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Match Reports

Notts 0-0 Bury

29 December 2018

Notts County were held to a 0-0 draw by promotion-chasing Bury despite a dominant display at Meadow Lane.

The Magpies turned in an excellent performance, limiting their visitors to few opportunities and creating a host of chances themselves.

But a combination of the woodwork, a rare Jon Stead penalty miss and visiting goalkeeper Joe Murphy denied Notts the result their performance fully deserved.

There were a number of changes to the line-up that faced Macclesfield on Boxing Day, with the suspended Keston Davies joining Jamie Turley, Elliott Hewitt and Kane Hemmings in being absent from the squad.

Dan Jones was scheduled to start the game but was forced out of the warm-up with an injury, paving the way for Cedric Evina to make his first start since the FA Cup defeat at Barnsley in November.

There was a first league start for Pierce Bird, who joined Shaun Brisley and Richard Duffy in a three-man central defence flanked by wing-backs Matt Tootle and Evina.

David Vaughan slotted into a holding midfield role with Andy Kellett and Rob Milsom ahead of him, while Kristian Dennis partnered Jon Stead up front.

Nathan Thomas had to settle for a place on the bench.

Despite all the changes, there were no early signs of a lack of cohesion as the Magpies were straight on the front foot.

They came agonisingly close to netting the opening goal on nine minutes when Brisley managed to get his head to Kellett's floated delivery, dropping the ball just wide of the post.

Milsom sent a long-range effort a yard or two wide shortly afterwards and picked up a booking minutes later, retrospectively cautioned for a foul on Chris Stokes.

Bury were barely able to get out of their own half and Notts' high press forced Callum McFadzean into an error on the edge of his own area, presenting Tootle with the chance to rob him of possession, drop his shoulder and shoot. The ball was blocked by a relieved Bury defender.

Vaughan rattled the post with a 30-yard screamer moments before Brisley failed to adjust his feet in time to turn home Tootle's free-kick at the back post as the Magpies' relentless pressure continued.

And Notts came so close once again on 35 minutes, Bird playing a superb ball into the channel for Stead, whose cutback just evaded Bury's defender in the area. Dennis spun and sent a low effort towards the far corner but Murphy got a crucial touch to push the ball just wide.

The resultant corner was an inventive one which resulted in Kellett seeing an effort deflected on to the post and behind. The referee and linesman gave a goal kick, however.

Half-time was approaching but there were no signs of the game slowing down as Kellett was booked for a trip on the advancing Danny Mayor.

But the visitors were still struggling to cause Notts' defence any major concern - so much so that Bird had the freedom to get forward, drop a shoulder and fire the ball a yard or so over the bar with five minutes left to play in the half.

Shortly before four added minutes were indicated, Ross Fitzsimons lofted a ball over the top and Dennis did brilliantly to reach it, whipping in a cross from the byline. A defender just managed to beat Stead to the ball in the middle.

And another lofted pass from Fitzsimons caused havoc shortly afterwards, this time Stead latching on to it in the area and seeing his cross turned behind.

Bury were on the back foot right up until the half-time whistle and, after Bird sent a volley over the bar following another sustained spell of pressure, they will have been hugely relieved to go into the break level.

Shakers boss Ryan Lowe saw fit to shake things up at half-time, replacing skipper Neil Danns with Callum Styles, while Ardley sent his charges back out unchanged.

And the visitors went close for the first time in the game on 52 minutes, Nicky Adams side-footing a low cross into the box but inadvertantly applying swerve which saw the ball go a foot wide of Fitzsimons' far post.

Adams had another opportunity moments later, seeing his effort blocked by Bird, before Duffy made an excellent intervention on the line to divert Styles' piledriver round the post.

Bury had come out fighting but Notts soon perked up - and all eyes were on referee Brett Huxtable when Stead played Dennis into space and Kellett was brought down by Adam Thompson as he raced into the area to meet the forward's cross.

There was initial confusion as to whether the referee had awarded a penalty - but a free-kick just outside the area was given and Thompson escaped with a yellow card despite the Air-IT Kop baying for a red.

Dennis' low free-kick found the wall and Bury broke away at pace, forcing Vaughan into a trip which earned him a yellow.

Mayor saw a shot saved by Fitzsimons at the base of his post as a frantic second half continued in front of a 7,000-strong Meadow Lane crowd.

And Stead had a golden opportunity to send the stadium into raptures when a Notts cross was handled by a Bury defender in the area, presenting him with the chance to score from the spot.

But the forward, usually so assured from 12 yards, sent his penalty high and wide.

Notts didn't allow that to dent their confidence, though, and they were cursing Shakers keeper Murphy when he made a brilliant save from Tootle, pushing the full-back's 25-yard half-volley over the bar in acrobatic style as the game entered its final throes.

And, while the Magpies were still looking the more likely team to win, Bury's pace on the counter-attack drew another Notts booking as Bird cynically brought down the surging Byron Moore.

Ardley's first change came on 88 minutes when Kellett was replaced by Noor Husin - and the Afghanistan international was shortly joined on the field by Thomas, who came on for Dennis.

The two sides were afforded five minutes of added time in which to find a winner.

And Thomas had a good chance to get it when the ball broke for him just outside the area. He took it into the box but cut across his shot, slicing it wide of the near post.

That was to be the game's final chance on an encouraging afternoon for Ardley's men. 

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