NEWPORT County AFC failed to build on Saturday’s victory at Torquay United as they were held to a 0-0 stalemate at home by lowly Bury.
The Exiles’ own relegation worries were eased by a much-needed three points at Plainmoor but in football parlance the Shakers are ‘fighting for their lives’ at the foot of League Two.
This was never going to be an easy night for Justin Edinburgh’s men then but the lacklustre display and disappointing result felt like a missed opportunity to reignite their play-off hopes, especially with free-falling Portsmouth the visitors to Rodney Parade this weekend.
Edinburgh named an unchanged side after the 1-0 win at basement boys Torquay.
But the Exiles didn’t resemble a side with renewed hope and confidence in the early stages. And certainly not a group who believe that a top-seven finish is still a realistic aim.
Sloppy defending allowed visiting skipper Craig Jones two glorious opportunities inside the County box in the opening 15 minutes.
The first came after new centre-back Kevin Feely, on his home debut alongside Darcy Blake, missed a cross but Jones screwed his shot wide of Ian McLoughlin’s far post.
The second saw Jones completely unmarked no more than three yards out but he failed to control Danny Mayor’s centre and knocked the ball out with his knee for a goal kick.
Shortly afterwards Mayor’s curling effort from the edge of the box was saved superbly by McLoughlin, diving low to his left to tip it round his post.
Saturday’s match-winner Chris Zebroski had County’s first shot on goal after 25 minutes, well saved by former Premier League goalkeeper Brian Jensen.
But the Shakers continued to dominate and striker Clive Platt really should have opened the scoring just over ten minutes before the break.
Chris Hussey swung in a perfect cross; giving the journeyman striker a free header six yards out but he somehow missed the target by a good 15 yards.
At the other end Robbie Willmott forced Jensen into a smart save with a fierce drive from just inside the box and captain Mike Flynn tried his luck from 30 yards out but Edinburgh won’t have been pleased with his side’s first half showing.
The Exiles boss resisted the urge to change too much at the break but did give young striker Aaron Holloway a chance to impress in place of the ineffective Danny Crow.
Flynn picked up where he’d left off with another volley that Jensen dived low to his right to palm away.
And County improved a little but with two big men up front in Zebroski and Holloway they tended to hit the ball long and the Bury defence rarely looked unduly troubled.
The frustrated home fans called for a penalty on the hour when Zebroski went down in the box but Jensen clearly scooped the ball away from County’s top scorer and referee Chris Sarginson showed no interest in pointing to the spot.
Encouraged by the fans, County did raise their game a little in the latter stages with Flynn forcing another good save from Jensen and Lee Minshull grazing the outside of a post with a header from Willmott’s corner.
At the other end Feely did well to block Jones’ goalbound effort and McLoughlin got down well to deny Chris Sedgwick at his near post.
But neither side did enough to win a low quality game and Edinburgh’s introduction of Max Porter for Minshull suggested that he was happy to settle for a point in the end.
County: McLoughlin, Hughes, Feely, Blake, Naylor, Minshull (Porter, 79), Flynn, Chapman, Zebroski, Crow (Holloway, 46), Willmott
Subs not used: Sandell, Jeffers, Worley, Jolley, Howe
Booked: Minshull, Holloway, Chapman
Bury: Jensen, McNulty, Jones, Hussey, Sedgwick, Mayor, Tutte (Proctor, 64), Nardiello, Platt (Akpa-Akpro, 70), Veseli, Mills
Subs not used: Hinds, Cameron, Grimes, Young, Charles-Cook
Referee: Chris Sarginson
Argus star man: Flynn