LEE Clark praised Bury’s fighting spirit after they ground out a well-earned point in a 0-0 draw at play-off chasing Millwall.

James Vaughan had the best chance of the first half but he was denied by a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Tony Craig when through on goal.

The Lions built up a head of steam after half time but could not break down the Shakers’ water-tight defence.

Steve Morison thought he had opened the scoring when he finished off a swift counter-attack midway through the second half, but the forward’s effort was ruled out for offside.

A well-organised performance earned a third consecutive clean sheet and lifted Bury up to 17th in League One, four points above the drop zone.

“I am delighted with the result and I’m delighted with how it was achieved,” Clark said. “I think you have seen a different side to this group of players. They really dug in from the first whistle. They were aggressive against a strong Millwall team.

“We showed we can handle the intense atmosphere and we have had some openings ourselves, not as many as we’ve made in previous matches but I thought the defensive performance from the team was superb.

“That’s three clean sheets on the bounce now which is very pleasing and it’s a great place to start from, especially when we’ve got the attacking players we have.

“When you go away from home you are not going to have it your own way. We explained to the players they were going to have to show a fighting spirit, and it was there in abundance.”

On the few occasions Millwall got a sight of goal, Bury stopper Joe Murphy came to the rescue.

The on-loan Huddersfield keeper pulled off a stunning save in the 51st minute to deny Jed Wallace, and he really came into his own in the closing stages as the hosts cranked up the pressure.

The 35-year-old was in the perfect position to stop Byron Webster’s header on the line then made a superb reflex save at the feet of Lee Gregory, which drew praise from Clark.

“Joe was superb when he was called upon,” he said. “The one he saved with his legs and then he’s come and punched the ball afterwards.

“He’s been superb since I arrived at the club. It’s really pleasing when you get a clean sheet because he’s desperate for them.

“He’s a great motivator and talker in the dressing room.”

There was some bad news on the day for the Shakers, though, with Andrew Tutte limping off injured on 11 minutes.

The central midfielder had only just returned to action following a hamstring tear but was withdrawn early on his 100th appearance for the club.

Manchester City loanee Kean Bryan was introduced while 16-year-old Callum Styles, who has missed only one game since Clark took charge of the club, was protected from the “ferocity” of the game.

Clark said: “It was a setback when Andrew Tutte had to come off. He thinks it was more cramp than a pull. If it’s a pull to the same area that he has had the injury then we’re in a bit of trouble.

“I didn’t want to throw Kean on as early as I did. I thought it was a different type of game for young Styles, in terms of the ferocity of it. We thought Kean’s physical attributes would be more suited to this game.”

Despite their lowly position in the table, Bury are one of the form teams in the division after picking up 18 points from a possible 27.

With a tricky final seven matches against a host of teams vying for promotion, Clark says his players can use the confidence they have built up to continue the push away from danger.

He added: “We have shown we can compete against the top teams.

“We have got good players who can play at a higher level themselves.

“Confidence is a huge thing in football. Players who are playing with confidence don’t even think about things they just go out there and get on with their job.”

Match ratings

Bury (5-3-2): Murphy 8; Moore 6, Barnett 7, Kay 7, C. Burgess 7, Leigh 7; Caddis 6, Tutte 6 (Bryan 11, 7), Mellis 7; Lowe 6 (Hope 57, 6), Vaughan 6. Subs not used: Lainton, Styles, Pennant, Miller, Pope.

Millwall (4-4-2): King; Cummings (Worrall 88), Webster, Cooper, Craig; Wallace, Williams, Thompson (Butcher 79), Ferguson (O’Brien 68); Morison, Gregory. Subs not used: Girling, Hutchinson, Onyedinma, Romeo.

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey).