Crewe Alexandra picked up their second point in succession with another determined performance at Gigg Lane.
The Railwaymen certainly rode their luck at times with Bury not possessing that clinical edge to make it a really uncomfortable night at the home our North West neighbours. Leon Clarke smashed a Crewe post in the second half and he missed the best chance of the game when from close range he couldn't turn a cross from Chris Hussey over the line.
Crewe also had their man-of-the-match Ben Garratt to thank for two stunning early saves to deny both Clarke and Tom Pope inside the first 15 minutes. Our chances were few and far between but we so nearly snatched the three points in stoppage time when Reece Brown stopped an effort from Marcus Haber on the line.
Steve Davis understandably kept faith with the same starting XI that gave promotion hopefuls Wigan Athletic a contest on Saturday. Therefore, there was a second successive start for George Cooper in a forward thinking four.
The only change in the Crewe Alexandra squad saw a fit again Callum Saunders replace the injured midfielder Billy Bingham on the bench. Saunders has fully recovered from a bout of illness, while Bingham has picked up an untimely hamstring injury.
Bury named our former striker Ryan Lowe on the substitutes bench as expected the Shakers went with Tom Pope and Leon Clarke as a front two.
Ben Garratt was called into action within the first two minutes after Bury full-back Chris Hussey slipped in Clarke behind our back line. The experienced striker curled his effort towards the far corner but Garratt had read his intentions to push away the well struck shot. Crewe managed to smuggle the ball out of play for a goal kick before Andrew Tutte could make better use of the rebound.
Bury continued to press forward in the early exchanges with the lively Tutte ambitiously shooting over the top of the crossbar from close to 30 yards out. Crewe found it difficult to get a foot hold in the game with Marcus Haber isolated up front as we dropped too far off to try and cope with the home side’s early tempo.
Garratt produced another stunning save on the 10th minute mark to deny Pope the opening goal. The Alex goalkeeper got a strong hand on his low shot to turn it behind for a corner after a hurried clearance fell into the former Port Vale’s striker path.
Crewe began to make progress into the Bury halve of the pitch and won a couple of dangerous positioned free-kicks but we couldn’t find the accuracy to deliver over the towering centre half Peter Clarke.
Bury continued to load the Crewe penalty area with crosses aimed at Pope up against Guthrie and for the whole, the Alex rearguard were standing firm against spells of pressure.
From a free-kick routine of their own, Hussey tried to catch out Garratt at his near post by going the other side of the wall but his shot lacked the accuracy to really test the Crewe goalkeeper for a third time. His effort cleared the crossbar.
Bury’s best chance to open the scoring arrived just after the half an hour mark. Pope did superbly well to feed the overlapping Hussey and his excellent cross found its intended target Clarke but he couldn’t adjust his body shape in time to guide it home from no more than a couple of yards out. Instead it seemed to hit him at pace and thankfully for the Railwaymen it squirmed over. It was an almighty left off.
In truth, Crewe were defending reasonably well but as an attacking force, our genuine chances were few and far between. It was all a bit rushed and the longer balls aimed for Haber were not finding their intended target.
Colclough sprung into life just two minutes before the break. He showed great feet to leave a defender on his backside before he whistled his great effort just inches wide of Ian Lawlor’s left hand post. It was by far our best moment of the first half.
Bury did have the ball in the net in first half stoppage time but Clarke was comfortably a couple of yards offside when he converted from close range.
The second half started with a strong appeal for a Bury penalty when Semi Ajayi handled a cross but the referee had correctly spotted a shove from Pope on the Crewe central defender.
Seven minutes into second period and more pressure from the Shakers nearly resulted in the breakthrough. Pope combined superbly with his strike partner Clarke inside the Crewe box and Clarke must have thought he had scored when he turned sharply up against Nugent but his firm shot thumped the far post and rebounded to the safety of Garratt’s gloves.
Just before the hour mark, Bury made the first change with the attacking midfielder Danny Mayor replacing Danny Pugh.
Crewe were struggling to get any substantial periods of possession and Guthrie was booked for a foul on John O’Sullivan. The same Bury player was then cautioned for getting Guthrie back close to the managerial dugouts.
Fox won possession back some 30 yards from the Bury goal but Colclough’s couldn’t generate enough power to test Lawlor and his effort drifted wide.
Bury’s second change saw Craig Jones replace O’Sullivan on 65 minutes. A couple of minutes later, Crewe conjured up a really good opportunity after Ollie Turton got free down the Bury left had side. The Crewe full-back kept his composure well to aim a cross towards Haber and although he couldn’t get a clean contact, the ball actually fell invitingly to Inman with the goal at his mercy but he couldn’t control it and the chance was lost.
After Tom Soares had fired over another close range effort, Ryan Lowe was introduced for Pope. His first taste of the action was to see him run in behind and sent over a low cross across the six yard but Turton had read the danger and was able to clear for touch. Moments later Clarke couldn’t keep his header down at the far post.
It was backs against the wall for Crewe but we still tried to venture forward in numbers when we could. With 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Crewe made a double change with the fresher legs of Howell and Bakayogo for Cooper and Inman. It was young Howell’s senior debut.
With the minutes ticking away and Crewe holding on, Mayor again found Clarke on the turn but he fired his low shot straight at the well placed Crewe goalkeeper.
The Railwaymen so nearly snatched the points in stoppage time when Haber showed great strength up against Clarke to get a shot off. His shot defeated Lawlor in the Bury goal but his covering defender Reece Brown managed to just about stop it crossing the line. It would have been the perfect snatch and grab job.
Crewe held out and their hard work and resilience saw us pick up a point.