The three hardy Exiles and loyal band of away fans were huddled together against the elements in a paltry crowd of 2541, attracting a surreal chant of 'your grounds too big for you' given the compact nature of modern Gigg Lane. As the teams came out Bury looked to be a big strong side ready to revel in the grim wet conditions and upset the rhythmn of visitors from the soft south!
It was a surprise to see Matt Tubbs up front in place of Lee Barnard who dropped to the bench. No doubt reward for his recent goals as sub but was he really the right choice for a tough away fixture against a team in 23rd place desperate for points? The return of the latest prodigal son, Brett Pitman, meant no place on the bench for Supafletch. Other wise an unchanged side from Tuesdays' draw against Stevenage.
Our worst fears were soon realised as Bury closed down our creative players, tackling strongly and not allowing Cherries any time on the ball. Bury's direct style of play was highly effective and the response from Boscombe was to run with the ball into dead end positions instead of passing the ball quickly to each other. The defence became similarly drawn into a 'hoof it upfield' philosophy that only gave possession back to Bury. Matt Tubbs tried hard but was unable to make the leggy lateral runs of Lee Barnard or hold up play to give midfield a breathing space. It was ugly, scrappy stuff, which no doubt delighted the home team.
It was no reall surprise when the Shakers took the lead after 14 mins with a simple driven cross from the right and near post shot from Troy Hewitt. 1-0. Things could have got much worse when another powerful near post header was blocked on the line by a Bury player!. 1-0 at half-time and we were in disarray urgently in need of an Eddie 'rocket' or tactical change or both.
The second half started in similar vein with no subs or change in approach. Then suddenly on 55mins a so called 'talking point' occurred that changed the course of the game. A high cross from the right was sailing towards the opposite corner when a Bury defender jumping with his arms in the air appeared to handle to ball, or was it more a case of ball to hand or maybe even no contact at all, just a waving arm. In any event a penalty was awarded to the Cherries and although the ref did not looked too convinced at 0-1 down we were not going to complain. After the usual Bury protests the ref decided for no logical reason to go across the the linesman who was 50 yards away for a second opinion. The ref then changed his mind about the penalty kick promping fury from the Boscombe players and a predictable booking for Arter.
However Cherries became enraged and like a wasp made angry started to buzz about with real purpose and belief for the first time in the game with accurate, quick passing and good use of both flanks. MacDonald emerged from his war of attrition in the trenches to make telling passes and drive the team forward. This engergised approach was instantly rewarded when Grabban found the bottom right hand corner of the net with a well placed shot from inside the area on 59mins. 1-1. It was now one way traffic and with Pitman replacing Tubbs on 73 mins to much excitment from the travelling fans it semed only a matter of time when 'we score when we want to' took us into the lead.
Oh how fickle is the hand of fate or is it a desire to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Completely against the run of play on 78mins a hopeful Bury ball foward seemed to find Addison in two minds and promped James to rush headlong to the edge of the area. The resulting Bury shot was parried by James straight back to David Worrall who only had to pass the ball into the far corner of the net with James totally exposed. What a calamity!. 2-1. Damn and the unbeaten run under threat.
On came McDermott (for McQuoid 82mins) and O'Kane (for Arter 87 mins) as Cherries harried, battled and scapped for an equaliser against resolute opponents. The board went uo with 6 mins stoppage time and suddenly there was Brett on the edge of the area swerving and jinking onto his weaker foot to hit a delightful curler into the bottom left hand corner of the net in front of the ecstatic away fans. 2-2. A truly dramatic moment and our celebrations were reminiscent of Maine Road in injury time all those years ago!
There was still time for Pugh to hit to bar with a rasping shot but despite Eddie's post match claim that we could have won by two or three goals this was a point salvaged at the very end by a wonderful piece of skill. So its now 9 league games unbeaten under Eddie - 6 wins and three draws. 21 points out of 27 and a 2.33 points a game ratio.
This should go to an impact substitute who only played 20 mins. My heart says yes-yes to Brett 'Hitman' Pitman but my head is going to give the award to Shaun Macdonald for his hard working dirty shift in the engine room and excellent second half passing
AFCB: James, Francis, Elphick, Addison, Daniels, McQuoid, Arter, MacDonald, Pugh, Tubbs, Grabban
Subs: Jalal, Cook, Fogden, Barnard, Pitman (for Tubbs, 73 mins), McDermott (for McQuoid, 82 mins), O'Kane (for Arter, 87 mins)
Jack Parker, Didsbury