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FULL TIME Port Vale 2 Bury 1
BURY were cruelly denied a League One scalp in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as a late Tom Pope double saw Port Vale come from behind to knock them out in the first round.
The Shakers had taken the lead through a Chris Sedgwick header in the 71st minute but could only hold on to the their lead for nine minutes as Pope headed an equaliser and then pounced in injury time for the winner.
There was very little to separate the teams in a goalless first-half that saw Bury share a decent chunk of possession without creating too many chances.
Port Vale started off the brighter, with Ben Williamson testing Brian Jensen with a stinging shot in the very first minute.
The new Shakers keeper, thrown straight in for his debut following injuries to regular stoppers Rob Lainton and Trevor Carson, got down well at his near post.
A new-look Bury, which included eight changes from the side that won 4-1 at Cheltenham Town in League Two on Saturday, took a while to settle.
Their only chance of the opening stages fell to winger Sedgwick, but the former Sheffield Wednesday winger, making his first start for the club, looped his header high and wide.
At the other end, Vale wide-man Chris Birchall struck a crisp volley just over from 30 yards and Anthony Griffith dragged a strike wide from the edge of the box.
Jensen had to be on his toes to palm an arrow-like shot from Doug Loft behind on 35 minutes after the midfielder latched on to a short free-kick that caught the rest of the Bury defence napping.
Jordan Sinnott then forced the home keeper into a similarly smart save as Bury finished the half strongly.
They should probably have gone into the break ahead, only for make-shift left-back Euan Holden to fluff a late shot from eight yards, tamely curling it straight at the keeper.
Sinnott had two decent efforts on goal after the break, one strike from 25 yards deflected over and another curled effort well gathered by Neal in the Vale goal.
But while the home side began to dominate possession, pegging Bury back in their own half they failed to create any clear-cut chances.
And Sedgwick looked to have made them pay when Sinnott’s sliced shot found him unmarked at the back post and he made no mistake with the header.
The chance was made by the persistence of Toppie Obadeyi on the left, who robbed full-back Liam Chilvers to set Sinnott up.
But Bury were not able to hold on to their lead for long as the diminutive Pope somehow managed to rise above the visitors’ defence to get his head to a Chris Shuker corner.
Shaun Harrad, who had been largely anonymous after being recalled back to the starting line-up should have put the Shakers back in front with three golden chances in the closing stages.
First he forced Neal into a fine double save almost immediately after the Vale equaliser and then should have done better after racing clear with five minutes remaining, only for the keeper to block his chipped effort.
But Bury were cruelly undone at the death as the ball broke to Pope at the back post and he dinked it over Jensen for his second and Vale’s undeserved winner.