BURTON ALBION 1-1 BURYLate substitute Tyler Walker capped his home Brewers debut with a stoppage time equaliser to grab a draw from the jaws of defeat against Bury on a frustrating and nervy day for Nigel Clough's men at the Pirelli Stadium.
Battling to find their form again following two below par performances and results over Easter the Brewers had to react to the second half sending off of Hamza Choudhury for a second bookable offence and the hammer blow of veteran striker Ryan Lowe grabbing a goal for the Shakers just three minutes later as Albion struggled to come to terms with what appeared to be the injustice of the red card shown by referee Ross Joyce to the young Leicester loanee.
Instead it was another of Albion's borrowed young guns who came to the rescue calmly slotting home Lucas Akins' cross with the game well into four minutes of added time. As Clough would comment after the game, it felt like a win in the circumstances and could prove to be an 'incredible' and important point. Albion may have been deposed by the runaway train that is Wigan at the top of the table but more importantly Clough's old side, Sheffield United, did Albion a huge favour by beating third placed Walsall leaving the Brewers eight points ahead of the Saddlers.
With the disappointment of Oldham and Millwall to get over there was no surprises that changes were made for the visit of the mid table Shakers. Robbie Weir was restored to the midfield to make his 156 League appearance for the club and put him at the top of Burton's appearance makers since joining the League in 2009. The Northern Irishman came in for Tom Naylor who had been substituted at half time at The Den on Monday. The other change saw Calum Butcher surprisingly left on the bench as Mason Bennett returned to the starting line up in a left side role that allowed Mark Duffy to slot in behind Stuart Beavon in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
An early corner for Bury found Tom Pope in space at the back post and Jon McLaughlin had a move awkwardly to his left to clutch the ball by the post.
In the spring sunshine Burton were soon back on the attack with Lucas Akins cutting inside onto his left foot on six minutes but unfortunately his curling effort was high and wide of the target.
Danny Mayor, returning to the Bury side after a spell on the sidelines, found his way into a shooting position far too easily on nine minutes but fortunately he scuffed his shot and McLaughlin was able to save easily on his six yard line.
Akins was definitely on target with a low shot two minutes later and the Brewers were a tad unlucky when the rebound was cleared just before Duffy could get a shot away from eighty yards.
Just after the quarter of an hour mark Albion were just inches from going in front. Choudhury was encouraged by the Bury defence backing off him and from the edge of the box he drove a cross shot through the penalty area with Bennett steaming in down the middle and just unable to get a telling touch on the ball.
The first yellow card of the game arrived midway through the first half when Cian Bolger, on loan from Southend United, came flying in and sent Duffy flying. Luckily the Brewers man was able to continue but Bury did make a change before the free kick was taken. Full back Joe Riley had been struggling for a while after picking up an earlier know and Dan Gardner, on loan from Chesterfield, came on in midfield with Craig Jones dropping in at right back.
Bolger was quickly followed into the book by John O'Sullivan who crudely brought Damien McCrory down just inside the Bury half launching a quick counter attack.
Pope was on the end of another cross from a corner on 34 but this time he was always on the stretch and unable to get his header on target.
The game descended into a somewhat scrappy affair, summed up by Chris Hussey's free kick being easily cleared and Albion sweeping upfield only for Bennett to fire high over the bar with supporting options struggling to get up and join him.
Referee Ross Joyce somehow came up with five minutes at the end of the first half and it was Albion who almost snatched the initiative deep into added time when Bennett sent over a deep cross that picked out Duffy but having taken a touch to control he was quickly closed down as he went to shoot and inevitably the sides went in at the break all square.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Bury
Bury sent on their loan striker from Blackburn, Nathan Delfouneso in place of skipper Tom Soares. The former Aston Villa man was quickly involved and probably should have given his side the lead when Gardner pulled the ball back and the striker had too much time inside the box to turn and shoot but before he knew it McLaughlin had closed down the angle to block.
Burton asserted an element of pressure with a series of corners but their best chance seemed to come when a stray ball across the midfield was intercepted by Akins who strode forwards and sent a left foot shot in on goal. Keeper Chris Neal dealt with that but it fell for Duffy who was just unable to adjust his body enough to hook the ball into the gaping net.
Akins was denied again when Bennett got to the bye line and cut the ball back across and somehow referee Joyce saw fit to book Choudhury as he went in to challenge for the ball on the edge of the area .
It was Burton continuing to go close but not quite close enough and another purposeful run, this time from McCrory saw the ball fizzed through the six yard box with nobody able to get a vital touch before it almost went horribly wrong for Albion.
A tackle from Robbie Weir resulted in the ball falling kindly for Delfouneso who was clean through. With only the keeper the beat the former Villa man screwed his shot horribly wide. What a let off for Clough's men.
However things were about to take a turn for the worse when the Brewers were reduced to ten for the final twenty minutes. Referee Joyce played an advantage when Choudhury caught Mayor and after the attack came to an end out came the second yellow followed by red.
Bury sent on veteran striker Ryan Lowe and he had barely been on the pitch when he headed home at the far post to put the visitors in front. Fellow substitute Gardner had time on the left to pick out a cross and there was nobody around Lowe when he struck a dagger through the hearts of Albion.
Delfouneso did find the net pouncing on a rebound from Danny Mayor's shot but the flag of the assistant referee came to Albion's rescue to give them hope still of rescuing something from the game.
It was all or bust for Albion and Tyler Walker was sent on in place of Phil Edwards to provide added impetus to Burton's front line.
Lowe should have had a second on 83 as the Burton defence was split open but with the goal at his mercy it came down to McLaughlin to come out and block. What an important stop that proved to be come the final reckoning.
The visitors did have the ball in the back of the net once more as Gardner prodded home but fortunately for Burton the eagle eyed assistant spotted that McLaughlin had palmed the ball behind the bye line before Bury could get the ball back into the centre and convert.
Calum Butcher was the last throw of the dice replacing Weir but it was Walker who tested Neal with a shot latching on to fellow substitute Marcus Harness's through pass.
Gardner chanced his arm from long range that rippled the side netting as it came back off the boards and somehow referee Joyce saw a deflection to award a corner.
The Stadium descended into delirium in stoppage time though as Akins' persistence on the right paid off with a low cross that WALKER, timing his run to perfection calmly converted to rescue what had looked like an improbable point.
Who knows how important that point may be come the final reckoning. A goal of the season contender it wasnt but Walker's strike could prove to be a vital one when the final points tallies are totted up at the end of the season.