It was always going to take something special to snatch the headlines from Jasper Johns after the former Everton midfielder scored less than three minutes into his Sheffield United debut and Jamie Murphy obliged with a virtuoso display which saw him torment Bury’s defence during the closing stages of this intriguing contest.
Murphy had a faltering start to his career in South Yorkshire with injury interrupting his progress following a January transfer from Motherwell.
But the former Scotland under-21 international’s cameo at Gigg Lane, combined with last week’s convincing performance against Raith Rovers, suggests he is about the fulfil the potential which persuaded United to spend a six-figure sum prising him away from Fir Park.
“Jamie is a terrific player,” Stephen McGinn, who joined his colleagues on the scoresheet, said. “He’s direct, he’s a great finisher and he’s quick. I wouldn’t like to mark him.
“It’s never easy when you join a new club, especially when it’s in a different country, and often it can take time for you to settle.
“But I know how good he can be. He’s going to be a big asset for us.”
Johns, a summer signing from Everton, scored with his second touch in United colours having used the first to draw a brave goaline block from Richard Hinds.
Bury, displaying the belligerence and tenacity associated with a Kevin Blackwell team, had earlier taken the lead through Shaun Harrad. But Weir, who spent eight years at Goodison Park, was understandably reticent to make too much of Johns’ contribution.
“We’re not going to go overboard,” Weir said. “Jasper is still a young lad so we don’t want to start putting lots of pressure on his shoulders.
“But there’s no doubt that getting that goal will fill him with confidence. And that should help him going forward.
“He’s a talented lad but there’s still lots of work for him to do.”
These have been bizarre times at Bury. Five months ago, the postponement of a lucrative fixture against Saturday’s opponents sent the club into a financial tailspin which led to claims that Glasgow Rangers, Weir’s former club, could launch a takeover in order to secure entry into the English leagues.
Instead, responsibility for rescuing Kevin Blackwell’s side fell to Stewart Day, a 31-year-old property developer who has made his fortune building student digs.
Despite the air of optimism which now hangs above Gigg Lane, Blackwell used his programme notes to caution it could take some time to construct a team capable of regaining Bury’s League One status.
Nevertheless United, who have designs on promotion themselves, found the hastily-assembled squad Weir’s predecessor has cobbled together this summer awkward opponents until the introduction of experienced campaigners such as Neill Collins and Kevin McDonald saw them take control.
“It’s great that finally, after everything that’s happened, we can finally concentrate on football,” Blackwell, who served United as both a manager and a coach, said. “To know that the things were are trying to put in place are going to be set in concrete. Hopefully those will bear fruit.
“I thought we played well and could even have got a few more after taking the lead. We created a few chances.
“Then, around the hour mark, both myself and David decided we’d got what we wanted out of the game.
“It was a really good exercise for both of us.”
Weir has placed home-grown talent at the heart of his plans for the future and there was plenty on show here with five members of United’s starting 11 having graduated from the Redtooth Academy.
Jahmal Smith, who had caught the eye during the visitors’ recent tour of Scotland, highlighted his potential again by forcing Hinds to intervene as early as the second minute.
Callum McFadzean served notice that Weir’s selection policy was not based on sentiment when his driving run engineered a free-kick which Danny Higginbotham placed wide.
However, Harrad exploited the fragile lines of communication between United’s experimental back four when he was afforded enough time and space to thrash a powerful drive beyond Mark Howard.
The centre-forward enjoyed an opportunity to extend Bury’s advantage during the closing stages of the opening period but on this occasion dramatically miscued.
That chance followed a long passage of play which saw United look to work the ball across their rearguard but fail to completely dominate proceedings in midfield.
A state of affairs which enabled Harrad to go close again on the stroke of half-time as Bury continued to probe.
“It was a really good work-out for us,” McGinn said. “Exactly what you want at this stage and we played some good stuff.
“You can see things coming together now. The manager is looking to introduce certain principles and we’re taking those on board.”
United emerged a much more robust proposition after the interval and Weir’s decision to ring the changes further tightened their grip on proceedings.
Johns’ marked his debut in United colours by prodding home from close range to restore parity while another substitute, Murphy, warmed Andrea Guatelli’s gloves with a low shot which threatened to curl inside the foot of the far post.
A delightful feint saw the Scot wrongfoot four markers soon after but the move broke down when Chris Porter was adjudged offside.
No matter as Murphy received just reward for his efforts by clipping a delightful finish over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of Bury’s open net.
McGinn, previously of Watford, duly added a third after meeting Marcus Williams’ deep centre.
“It’s always a nice feeling to put the ball in the back of the net,” McGinn said.
“It was a really good cross, perfect in fact, and all I had to do was get on the end of it.
“We’ve got some quality players here. A really good blend of youth and experience.
“All of the older lads here have played at the highest level and they don’t get fazed by anything.
“So that helps us younger ones out.
“If we keep going forward then I reckon we’ll be a really difficult team to beat.”
Bury: Lainton (Guatelli 46), Dikamona, Roberts (Lockwood 60), Holden (Sedgwick 60), Hinds, Cameron (Proctor 60), Jones (Rooney 60), Randall (Pratt 65), Harrad (Byrne 60), Grimes (Soares 60), Chippendale.
United: Howard, Higginbotham (Collins 60), Hill (Williams 60), Doyle (McGinn 46), Ironside (Porter 60), Brandy (Murphy 70), McFadzean (McDonald 60), McGinty (Maguire 60), Whitehouse, Kennedy (Westlake 46), Smith (Johns 60). Not used: Willis, Flynn.
Goals: Harrad 20, Johns 62, Murphy 78, McGinn 88.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).