Bury had an all too brief stay in the FA Vase this season defeated 1-0 away at Whickham in their first match of the competition, writes James Beedie.

Hundreds of Shakers fans made the long journey north to the small Tyneside town in hope of a successful cup run. Thanks to progressing all the way to the quarterfinals last season Bury were handed a bye to the second round of the FA Vase and under Dave McNabb, a former winner of the FA Vase, Bury fans were wistfully hoping a first Wembley appearance since 1995 might be on the cards.

Standing in their way was Whickham FC. The Lang Jacks were winners of the FA Vase in 1981 and had progressed to this stage of the competition this season from the first qualifying round, scoring 14 goals along the way.

In Bury’s favour however was their strong league form. Unbeaten for nearly a month and yet to concede a goal in all that time, McNabb named an unchanged side from the one that convincingly beat Kendal last week. With the liberty of being able to name seven subs on the bench there were recalls for Benito Lowe and Darius Palma after spells out injured. Only the suspended Connor Comber missed out in a squad that looks much more lean and slimline than earlier in the season.

Bury began the match with the lion’s share of the chances. Charlie Doyle saw a shot that curled just round the far post after good work down the wings from Sam Burns and Gaz Peet. Andy Scarisbrick teed the ball up to Bury forward Andy Briggs who ought to have done better with a shot that went high over the bar.

Whickham did have a couple of opportunities to score themselves. Sam Johnson the tricky forward beat the offside trap but unaware of how much time and space he had, his rushed lob sailed well over the bar. A few minutes later Johnson got in behind the defence again, rounded goalkeeper Harry Wright and fired on goal. His effort was stopped on the line by Peet.

Despite these rare chances for the home side Bury continued to look the side most likely to score. From a quick counter attack Joe Duckworth was played in on goal. Dan Lister the Lang Jacks keeper rushed out well to block the shot. There were further chances for Scarisbrick, Burns and Briggs but to no avail. The closest Bury came to scoring all day fell just before halftime, Scarisbrick beating the offside trap rounded the keeper and shot on goal. A diving Dom Agnew did enough to clear the shot off the line and the loose ball was cleared away for a corner before Scarisbrick could reach the rebound.

The match was goalless at halftime and though Bury had the better chances it hadn’t been a particularly strong performance. Whether the distance travelled, or the sloping uneven pitch being played on Bury could not take charge of the contest.

The lack of control gradually got worse in the second half. Increasingly frustrated Bury forwards gave away free kicks that allowed the home side to clear their lines while the midfield’s passing game was nowhere near as sharp as the Shakers faithful have come to expect. The defence remained strong and steadfast but were far busier than they had been in the opening period. Harry Wright was called upon to make saves from Dale Burrell and Sam Johnson as his unblemished clean sheet record for Bury extended passed the seven hour mark.

With 15 minutes of play remaining and many thinking of a possible penalty shootout to come Sam Burns gave away a free kick in a dangerous area. While Wright did well to save the initial free kick Dom Agnew slammed home the only goal of the game on the rebound.

After the goal the hosts sat back and proved impossible to break down. Substitute Benito Lowe did have the ball in the Whickham net but his effort was ruled out for offside. The rest of the match and Bury’s Wembley hopes slipped away before the final whistle.

The Bury contingent began the return journey home left to wonder what might have been. Focus must now be directed towards the league campaign. The Shakers remain top of the table but will need better performances than today to keep the chasing pack at bay.