Former City UEFA Cup hero Colin Woodthorpe was promising his former employers another game and a half back at Gigg Lane next week after the Shakers came within ten minutes of dumping the Carrow Road club out of this season's FA Cup competition at the first hurdle.
Andy Bishop's controversial opener on 70 minutes had put Bury firmly in the driving seat as the Championship hosts drove boss Glenn Roeder to distraction by spurning chance after chance and it took Gary Doherty's scrambled effort ten minutes from time to finally break the Shakers' brave resistance and keep Norwich City's name in today's fourth round draw.
“It was good,” said Woodthorpe, as the 38-year-old veteran of the San Siro rolled back the years to keep the Canaries at bay.
“It was lovely to come back here. I spent four great years here in the 90s and it's a fantastic place to come and play,” said the one-time Chester City youngster, who proved an able understudy on the left-hand side of the Norwich defence that year.
He was quick to point out that he was still 38 – his 39th birthday comes in a couple of weeks time. It did, however, make him the oldest player on the pitch as he beat City's Dion Dublin. And with Colchester United's Teddy Sheringham bowing out courtesy of the Us 3-1 home defeat by East Anglian neighbours Peterborough United, Woodthorpe is likely to be the oldest outfield player left in the competition.
“I'm not 39 yet – I'm 39 in a couple of weeks. I am older than Dion though – his birthday is in April; I checked that in the programme – but I felt fine today. And that's the guage. If you're not feeling great then you're not going to continue playing.”
Slammed in alongside Shakers' 32-year-old skipper Dave Challinor, the veteran Bury pair used all their Football League experience to keep the Curetons, the martins and the Huckerbys under wraps – even if all three would have big, big chances to win the tie before the 90 minutes was up.
“We kept the crowd quiet and were hoping to get in at half-time at 0-0 – as you would do at any away game,” said Woodthorpe. “And then anything can happen in the second-half.”
As it almost did once Bishop had found himself all alone – and two yards offside, according to City boss Roeder – at the far post and in a perfect position to thump a header home beyond David Marshall.
“If you get 1-0 up with 20 minutes to go then you've got to see what you can do,” said Woodthorpe, about to come face to face with City's own 38-year-old veteran.
“They put Dion up front and he's a handful – he's made fools out of better players than us. And in the air his ability is beyond question, so it was always going to be difficult,” said Woodthorpe.
The Shakers arrived in Norfolk without a win to their name in their last six league games and with young boss Chris Casper under growing pressure. And had Martin's free header nicked in after 43 seconds, so northern hearts may well have dropped. In the event, however, Bury grew in confidence and thoroughly deserved a second bite at the cherry. As Woodthorpe noted, football is all too often about those fine lines – that header nicking six inches inside the post as opposed to six inches outside it.
“It's fine lines. We've gone from an eight or nine unbeaten stretch and then we were losing by the odd goal. And if you can put your finger on it, then you're a better man than me.
“It's fine margins – some things were just not going for us. You go through these runs, but we were confident. We weren't getting turned over by a lot of goals. It was just the odd thing – a couple of games we were beaten in the last minute by wonder goals and there's not a lot that you can do about that except keep on going.”
This time last year and Bury's FA Cup adventure came to an abrupt halt when the Shakers were adjudged to have fielded an ineligible player – the on-loan Stephen Turnbull from Hartlepool. Their second round success over Chester City – and a ticket to Portman Road for the third round – was wiped out.
“It would rankle – it's paperwork. We would have ended up with Ipswich and possibly have got the same result that Chester did – they got a draw and got a replay,” said Woodthorpe, with Town's Norfolk neighbours now providing Gigg Lane's third round guests.
“You never can tell,” said Woodthorpe, quizzed as to the Shakers' hopes next week. “It's whatever team turns up on the night and who wants it more.
“It's not going to be an easy game for either team. They're probably wishing that they could do without the replay; they'd have wanted it dead and buried today, but we go again.
“We knew that we were going to give them a game today and the same thing is going to happen again. We'll give them a game and it depends who wants it more on the night. They've got to come and beat us; we've got to go home, get together and beat them. So it's going to be an interesting, little tricky one.”