FA TROPHY 2ND ROUND OF QUALIFYING: Bury Town 1 Herne Bay 1
Craig Nurse sparked wild scenes at Ram Meadow by scoring a 95th minute equaliser — while wearing the goalkeeper’s jeerey — to keep Bury Town in the FA Trophy.
The midfielder put on the gloves only after Neil O’Sullivan’s controversial 90th minute sending off left them short of a recognised stopper, with no goalkeeper on the bench.
The converted corner kept the Blues’ FA Trophy hopes alive with a replay now set to take place in Kent on Tuesday night, following captain Liam Quinn’s 47th minute header.
Bury were boosted ahead of kick-off by the news three of their four injury doubts in the week were fit to start.
Bradley Barber (back), who scored both of the goals to take them through against Kings Langley in the previous round, was unable to play but Remi Garrett, Noel Aitekns and Sam Reed all started, while Ollie Canfer was cup tied. A teenage West Suffolk College quintet made up the substitutes bench in Alfie Bedingham, Matty Collins, Dan Hammett, Cameron Nicholls and Joe White.
A minute’s silence for the victims of last night’s terrorist attacks in Paris was well observed by the players and the club’s second biggest crowd of the season (316) ahead of kick-off.
The Kent-based Ryman League Division One South side had the better of the opening exchanges, with Sam Hasler firing an early low shot wide, but did not manage to trouble home custodian Neil O’Sullivan.
On a sticky Ram Meadow pitch, with the heavy forecast rain beginning in the hour before kick-off, it was Bury who came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, Craig Nurse’s hooked effort from Darcy De’ath’s long throw cleared by a combination of goalkeeper and defender, while Remi Garrett cleverly teed himself up on the right wing before volleying over.
John Kennedy’s powerful drive was then touched up and over his crossbar by Jack Delo as Herne Bay rode their luck at the back with the game still less than 20 minutes old.
Centre-half Phil Weavers, who had scored three times in his last two appearances, went close with a diving header spinning just past the far post, while Ollie Hughes’ shot was blocked by a defender.
In a rare opening at the other end, Elliot Cutts should have done better than head wide after out jumping Tevan Allen and the same player was guilty of a poor touch as his chipped effort was scuffed after the visitors’ broke through on the counter-attack.
A venomous drive from Neol Aitkens was thwarted by a turned back, while Herne’s best chance saw Cutts’ arrowed effort after a short corner sting O’Sullivan’s hands, with the Bury number one doing well to see it through a crowded box and prevent it spilling out into danger as the half ended goalless.
The second half, with the rain having not relented, got off to a disastrous start from a home perspective, with Herne Bay captain Liam Quinn making the most of a free header from a 47th minute corner, diverting it beyond O’Sullivan after the later had to be on his toes to tip over from a long-range looping effort.
It left Bury shellshocked and struggling to make the attacking inroads that had been a feature of the first half.
The nearest they could muster was a Nurse flick-on from another well taken De’Ath long throw, but it skidded across the face of goal with no-one able to provide a telling touch.
The ball was very much spending more time in Bury’s own half and more disaster looked to have struck when substitute Hammett tried a slide tackle that looked to be in the penalty area that caught the man.
But referee David Avent, to the relief of the home supporters, signalled for a free-kick on the edge of the box, which was deflected wide after a long stoppage for De’ath, who had been on all fours in the centre circle with a nose bleed.
Bury boss Ben Chenery threw on two under-18s in Collins and Nicholls, with Aitkens limping off holding his hamstring.
It was Collins who was soon in the thick of the action, firing one difficult half volley well over, while a snap shot, again with his left after a neat Bury move down the left, almost had them level as it flew just over the angle of post and bar.
The crowd responded as they sensed a late rally, but it looked to have been killed off in the final minute of normal time when O’Sullivan was shown a straight red card.
The keeper had slid out to collect the ball and seen the surface carry him, looking like he had dropped the ball before it crossed the 18-yard line. But the assistant referee saw it differently, immediately flagging that he had taken it over the edge of the area, with Avent pulling out a red card to the goalkeeper’s clear disgust as he stormed down the tunnel.
Wannabe goalkeeper Nurse, who often picks up the gloves in training with Bury currently not having a reserve since Nick Punter left for Stanway Rovers last month, took over between the posts and watched on with relief as the free-kick sailed wide.
Bury kept probing for a late goal and a late James Paterson free-kick saw the home crowd urging Nurse to get into the box.
The stand-in goalkeeper held back, but when Nicholls’ header went off a defender for a corner, he rushed forward.
Paterson’s delivery, in the fifth minute of stoppage time fell free in the box and it was Nurse who was on hand to scuff it into the far corner, striking it as he appeared to fall.
It sparked wild scenes at Ram Meadow as the mdifielder, who would liklely have been playing a league down with being dual registered to play for Newmarket Town in a bid to get more game time, were it not for injuries, mobbed by his team-mates.
There was still time for another few attacks, but both teams will have to go through at least another 90 minutes in Kent on Tuesday to decide who progresses into the third round of qualifying, and a possible plum tie, with the draw set to be made at Wembley on Monday.
Bury: O’Sullivan, Allen, Paterson, Kennedy, De’ath, Weavers (c), Garrett, Nurse, Hughes, Aitkens, Reed. Unused substitutes: Bedingham, White. Attendance: 316.
Free Press Man of The Match: Craig Nurse. Will be a cult hero at Ram Meadow for years to come for his dramatic late leveller in the keeper’s jersey. His girlfriend Toni Halls never gets to see him due to work, but she will have been mightly glad she was able to get in at half-time to see his magic moment.
* For a video interview with Bury boss Ben Chenery, log on to this website on Monday from 1pm, while Friday’s print edition will feature an extended interview with goal-hero Nurse.