DIVISION ONE NORTH
Bury Town 1
Grays Athletic 1
If Bury fail in their bid to secure a play-off place this season, games like this one will be where it ultimately slipped out of their grasp.
Yes, there was a highly-controversial stoppage-time equaliser — with play having carried on after Ollie Hughes appeared to take an elbow to the face — deep into time added on.
But once again at Ram Meadow — where Bury have only taken three points in two of their 10 matches — the Blues were unable to make their dominance count in front of goal, meaning another draw (five at home now) was always just an unfortunate moment away from happening.
It was ultimately a fourth successive draw for Ben Chenery’s 11th-placed side, extending their winless run to eight matches.
And although it leaves them still just three points from a top six guaranteed play-off place, four of the five sides above them hold games in hand.
But despite being left hugely frustrated at the referee’s performance, Chenery was full of pride at his players’ display, having been well on top against a Grays side who had won their previous five matches in all competitions to sit one place above Bury in the table.
“I thought we were excellent,” he said.
“There was only one team looking to win here again.
“We were far superior than our opposition.
“We restricted them to one chance at the end and it was difficult as we had one player down. We can analyse and talk about that, but personally I am very proud of them.
“We have passed the ball exceptionally well. We have out-battled them, out-thought them, out-run them, out-headed them, and it was a totally dominant performance without people taking more responsibility to put the ball in the back of the net.”
It was only when Bury’s precise passing, on a boggy pitch, slipped captain Bradley Barber in down the side of the penalty area that their opponents gave them a big helping hand in finally breaking the deadlock in the 63rd minute.
Cemal Ramadan took responsibility to confidently fire in his 18th goal of the season from the penalty spot after goalkeeper Joe Simmonds had brought the skipper down.
“There were three or four golden opportunities to score and we are putting too much onus on Cemal Ramadan to score goals, and other people have to step up now,” said Chenery. “But as a manager, I can’t ask any more than for us to completely outplay somebody.
“There was a lot of bravery and courage in our team and I thought they were superb.”
An unchanged Bury side from the 1-1 draw at Heybridge Swifts could and should have built up a comfortable lead by the break.
Ollie Fenn, playing at centre-back with Joe White, with Kryan Clements out at left-back, fired wide of the post when well placed, before Barber’s dipping angled effort was tipped over by Simmonds.
Ramadan headed wide before Grays threatened for the first time, with Jamie Slabber’s 24th-minute header straight at Luis Tibbles.
Tevan Allen was soon guilty of missing the target with a free header at the far post and just before the break Hughes was played in on goal only to see Simmonds block well after narrowing the angle.
The referee was being kept busy with a series of niggling fouls and a lot of back-chat from the opposition, who were very vocal in attempting to get White removed from the action after he held back Kieran Bishop’s run in on goal some 40 yards out, but he got off with just a yellow card.
The second half saw Bury’s stranglehold on the game and plentiful chances ease off as it was played out to the backdrop of the referee’s whistle.
A serious-looking injury to right-back David Cooper required a stretcher and led to nine minutes being added on come the end of the match.
It was from the penalty spot that Bury eventually got ahead just after the hour mark, with Ramadan confidently firing into the top right-hand corner.
Fellow striker Hughes should have made it 2-0 four minutes later but, from Ramadan’s chipped pass, he somehow contrived to send his diving header all the way across goal and wide of the far post.
Tibbles, largely a spectator, made a good reaction stop at the other end after one of his defenders deflected a cross goalwards, before Barber saw an effort thwarted by Simmonds.
It was in the fifth minutes of added on time that Bury’s profligacy was punished.
With Hughes floored in the Grays right-back area, much to home bewilderment, play carried on and the visitors broke up the other end with Bishop kneeing in the rebound after his first effort from Joao Carlos’ cross was parried out.
Bury: Tibbles, Cooper (Yallop 59’), Jolland, Fenn, White, Clements, Allen, Aitkens, Ramadan (Mills 84’), Barber, Hughes. Unused subs: Kennedy, Robinson, Yaxley.
Free Press Man of the Match: Ryan Jolland. Adapted well to holding role and still showed creative side.