MARC ILES BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 3 Bury 2

Craig Davies goes down for the equalising penalty

Craig Davies goes down for the equalising penalty

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

FOR close to 97 minutes this result looked like a stick with which Dougie Freedman would be beaten for some time.

David Flitcroft’s ambitious League Two Shakers had out-fought and out-thought Wanderers and were deservedly heading for the second round thanks to Ryan Lowe’s 20th minute strike.

What toll that local humiliation would have taken on the manager and his side is anyone’s guess.

But when Craig Davies rescued his side from the spot deep into stoppage time, the pressure cooker lid was lifted; for now.

Two goals from Neil Danns in extra time eventually made the game safe, albeit with the slight discomfort of a second Bury goal from Jimmy McNulty.

Victory should not – must not – mask over another desperately poor 90 minutes but might at least add some much-needed spark going into this weekend’s home clash with Nottingham Forest.

Undoubtedly, the fans will be in a better mood than if referee Jeremy Simpson had called an end to this game 60 seconds earlier.

It had been a big call from Freedman to make nine changes to the side decimated by Watford at the weekend, and one that looked like backfiring for most of the night.

Venturing very much away from the tried-and-trusted, he handed a full senior debut to young target man Conor Wilkinson after attempts to register loan signing Joe Mason in time failed.

Only Tim Ream and Darren Pratley survived from the bitterly disappointing opening day at Vicarage Road and the formation was switched to 4-4-2.

As you would expect in a local derby 12 years in the making, the game set off at a frenetic pace.

What might have come as a shock to Wanderers, however, was the way Bury controlled midfield early on. Missing the snapping Jay Spearing and Medo Kamara, Shakers’ trio Andy Tutte, Tom Soares and Nicky Adams had the rule of the roost.

And it was no surprise that on 20 minutes, the visitors send their 2,448 fans into delirium with an opening goal reminiscent of the one that won the League Cup game between the two sides on their last competitive encounter.

Back then it was a mixture of Bernard Mendy and Colin Woodthorpe who bundled home a famous goal in Bury folklore.

This time it was Ryan Lowe – the goalscoring hero who returned to the JD Stadium this summer from Tranmere Rovers.

Ream’s slip enabled Lowe to feed Tutte on the right but the Liverpudlian poacher carried on his run to get past Dorian Dervite, scooping the cross into the net from close range.

It was his first Bury goals since April 2011, when he netted in a 3-1 win at Wycombe, and signalled a biblical downpour – not that the Shakers fans minded as they danced behind Shwan Jalal’s goal.

It simply seemed to matter more at that point to the side in black. Nowhere was it more evident than in the scampering Breightmet boy Adams – turning his face to the skies in anguish as a goalbound shot cannoned off Dervite to safety.

Wanderers’ riposte was basic, overtly-direct, and not well received on the terraces.

But while there was time, there was hope. Jermaine Beckford nearly pounced on a mistake from McNulty, only for Shwan Jalal to make an excellent save at his feet and get injured in the process.

There was no disguising what the home fans thought of the opening 45 minutes as boos cascaded down from two sides of the stadium on the half-time whistle.

There had to be a reaction from the Wanderers camp and for a brief spell it looked like Freedman’s wish had been granted.

Wilkinson played a clever one-two with Trotter, whose low shot was held well by Rob Lainton – the former Whites trainee released last summer by Freedman, who came on as a half-time substitute.

The Shakers keeper sprung into action moments later to deny David Wheater from close range after the big defender had seized on a lay-off from Trotter.

Freedman threw on Chung-Yong Lee and Craig Davies to add some extra experience. Again his side responded in kind. Beckford’s cross-shot was clawed away by Lainton and Davies shot narrowly wide.

The frustration of Wanderers fans was about to spill over. No sooner had they cheered ironically when Freedman pulled two of 10 players out of the penalty area to defend a corner, than Beckford blasted a golden opportunity over the bar. Half empty it might have been, but the Macron Stadium was not a happy place to be.

Until the 97th minute, that is. Out of absolutely nowhere, Chung-Yong’s flick found Davies, who was tripped by Lainton.

Bury felt injustice, Wanderers utter relief. But credit to Davies for keeping his nerve and slotting home a penalty that proved absolutely priceless.

Extra time had barely begun when the Whites seized a second. Feeney’s cross bounced around the box before being bundled over the line by Neil Danns via midfielder Chris Sedgwick.

Danns was awarded the goal – but there was no doubting his second, a free-kick smashed home from 25 yards into the top corner.

That should have made the game safe but suddenly the skids were put under Wanderers’ lead again as McNulty turned home a corner to give his side hope.

The closest Bury got to forcing a penalty shoot-out was when Mayor’s shot was tipped wide by Bogdan.

From a Wanderers perspective, it was not a victory to celebrate, rather a near miss to reflect on.

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