Football: Gray adds a touch of class to Bury

Bury 1 Tranmere Rovers 0

In a world where money rules if Bury can exist it is surely not in the First Division. A rung or two down the Nationwide ladder maybe, but within a good season of the Premiership, never. Not on average home gates of less than 5,000 anyway.

Which just shows how wrong you can be. Football might be selling its soul to the highest bidder but Bury are confounding the laws of financial gravity that say the poor will fall. They were supposed to be the First Division's cannon fodder this season, but so far they are holding their own even if they are above their station.

This result gives them nine points from six matches which might not seem a staggering return but on success divided by resources ratio puts them on a par with Wimbledon of the Premiership. Manchester City, the leviathans from nine miles down the A56 who, along with United suck Bury's natural support away, would love such a start.

The secret, according to manager Stan Ternent, who has guided Bury to promotion in successive seasons, would also ring familiar at Wimbledon, too. "From the chairman to the tea lady we work hard," he said. "We all pull in the same direction."

The players certainly do. Paul Butler, a centre-back who has attracted bids from bigger clubs, has lost a stone since moving from Rochdale two seasons ago thanks to Ternent's training regime while yesterday's victory was testament to the labour ethic.

No one embodied it more than Andy Gray, a former England international who at 33 could be expected to take it easy. In the 86th minute he bewitched the Tranmere defence with a lovely dribble down the right wing and when his cross came to nothing he slogged back like his career depended on it.

Gray oozed class. Bury, not surprisingly, are not blessed with an abundance of players who can do things with the ball that make you gasp with admiration but he still can. Ally that to David Johnson's unpredictable dribbling and the more prosaic qualities of his huge colleagues and Bury are a handful. Particularly for Tranmere, whose days of a permanent place in the play- offs seem long ago.

You did not need to wait long to understand Bury's tactics. From the kick-off the ball was launched at the giant features of Peter Swan and the pattern was indelibly set.

Which made the 42nd minute goal something of an exception. Gray began as per script with a long throw but once the ball came back to him he beat two players on the touchline before passing to Butler. The defender hit a shot that was blocked but the rebound fell to Swan, who turned sharply and beat Danny Coyne from 12 yards.

At seventh in the First Division, the have nots have so far confounded expectation. Money may talk in football, but in this part of Manchester they are not listening.

Goal: Swan (42) 1-0.

Bury (4-3-1-2): Kiely; Hughes, Lucketti, Butler, Armstrong; Daws, Gray, Johnrose; Johnson (Jepson, 80); Battersby (Randall, 69), Swan. Substitute not used: Woodward.

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Coyne; Stevens (Morrisey, 72), Thorn, McGreal, Thompson; G. Jones, Irons (Challinor, 72), Cook, L. Jones; Branch, Morgan (O'Brien, h-t).

Referee: R Furnandiz (Doncaster).

Bookings: Bury: Hughes, Johnson; Tranmere: Thompson.

Man of the match: Gray.

Attendance: 5,073.

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