Despite having what can only be called a scratch side out, only two players on the bench and with relegation already assured, the Shakers returned up the M6 with heads firmly held high, a point in the bag and a large dose of personal pride safely tucked up in their back pockets.
Bury showed bright touches, good footwork and plenty of endeavour from the start of the game, and it ran through to the very final seconds of the game.
A Zac Thompson run across the face of the Walsall box, with just two minutes played, brought a challenge from centre half Dean Holden. With the free kick awarded, Jonson Clark-Harris gripped the ball and positioned it for a shot on goal. After his exploits midweek – nobody was going to stop him – except this time – the Walsall wall did stop him as the Saddlers defence quickly cleared.
A Bury corner four minutes later saw Tom Soares deliver the ball into the path of Ashley Eastham, standing just off the back post, Eastham threw his full force behind a volley that flew into the side netting.
Moments later Zac Thompson split the home midfield and defence with a stunning ball over the top. With Tom Soares chasing hard, the ball took an awkward bobble and zipped into the hands of a grateful home keeper before Soares could connect with the ball.
With barely ten minutes on the clock, a high lofted ball into the area saw Clarke-Harris leap with Dean Holden. Clarke-Harris got a good connection and sent the ball looping towards goal from a very acute angle. Keeper Johnstone stood frozen to the spot as the ball looped over his head and dropped onto the post, before deflecting out of play for a goal kick
A Carl Regan zipped ball into the box on 15 minutes should have brought the opening goal, the ball looked set for Clarke-Harris to tap home, but Johnstone seemed to stretch an arm and managed to parry the cross before the on loan Peterborough striker connected.
Walsall’s first meaningful attempt came soon after with Brandy unleashing a stern drive at goal. His effort looked on target and to have beaten Cameron Belford, but a last minute block by Mark Hughes saw the Shakers clear the danger.
Within three minutes though, the Saddlers took the lead. AN excellent passing move down the flank saw Grigg and Paterson combine before feeding the ball to Febian Brandy on the corner of the box, and his quick shot across the goal found the bottom corner of Belford’s goal.
Goal: Walsall 1 Bury 0 (Brandy 22)
Walsall had the ball in the back of the Shakers goal again moments later, but this time a quick flag from the official ruled the attempt offside
Bury produced their own sweeping move on 35 minutes. Carl Regan dropped a ball into the corner, he played a quick one two with Soares before delivering the ball into the box. A quick flick from Nicky Ajose found the head of Jonson Clarke-Harris – but his effort flew straight into the keeper’s arms.
Half Time: Walsall 1 Bury 0
Tom Pratt replaced Tom Soares at the break, with the former limping off with a tight hamstring.
Walsall had the first chance on goal in the second period with Jamie Paterson shooting from a long way out. Thankfully the effort was too easy for Cameron Belford and he held the shot very comfortably.
With just under an hour gone, David Worrall drove a long clearance down the field. The home side looked content for the ball to go out of play for a goal kick, but Nicky Ajose had other ideas and chased the ball into the corner, and won a corner kick after deflecting g the ball out of play off Purkiss
Bury’s best chance to get back in the game came on 65 minutes when a corner from Zac Thompson fell to Mark Hughes inside the box, he hit the ball full on the volley and brought a stunning save from Johnstone. The keeper parried the ball wide but only as far as Ashley Eastham, who also hit the ball on the volley – though this effort flew high over the bar and into the top tier behind the goal.
Valery Mezague’s range of passing was coming into the game and he hit a sublime cross field 40 yard pass to the feet of a charging Nicky Ajose on 70 minutes, however his first touch let him down badly and the ball rolled through to the home keeper.
Another chance came soon after with the ball falling to Ajose on the edge of the six yard box, he attempted to place the ball into goal by firing across the keeper and into the far corner, but the chance rolled just wide of the target.
Finally with chances running out and time running out. Bury won a free kick after a foul on Zac Thompson. The free kick was positioned by Clarke-Harris and he took a long run up to smash the ball against the underside of the crossbar. Somehow the ball was bundled over the line for an equaliser. The celebrations seemed to concentrate on Efe Sodje, however the goal has also been claimed by Nicky Ajose.
Only video and photographic evidence are going to clear this one up, but for now the goal goes to Sodje
Goal: Walsall 1 Bury 1 (Efe Sodje 90+2)
On the field the Shakers have already been relegated, but are showing no signs of being out for the count after another committed and excellent team performance.