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FULL-TIME: York City 1 Bury 0
BURY went to Bootham Crescent praying for a miracle that never came.
The Minstermen’s strong-arm tactics denied David Flitcroft’s side the victory they needed to keep their lingering promotion hopes alive and inflicted a first defeat in eight matches.
Keith Lowe handed York an early lead which they protected aggressively until the final 10 minutes, when the red mist descended on Bury striker Daniel Nardiello.
Without their leading scorer, who picked up two yellow cards in quick succession, the 10-man Shakers were unable to stop a York side, which started the day in the final play-off spot, from opening up an unassailable 10-point gap.
Bury suffered the worst possible start when Lowe side-footed Will Hayhurst’s fifth-minute corner inside the far post.
The ball completely evaded the Shakers defence and they remained on the back foot for the opening stages.
Brian Jensen was on the ball though as he dived full stretch to tip over a 30-yard rocket from York striker Calvin Andrew.
And Craig Jones had to be alert to cut out a huge clearance from home stopper Nick Pope with Michael Coulson hovering.
That was par for the course for York, whose game was built on ferocious tackling and long balls.
Hallam Hope was a constant thorn in the home defence though.
The 20-year-old striker, on loan from Everton, twice took the ball around Pope, but centre-back John McCombe cleared his first effort off the line and he failed to turn his second chance on target.
Flitcroft’s men slowly got to grips with the challenge and continued their improvement after the break, as Danny Mayor tested Pope with a snapshot he just managed to turn past the post.
But the Minstermen always posed a threat from set-pieces and the referee’s assistant had to come to Bury’s rescue, flagging for offside after McCombe turned home the loose ball following a high free kick into the box.
Buoyed by a Soares strike that whistled over the bar from 12 yards, Flitcroft threw on the cavalry, playing the final 15 minutes with four strikers after Danny Rose and Clive Platt replaced midfielders Chris Sedgwick and Andrew Tutte.
But some soft refereeing from Geoff Eltringham, who refused several opportunities to book York players for late tackles, ensured Bury could never get their fluent passing game going.
And the frustration boiled over for Nardiello, who was given his marching orders for two identical mis-timed challenges in the space of eight minutes.
It is testament, though, to Bury’s new-found belief under Flitcroft that they continued to pour forward until the final whistle.
And if they can carry that attitude into next season, it is unlikely the Shakers will need to rely on miracles come the final reckoning.