Match report: Bury 1 Exeter City 1Exeter City and Bury shared the points with a 1-1 draw by playing out a 1-1 draw at Gigg Lane.
After seeing off some early pressure, the Grecians took the lead within the first quarter of an hour as an Alex Nicholls free-kick bounced back into play and was volleyed in by Arron Davies.
However it was former Exeter man Daniel Nardiello that levelled up the scores just before the break, heading in a cross at the far post.
City manager Paul Tisdale made two changes to the starting XI, as Graham Cummins and Christian Ribeiro were named as subs. Clinton Morrison was a starter, as was Jamie McAllister who came in to make a debut.
Duo Scot Bennett and David Noble were missing with injury, and James Hamon’s knee injury consigned him to the bench.
The first chance of the game fell the way of the hosts as Andrew Tutte had an effort from just inside the area – Danny Butterfield blocked bravely and Nardiello hooked the volley over on the rebound.
And then the Shakers came close to opening the scoring in freak fashion as Matt Oakley’s clearance cannoned off the shins of Nicky Adam and just wide of Christy Pym’s upright.
But at the other end City began to show their ability with the ball and were soon rewarded with the opening goal.
Some good build-up play saw Morrison lay in Sercombe, whose shot was blocked, but then Nicholls drew a foul as he nipped in on the follow-up.
And it was a curling free-kick by Nicholls that hit the bar and fell into the path of Davies, who volleyed in past Nick Pope with power.
At the other end, it was Chris Hussey that came close to levelling with a free-kick for the hosts. The full-back took a set-piece from a wide angle on the right and saw his swirling effort cannon off Christy Pym’s bar and back into play.
Despite trailing, the hosts were still keen to get the ball down and play on a bobbly surface. City’s defence wasn’t giving away chances too readily, meaning that Joe Riley was forced into shooting from long range and missed the target by a distance.
Centre-half Adam El-Abd was the next to chance his arm from distance, and Pym did well to hold despite the ball bobbling on its way through. Then a ball forward meant for Nardiello caused some confusion and Pym did well to block out Nicky Adams on the follow-up.
However in the final minute of the first half, the scores were level again. A pinpoint cross from the right by Craig Jones was set perfectly for Nardiello to attack at the far post, and he bulleted a header past Pym for the equaliser.
City had a final chance to take a lead into the break when Nichols won a free-kick out wide on the right, but McAllister’s effort cleared the frame of Pope’s goal.
Half-time: Bury 1 Exeter City 1
Bury began the second half with tempo and the first chance after the restart fell the way of Tom Soares, who struck hard across goal and just wide from 30 yards.
Then Danny Mayor broke down the flank after the Grecians had been outnumbered on the left, and Jordan Moore-Taylor was bravely down to block as the Shakers man cut inside to shoot.
The best chance of the lot came for Nardiello – Tutte smashed an effort from distance which Pym couldn’t hold, and the former City striker blazed wildly over on the rebound when the goal looked to be at his mercy.
Exeter were having to ride wave after wave of attacks from the Shakers and Tutte curled an effort onto the bar, before Mayor wasted a good chance by trying to pick the pass when a shot looked the better option.
Harley and David Wheeler were put into action on the hour-mark, replacing debutant McAllister and striker Morrison, as Exeter went for a change of tack in the forward positions.
City had not been afforded many opportunities to get forward after the interval, and Sercombe had an effort from the right midway through the half which spun wide off the outside of his boot.
Cummins was then put on to offer fresh legs to the forward line for the final 15 minutes or so, and came close to scoring within a minute. Harrying play in midfield allowed the Grecians to win the ball high, and Wheeler’s touch on for the Irish striker was controlled and then hit from the edge of the area but into the hands of Pope.
Exeter were finishing strongly and a ball forward for Wheeler allowed him to burst onto it from the halfway line, hold off a challenge, but a last ditch challenge by Jimmy McNulty prevented him from pulling the trigger.
Chances came for both teams in a frantic finale – a shot from close-range in a congested penalty area saw the Bury players screaming for hand-ball against Butterfield, and then at the other end on the break Wheeler was released and couldn’t find Cummins when McNulty stepped across him.
And it ended with the points shared at Gigg Lane, and City still within three points of the Shakers.
Full-time: Bury 1 Exeter City 1
Bury: Pope; Riley, El-Abd (McNulty 74), Cameron, Hussey; Jones (Rose 55), Tutte, Soares, Mayor; Adams (Hope 77); Nardiello.
Subs: Lainton, Etuhu, Sedgwick, Thompson.
Goal: Nardiello (45).
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Moore-Taylor, McAllister (Wheeler 60), Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley, Davies; Nicholls, Nichols, Morrison (Harley 60).
Subs: Hamon, Keohane, Ribeiro, Tillson, Cummins.
Goal: Davies (13).
Attendance: 3,513 (180 away)
Referee: Nigel Miller