THE main focus of any pre-season match is not necessarily the result, but to emerge with all players intact.
Jordan Rhodes’ penalty earned Rovers a draw, but Lee Williamson’s red card was something Gary Bowyer could have done without.
As Williamson trudged off, dismissed for a challenge on Bury forward Ryan Lowe just before half time, Bowyer was livid.
The Rovers boss gesticulated at referee Darren Handley, pointing out that it was Williamson’s first foul of the game.
Certainly there have been times in the past when referees might have taken a more lenient view in a pre-season friendly.
But Williamson had put himself in a risky position by making such a challenge. Known as a tough-tackling midfielder, he lunged in late and paid the price.
The reaction of Bury’s players and fans only hastened the referee’s decision.
Bowyer would never have wanted to play for more than 45 minutes with 10 men, although in the end Rhodes cancelled out Danny Nardiello’s goal for Bury.
Rovers had already gone into the game without a number of players, with Alex Baptiste ruled out with a foot injury while Matt Kilgallon did not feature because of a back problem.
Chris Taylor was also absent with a dead leg, while Ben Marshall and Rudy Gestede missed out through illness.
Several more players – including Adam Henley, David Dunn, Markus Olsson, Luke Varney, Ruben Rochina, Yann Songo’o and John Sullivan – featured in a behind closed doors friendly earlier in the day.
There was still no debut for striker Chris Brown, who has been suffering from a knee injury since his arrival from Doncaster Rovers last month.
There was a familiar face in the main stand at Gigg Lane, with former Rovers forward Benjani watching on – having recently retired from playing.
Jason Lowe lined up at right back for Rovers, with Tom Cairney featuring on the right wing , while Josh King played alongside Rhodes up front.
The travelling Rovers fans almost saw their side take the lead early on when Bury’s Baghdad-born keeper Shwan Jalal had to parry Corry Evans’ fierce 25-yard effort.
Gary Bowyer’s men then had a goal disallowed when King’s low 20-yard shot deflected in off Rhodes, only for the flag to be up against Rovers’ star striker.
The Shakers soon had a goal disallowed for offside themselves, after Lowe had turned in Nardiello’s cross.
Then came Williamson’s dismissal on the stroke of half time.
Bowyer watched the second half from the stand, with Anthony O’Connor and rarely used Portuguese midfielder Paulo Jorge introduced after the interval.
Conway twice narrowly missed the target for Rovers, before Bury went ahead with 19 minutes left as Nardiello headed home at the near post from Chris Hussey’s free kick.
Rovers levelled in the 85th minute, though, as Jim McNulty tripped King in the box and Rhodes calmly sent Jalal the wrong way from the spot.
Rovers: Paul Robinson; Jason Lowe, Grant Hanley, Jack O'Connell, Tommy Spurr (Paulo Jorge 67); Tom Cairney, Lee Williamson, Corry Evans (Anthony O’Connor 46), Craig Conway; Josh King (Modou Cham 86); Jordan Rhodes (Jordan Preston 86). Subs not used: David Raya.