SHEFFIELD United enhanced their promotion credentials with this emphatic victory at Gigg Lane. Richard Cresswell, Ched Evans and Lee Williamson were all on the score sheet.
In more mundane circumstances, speculation about James Beattie’s future would have cast a dark shadow over Bramall Lane.
But there is nothing ordinary about life at Sheffield United so far this season.
The former England striker, who manager Danny Wilson indicated yesterday will be offered the chance to prolong his stay in South Yorkshire, once again started on the bench.
But with the visitors making the short hop across the Pennines second in the table, there are more talking points than Beattie in S2 right now.
Not least whether United can end the season in an automatic promotion berth.
This afternoon’s League One fixture at Gigg Lane would go some small way towards deciding the fate of Wilson and his players.
With away fans housed in three sides of the stadium, United predictably suffered no away day nerves with Lowton forcing an smart save from Bury’s Belford as early as the second minute following a neat exchange with Quinn.
Nevertheless, Bury showed themselves to be no pushovers by producing some smart moves of their own and also - much to Wilson’s annoyance - strong challenges. Particularly when Cresswell was left furiously rubbing his head in front of the dug-outs eight minutes later.
United journeyed west having won 10 of their previous 11 games in all competitions.
Nevertheless, despite boarding the coach as strong favourites and knowing they were set to enjoy a quite remarkable level of support, Wilson’s players continued to recite their now familiar mantra that “nothing can be taken for granted” in a division which, defender Collins has described as being in the rudest health for years.
Wilson, who expects to discover next week whether Beattie will accept the deal apparently set to be proposed by United’s coaching staff and board, will have been encouraged to see Quinn and Lowton combine again - this time with the full-back turning provider after 12 minutes - to good effect.
Bury came close to breaking the deadlock after 31 minutes. Again, Amoo was the architect.
Simonsen could not hold his rasping low drive and only Jean-Francois’ superb challenge denied Bishop from prodding home the rebound.
Indeed, as the half progressed, Bury appeared the more likely to land the first blow of this hard-fought, intriguing contest.
They caused a scare again when Worrall, in for new Sheffield Wednesday forward Jones, outstripped Maguire but could not find Bishop.
Cresswell’s claim that he had been impeded by Hughes in the penalty area fell on deaf ears
Evans thundered a free-kick wide from range as United looked to wrestle control immediately after the re-start.
Wilson’s men had impressed in flashes before the break but Bury had prevented them from imposing themselves completely on proceedings.
Indeed, on several occasions, Bury had appeared the more likely themselves.
United, though, got the breakthrough they craved and probably deserved in the 53rd minute.
CRESSWELL had his head in his hands after missing a complete sitter following Williamson’s cross 60 seconds earlier.
But the striker’s arms were aloft in celebration when McDonald’s delightful pass pierced open Bury’s defence, broke the off-side trap and presented his team-mate with the opportunity to caress a clinical finish home.
Cresswell’s intervention sent confidence coursing through United veins and it was no surprise to see them double their advantage nine minutes later.
Again McDonald, full of classy touches as he floated across midfield, was responsible for creating the chance with another angled pass.
This time, EVANS tucked it away.
Or rather smashed it emphatically into the back of Belford’s net.
United, together with the 3738 supporters who made the journey from South Yorkshire, were now in party mood with Williamson and Quinn looking to follow McDonald’s lead by spraying around the pitch. Cresswell showed his experience though by taking the sting out of things.
WILLIAMSON, in the 80th minute, he ghosted across the edge of the area before threading a curling effort between Belford and the Bury goalkeeper’s far post.
Bury responded by sending on Harrad for Amoo with United swapping Quinn for Williams.
Evans tried to burrow his way through before making way for Porter in the 88th minute.
Beattie also entered the fray with Cresswell leaving the field.