BLUES CONTINUE UNBEATEN RUN
A late goal from Kieran Bishop maintained Blues' unbeaten run writes The Mariner
Although not at their best, Blues nevertheless dug deep to secure a point in a game that portrayed all the hallmarks of a mid-table clash between two sides looking to progress up the table. Played out on a cloying surface, Blues found it difficult to employ their passing game and for much of the encounter were always on the back foot, but such is their newly found resilience and steel they finished the stronger and snatched a deserved equaliser in time added on. A shine was taken off the result by the performance of the referee and the behaviour of some opposition supporters which left a lot to be desired with a number of unsavoury incidents in the final minutes.
Joe Simmonds in goal - in place of the injured Lamar Johnson - produced a fine debut with sure handling giving confidence to his defenders. Joe Bruce replaced the suspended Jack Fowler in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven.
Bury made the early running with Aitkens a constant thorn in Blues side, playing in the hole. Blues found it difficult to pick him up allowing him to dictate play, moving the ball down either channels. As a result Blues came under pressure from a succession of corners and long throws but they remained disciplined and dogged to keep their goal intact. Simmonds' first action was to confidently claim a high ball into the box from a Bury free kick. He was rarely troubled during this period of pressure and the closest Bury came was from a Fenn effort which curled wide of the upright.
Blues' first opportunity came after neat interplay between Ade Cole and Glenn Poole which saw the latter cross to find Jamie Slabber who nodded into Tibbles' arms. Crucially Blues were failing to win the all-important second ball, allowing Bury to build pressure. Blues' cause was not helped by some puzzling refereeing decisions - one resulting in a booking for Stan Muguo after he protested following the official's failure to see an offside flag waved by his assistant which nearly resulted in a goal for the hosts.
Despite the pressure Bury failed to create any clearcut chances with Blues only threatening sporadically, but neither side was helped by the frequent lengthy stoppages and lectures from a referee who seemed intent on being the star of the afternoon.
Blues' resolve remained solid but in the dying moments of the half, Bury could so easily have snatched the lead. Blues won a free kick playing the ball into the box. Bury cleared the ball out to Hughes. Scampering clear of the Blues' back line, he closed in on Simmonds' goal but the 'keeper was equal to his effort partly blocking the ball which was eventually cleared from danger.
The start of the second period saw Bishop presented with an early opportunity when he found himself in space but saw his volley easily claimed by Tibbles. Blues looked sharper and more competitive in the opening minutes but it was the visitors who continued to push forward down either flank looking for an opening - but again without troubling the Blues' goal.
On 54 minutes Kai Brown made way for Joao Carlos who was soon involved in a fifty-fifty challenge with Bury full back Cooper resulting in a lengthy delay following treatment to the full back who was subsequently stretchered off. The delay was to prove a lifeline for Blues later in the game.
Carlos was becoming more and more influential and was once again involved in an incident in the 58th minute when he was clearly tripped inside the Bury box - but amazingly Mr Venables thought otherwise and waved play on. Just minutes later and Bury went in front from the penalty spot. A quick break saw Ramadan run clear of Blues' defenders, closing in on goal Simmonds rushed from his area and brought down the Bury striker. Fortunately for the keeper he wasn't the last line of defence and avoided a red card. Ramadan stepped up and duly dispatched the spot kick in the 62nd minute. Shortly after he could have doubled his and Bury's tally but faced with a gaping goal he somehow sent his header wide of the post.
The goal stirred Blues into action and for the remaining minutes they dominated possession creating for the first time a number of chances. Sam Cross was a whisker away with a free kick that drifted agonisingly wide of the upright. Bishop came close to connecting with a Cole low cross. Sub Tre Zialor showed some clever touches linking well with Bishop as Blues continued to probe for an equaliser.
With the 90 minutes up, the referee signalled nine minutes of injury time which further energised Blues' efforts continuing to lay siege to the home goal. Eventually the pressure told and Carlos - who scored Blues' winner the previous week - was provider this time. Not for the first time he outstripped his marker sending in a cross which was prodded home by the lurking Bishop to record his twelfth goal of a productive season.
With their tails up, Blues looked to win the game and continued to press forward but in the end had to settle for a point which had looked unlikely after an hour of play.
So Blues' unbeaten run continues on an afternoon when they were not at their best but they remained solid as a unit and eventually fought their way back into the game and could so easily have snatched a win. They now face another test of their resolve when they travel to Maldon and Tiptree this coming Tuesday.
Simmonds, Folkes, Cross, Bruce, Halle, Muguo, Poole (Cogan 74), Cole, Bishop, Slabber (Zialor 63), Brown (Carlos 54)
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