MATCH REPORT: Bury Town come from behind in feisty FA Cup tie
A brace from centre-back Justin Miller atoned for an early error to send Bury Town through to the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup against lower-league Cockfosters at Ram Meadow.
The Blues were behind within the opening two minutes of the game at a sun-kissed Ram Meadow after South African Miller gave away possession on the half-way line and Ben Paul burst in on goal before slipping across the area for Sivi Bao to sweep home.
It proved the catalyst for a Bury barage of chances with Sam Reed and Noel Aitkens firing wide and Miller seeing his header saved before being scrambled away following a corner.
George Ironton put just past the post from range in a rare chance at the other end, before the equaliser came on the half-an-hour mark.
Bradley Barber pumped a free-kick in from deep on the right after Sam Reed had been fouled and Miller met it with a header at the far post to atone for his early lapse in concentration.
Cockfosters’ lively number seven Ben Hart was not far over the croossbar with a cheeky 40 yard chip which came just before Bury lost top scorer Ollie Hughes to a hamstring injury, replacing him with Ace Howell.
Miller almost had a second on the stroke of half-time, volleying wide after Reed knocked off Remi Garrett’s hanging cross.
The second half failed to live up to the first in terms of goalmouth action, but it was Miller again who was involved in another key moment as he executed a perfect sliding tackle in the area to deny Bao a second after a long ball had split the home defence.
Tempers boiled over after Noel Aitkens and in for a challenge with Spaul, with the Bury player shown a yellow card after the players came together in the centre of the pitch.
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division mid-table outfit Cockfosters should have regained the lead in the 67th minute when Hart broke through on goal, but his shot cannoned back off Nick Punter’s left-hand post and was cleared by Miller.
A fair few in the main stand thought Bury had taken the lead when Bradley Barber’s free-kick on the edge of the area came down rustling the net, but it had gone down just over the crossbar.
But it was a Barber set piece which brought what proved to be the line in the 76th minute.
After the midfielder’s delivery was only sliced into the air by Cockfosters captain Nick Nicou around the penalty spot, Miller pounced on the mistake to swivel and fire beyond Raven Constable.
Substitute Craig Nurse and Garrett both put wide of the post from long range efforts as Bury looked to kill off the tie and Laurence Rispoli had to make a good sliding clearance in the box to take the ball away from Reed and Howell after the latter had tried to dance his way into the box.
As the game entered injury-time, the visitors’ bid for a late equaliser was impeded by a moment of madness seeing substitute Jacob Kalonda reduce his side to 10 men.
After a free-kick had been put into Bury’s box, Kalonda and Miller fell into a tangle of bodies and began pushing each other after the ball was cleared, with players running in to pull them apart.
But referee Richard Hart felt Kalonda had gone too far, with Miller escaping without punishment.
Bury were able to see out the remaining few minutes to ensure they pick up the £3,000 in prize money and get their name into Monday’s draw at Wembley.
Bury starting XI: Punter, Allen, Paterson, Aitkens, Miller, Weavers (c), Garrett, Steed, Hughes, Barber, Reed.
Free Press Man of the Match: Justin Miller.
* For a video interview with Blues boss Ben Chenery, log on to this website on Monday lunchtime.