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Notts County's hopes of reaching the Play-Offs suffered a huge blow this afternoon, with Bury claiming a 4-2 win at Meadow Lane.
The early kick-off had given the Magpies a chance to open up a four-point gap over their top-six rivals but failure to take chances cost them dearly. Instead, County were relying on the teams below them slipping up in the 3pm games to hold onto sixth spot.
The visitors went into the break a goal up, after David Worrall found the net from range. Lee Hughes, Alan Judge and Liam Chilvers had all had decent attempts at goal in the first half but none were able to find the net.
A double substitution at the break made a difference and within a minute of the restart Notts were level, with Alan Judge forcing an own goal from Giles Coke. The Shakers moved ahead for the second time on 49, when their star man Mike Grella applied a delightful finish to beat Stuart Nelson.
Grella added his second of the afternoon to make it 3-1 but Mike Edwards came off the bench to give the Magpies hope. A late bombardment of the Bury box failed to produce an equaliser and Bury were able to kill the game off on the counter, when substitute Mark Carrington made it 4-2.
Lee Hughes returned to the frontline in place of Dele Adebola, following his recovery from a virus that had forced him to sit out the 0-0 draw with Brentford. Julian Kelly dropped out of the squad with a hamstring injury and was replaced at right-back by Kieron Freeman, who made his first start since the 1-0 triumph over Oldham at the end of March.
Lloyd Sam had also been a doubt due to a hip problem but was deemed fit enough for a spot on the substitutes' bench. Jon Harley came into the starting 11 on the right side of midfield, as part of an adaptable 4-4-2 formation that allowed Alan Judge and Daniel Bogdanovic plenty of offensive freedom.
The first minute of action could have seen either side take the lead. Lee Hughes headed inches over, after Judge found him unmarked with a diagonal centre, and former Magpie Shaun Harrad was prevented from scoring by Stuart Nelson, who charged out of goal to make a block at the striker's feet.
Continuing a lively opening, Lee Hughes created a chance of his own from the left, knocking the ball past two defenders. Hughes' shot was parried towards Neal Bishop, only for the midfielder to be denied on the rebound by a strong aerial challenge.
Notts put together multiple attacking moves throughout the opening 45 but the only thing lacking was the final ball. Bury, on the other hand, were restricted to long-range efforts, with Harrad striking the wall with a free-kick, before shooting over moments later.
It was the 33rd minute when away goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was tested again. A creative free-kick routine allowed Judge to fire around the wall, towards the bottom-right corner, where Bond gathered smartly.
The Shakers grew into the match and almost broke the deadlock on 41. Nathan Clarke delivered a long throw towards the back post, where Efetobore Sodje cleared the bar with a thumping header.
A minute later, Bury made it 1-0, following some fine work by Grella down the right flank. The forward fed the ball inside to Worrall, allowing the midfielder to drive inside the near post from the edge of the area.
Liam Chilvers had an opportunity to equalize with the final attempt of the half, when he connected with Alan Sheehan's in-swinging free-kick. However, the centre-back's header looped over.
Keith Curle orchestrated two changes at the interval. Adebola and Sam replaced Sheehan and Bogdanovic.
Sam made an immediate impact on the game, picking out Judge with a diagonal pass behind the backline. Judge drilled across goal and a series of deflections led to Coke directing into his own net.
Bury were soon back in front, when Grella escaped Harley with a clever turn into the box. Nelson rushed off his line to make a save but the American beat the stopper with a confident, lifted finish.
Damion Stewart threatened twice from set-plays, prior to Adebola forcing Bond into an error during a mid-air battle. Pouncing on the fumble, Lee Hughes had a shot cleared off the goal-line and Judge found the side-netting with a low hit.
County continued to push and Stewart came within inches of converting Harley's hooked cross at the back post. Lee Hughes then anticipated a mistake, cut inside his marker and curled agonisingly wide of the top-right corner.
On 67, Bury made it 3-1, after Coke glided past a number of players on the left byline. He then cut the ball back to Grella, whose deflected shot left Nelson with no chance.
Jeff Hughes headed over from Sam's cross and Judge powered wide of the mark, as the Magpies searched for a way back. With 11 minutes remaining, that came courtesy of Edwards, who had replaced the injured Liam Chilvers.
The goal came from Judge's floated corner towards the back post. Edwards rose high and nodded into the top-left corner, immediately lifting the volume levels in the home ends.
Notts were given further hope of salvaging a point when Jones was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Harley. Eight minutes remained against 10 men.
Adebola thought he had made it 3-3 after beating Bond in the air to head fractionally wide. Sam and Harley both had good attempts that were dealt with by the Shakers' stopper.
There was time for another goal in the game and it arrived during five minutes of added time. The Magpies had men forward with the hope of snatching a late point but Carrington broke free on the counter and raced the length of the pitch, before placing into the bottom corner.
Attendance: 6,732 (464 away supporters)
Man of the Match, sponsored by Chino Latino: Alan Judge