As the Shakers headed South on Friday, home side Millwall were looking to cement a play-off position following their FA Cup Exploits at the quarter final stage, but following a 6-0 drubbing at Premier League Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, the Lions were also hoping to get back to winning ways against the Shakers, though the Lions still have games in hand on their rivals heading in the final month of the season.
Lee Clark made three changes to the side that saw off Bristol Rovers midweek with Andrew Tutte and Jacob Mellis both starting the game. Ryan Lowe also started with Tom Pope dropping to the bench.
Millwall started the game the brighter of the two sides with numerous raids on the Bury defence. One such raid on six minutes’ saw Shane Ferguson get beyond Greg Leigh and into the corner of the pitch before hooking a looping ball back into the Bury box. Cameron Burgess managed to get a head to the ball but failed to get a decent purchase on his clearance and the ball fell invitingly for Steve Morison. His first-time volley though lacked both pace and power and flopped harmlessly over the Bury bar.
On loan keeper Joe Murphy produced another commanding performance for the Shakers during the 90 minutes and was called into action on eight minutes, though not in his area. A long ball down the flank from Shaun Williams saw Murphy race out of his area to deftly smash the ball high into the stand for a home throw.
Soon after, Andrew Tutte’s afternoon was brought to a sudden halt as he pulled up clutching his thigh. He was quickly replaced by Kean Bryan with the Shakers management fearful that Tutte had again torn his hamstring. Tests and a scan early next week will be held to assess the damage to the Shakers midfielder.
Soon after the substitution was made, Millwall produced themselves another chance on the Shakers goal. A cross from wide via skipper Tony Craig was initially headed clear by Barnett & Burgess, but the ball was quickly fed to Morison by Ben Thompson. Morison, with his back to goal and some 25 yards out, turned and smashed the ball at goal on the volley, but again, keeper Joe Murphy was more than equal to the effort and dived smartly to smother the shot.
A Millwall throw into the Bury box on 24 minutes produced the Shakers best chance of the afternoon. A long clearance from Kean Bryan saw the ball moved up the field quickly. James Vaughan, standing on the half way line, produced a clever drop of the shoulder and collected the ball, without even touching it, to leave his covering defender dead in the water. It suddenly became a one on one race with keeper Tom King for the ball. Vaughan perhaps took a heavy touch on the edge of the area and that allowed Tony Craig to somehow slide through Vaughan to clear the ball out of play for a Bury throw.
Moments later, a Millwall free kick was lobbed into the Bury box and with several players jostling for position, keeper Joe Murphy took no prisoners with a strong run and leap before punching the ball clear of the area. With several players suddenly on the floor, Murphy had taken charge of his penalty area to good effect.
With the Shakers back five staying strong, and helped by a defensive midfield duo of Paul Caddis and Jacob Mellis, the home side were resorting to shooting on site – from a long way out, and one such shot came on 27 minutes when Shaun Williams tried his luck from a full 35 yards, though his effort flew wide of Murphy’s goal.
With the Shakers enjoying plenty of possession on the ball towards half time, the levels of frustration amongst the Millwall faithful were increasing, though the Shakers moved the ball around the park well, it was without any reward as Lowe and Vaughan both had crosses and half chances within the box without much success.
Millwall had another half chance just before the break when Craig again fed the ball into the box. This time though Steve Morison saw himself crowded out in the area and could not get the ball from under his feet, though he did manage to get a touch to divert the ball wide of the upright and out of play for a Bury goal kick.
Half Time: Millwall 0 Bury 0
The home side started the second period very much the brighter of the two sides with a slight shift in formation. A long ball over the top from former Bury trialists Byron Webster saw Lee Gregory chase the ball into the corner. Leon Barnett fouled Gregory as he attempted to clear the ball, the subsequent free kick was delivered into Bury box before being pushed out for a Millwall corner. The home side took a short corner and fed the ball to Jed Wallace. His stern shot brought the very best out of keeper Murphy, as he dived backwards, he somehow managed to hook the ball from the air with a flaying arm and pushed the shot out for a second corner. A stunning save that probably won the point for the Shakers.
Moments later, Bury had a rare shot on goal as Greg Leigh worked the ball down the flank. He fed the all to Mellis on the corner of the box and after a quick turn and run he played the ball to Caddis some 20 yards out. His first time shot along the ground slid through the Lions defence and brought a smart diving save from Tom King.
A James Vaughan shot on goal on 67 minutes saw the home defence not only block the effort, but brought a quick counter attack that involved a full length of the pitch run from Wallace. He got to the edge of the Bury box and slid the ball through to Morison who gleefully smashed the ball home from close range, however a raised Referee’s Assistant flag ruled the goal out, much to the annoyance of Millwall manager Neil Harris and the home supporters.
By now the frustration levels within the ground were reaching new levels as the Shakers slowed play down when in possession and did everything they could to slow the game down to preserve the point.
A Millwall corner on 76 minutes saw the ball delivered into the Bury box where Webster managed to connect with the ball with a looping header at goal, but again keeper Joe Murphy was on hand to dive smartly to smother the effort and preserved his clean sheet.
With time running out, the home side began launching balls into the Bury box and one such effort came in on 87 minutes. With Thompson underneath the ball and under pressure from Taylor Moore, keeper Murphy raced off his line, and as he did in the first half, connected with a strong punch to clear the ball. Both Ben Thompson and Taylor Moore required treatment from both respective physio’s following Murphy’s clearance.
It’s the stage of the season where results over performances matter, and with the final whistle gone, the Shakers had claimed exactly what they arrived to collect. A clean sheet and a point and nobody was more delighted than manager Lee Clark following the game.
Final Score: Millwall 0 Bury 0
Millwall: King, Cooper, Cummings (Worrall 88), Craig, Webster, Ferguson (O'Brien 68), Wallace, Williams, Thompson (Butcher 79), Morison, Gregory
Subs not used: Girling, Romeo, Hutchinson, Onyedinma
Bury: Murphy, Moore, Barnett, Kay, Burgess, Leigh, Caddis, Mellis, Tutte (Bryan 11), Lowe (Hope 57), Vaughan
Subs not used: Pope, Lainton, Pennant, Miller, Styles
Attendance: 9,049 (223)