Walsall 3 Bury 3 - Report and pictures
[gallery] A second half capitulation saw Walsall blow a three goal lead to draw at home to Bury.
Goals from Kieron Morris, Erhun Oztumer and Simeon Jackson seemingly had the Saddlers cruising to victory.
But two goals in the space of four minutes from Leon Barnett and James Vaughan saw Bury come roaring back.
Danny Mayor bagged the leveller midway through the half and it was the visitors who came closest to winning it in a thrilling finale.
Boss Jon Whitney had wanted a positive performance and result for his team ahead of a two-week break from league action. But this draw will feel more like a defeat after a stunning second half collapse.
The Saddlers could have been five or six goals ahead after dominating the opening half, parts of which took place in torrential rain.
By the end, Whitney's men were perhaps relieved to even take a point after Bury had by far the best of the second period.
For the neutral, this was a thrilling game which saw six goals scored by six different players. For Walsall and Whitney, it was a sobering afternoon.
The manager's efforts to mould his new team have not been helped by injuries and the manager is yet to name the same starting XI twice, while he lost Isaiah Osbourne juist before half-time here.
Despite the return of club captain Adam Chambers from a hamstring injury, the Saddlers were without defender James O'Connor, meaning the backline had a rather inexperienced look with Liam Kinsella at right-back and loan signing Kevin Toner coming straight into the team at centre-back.
There was also an enforced change up front with Franck Moussa missing out through injury. Far more significant, in the opening 45 minutes at least, was the return of Oztumer to the team following a back injury. The playmaker took less than six minutes to make an impact, playing a lovely reverse pass which released Andreas Makris on the left of the box. Morris, waiting near the penalty spot, was able smash home the Cypriot striker's subsequent pull back to give the Saddlers an early lead.
It was an advantage which, in fairness, should have been wiped out within seconds as Vaughan headed a Zeli Ismail cross inches wide of the post from six yards out.
But having survived that scare, the Saddlers quickly doubled their lead thanks to a piece of magic from Oztumer. Pouncing on a loose pass from Nial Maher, he advanced on the visiting defence before unleashing a strike from 25 yards out which flew past Shakers goalkeeper Ben Williams and into the bottom corner.
The afternoon got no better for Maher as he was replaced, after just 26 minutes, with Shakers boss David Flitcroft opting to make a tactical change and introduce striker Tom Pope off the bench.
His side came close to getting back into it, with home keeper Neil Etheridge pushing an Ismail shot wide of the post.
But after 32 minutes the Saddlers further increased their lead, Jackson putting the finishing touches on a fine move when he converted a Makris cross from close range. The Canada international should have made it four soon after but opted to shoot early when through on goal, allowing Williams to make the save.
In first half stoppage time Williams again denied Jackson at close range after the striker had pounced on more slack defending from the visitors.
Osbourne being forced off with an injury late in the half looked insignificant at the time, the biggest concern for the hosts seemed to be possibility of a postponement due to the torrential rain that had fallen.
There was simply no indication of the drama which was to come as the visitors came racing back into the game with two goals inside the opening four minutes of the second half.
First, Barnett smashed home from close range after the Saddlers failed to clear a corner.
Moments later, Vaughan reduced the deficit to one, capitalising on some sleepy defending from the hosts to squeeze a shot beyond Etheridge, who may feel he should have done better.
Suddenly, the visitors were rampant. Vaughan fired just over on the turn, while Pope headed straight at Etheridge.
Whitney replaced Makris with Amadou Bakayoko in an attempt to regain momentum but still it was the visitors who attacked with verve and purpose and the equaliser duly arrived just before the midway point of the half. A cross from the right was cleared only as far as Mayor, who smashed home a shot from 12 yards out.
Vaughan was then inches away from putting his side ahead with a half volley which whistled inches over the bar.
Whitney's decision to then replace Oztumer with Maz Kouhyar drew loud boos from the home crowd.
Morris almost grabbed an improbable winner for the hosts with a free-kick which Williams pushed wide. Etheridge also saved from Vaughan but the winner would not come for either side.
Saddlers (4-2-3-1): Etheridge, Kinsella, McCarthy, Toner, Edwards, Chambers ©, Osbourne (Dobson 43), Morris, Oztumer (Kouhyar 73), Makris (Bakayoko 58), Jackson Subs not used: Preston, Ginnelly, Sangha, MacGillivray (gk).
Bury (4-2-3-1): Williams, Jones, Kay, Barnett, Soares, Maher (Pope 26), Ismail (Dudley 90+1), Mayor, Hope (Mellis HT), Vaughan Subs not used: Clark, Burgess, Rachubka (gk).