on a slack Neil Danns backpass as he skipped around Williams, but Maher atoned in-part for the concession of the penalty by heading the winger’s goalbound effort to safety.
Shortly after the half-hour mark Bury had what would turn out to be their best chance of the entire match.
Ameobi fouled Danny Mayor right on the edge of the Bolton penalty area but Danns, playing against the club he represented between 2013 and the summer of 2016 smashed the resultant free-kick into the wall before Greg Leigh blazed the rebound high and into the stand housing the travelling supporters.
This proved to be the last noteworthy piece of action in the first half.
The second half started in the same fashion as the first, with Ameobi testing Williams from long range.
The Nigerian midfielder looked to build on his spectacular goal at Millwall on Tuesday night but found the Bury number one difficult to get past.
Phil Parkinson’s men were deploying an initial press strategy starving the hosts of time on the ball, and this system reaped its rewards when the Trotters nicked possession in centre-field and freed Clough.
The winger then jinked in and out of Leon Barnett before being pushed to the ground by the former Wigan defender for a second Bolton penalty.
On this occasion Clough went for accuracy as he stroked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to the delight of the 3,200 away fans inside Gigg Lane.
Whilst the home supporters chanted ‘two nil to the referee’, Clough set about looking for a third goal, but his low shot was well saved by the legs of Williams before James Vaughan thought he was fouled by Lee Beevers just outside Bolton’s penalty area but Mr Eltringham stayed firm.
As the game wore on, Bury looked more and more bereft of ideas, substitute Kelvin Etuhu let fly from 30 yards but his shot sailed high and into the stand which summed up the night for David Flitcroft’s team.
There was still time for Jamie Proctor to inexplicably fire wide after great work from fellow substitute James Henry, but no matter for the Trotters, they’d done enough to secure a fifth consecutive victory without conceding a goal and leap up to second in the League One standings.
In truth the game was won as much in the dugouts as it was on the field of play.
Phil Parkinson patrolled the Bury midfield between 1988 and 1992 but he brought about the downfall of his former side in this match.
His initial press strategy meant that Bury’s midfielders didn’t have the space to dictate the game whilst the centre-back partnership of veterans Lee Beevers and David Wheater kept James Vaughan and 2014-15 League Two Player of the Season David Mayer in their proverbial back-pockets.
It was clear to see why Bolton are in such great form and have now risen into one of the two automatic promotion places in the division.
In contrast David Flitcroft was September’s Manager of the Month in League One.
He’s now lost all six games in October. His side looked short of confidence and once the second goal went in the wind was totally knocked from their sails.
Bury may point to two contentious penalty decisions, the first one in particular was considered ‘soft and harsh’ by ex-Shakers striker Ryan Lowe whilst Kevin Davies, a Bolton cult hero, felt that there was ‘not enough’ for him to have awarded a foul on Clough.
Either way Bury allowed a tricky winger to run at their defenders in the penalty area, something Bolton never allowed their opponents to do and therein lies the difference between the teams.
Phil Parkinson praised his side for their ‘terrific team performance’ after the match.
Bury: Williams, Maher (Etuhu ’72), Barnett (Tutte ’81), Kay, Leigh, Ismail, Soares, Danns (Hope ’60), Mellis, Mayor, Vaughan
Unused Substitutes: Rachubka, Dudley, Burgess, Miller
Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Wilson, Wheater, Beevers, A. Taylor, Ameobi (C. Taylor ’90) Spearing, Osede Prieto, Vela, Clough (Henry ’77), Madine (Proctor ’76)
Unused Substitutes: Alnwick, Perry, Buxton, Anderson,
Goals: Clough (13 pen, 56 pen)
Referee: Mr Geoff Eltringham
By Jordan Davies