Skipper is still striving to reach perfection despite vital victory

OPENING GOAL: Billy Clark is congratulated by Danny Cunningham after opening the scoring for Bury Town against AFC Hornchurch at Ram Meadow on Saturday. The former Ipswich Town midfielder headed home in the eighth minute to set the Blues on their way to one of their best victories of the season (Picture: Paul Tebbutt)

OPENING GOAL: Billy Clark is congratulated by Danny Cunningham after opening the scoring for Bury Town against AFC Hornchurch at Ram Meadow on Saturday. The former Ipswich Town midfielder headed home in the eighth minute to set the Blues on their way to one of their best victories of the season (Picture: Paul Tebbutt)

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Tom Bullard was disappointed to see his side’s run of clean sheets come to an end, despite a vital victory over AFC Hornchurch in the Ryman League Premier Division on Saturday.

The Blues had recorded four consecutive clean sheets prior to their meeting with the high-flying Urchins and were 2-0 up inside 11 minutes thanks to strikes from Billy Clark and Joe Whight.

Bury’s third — an own goal from Hornchurch’s Alex Bentley — was sandwiched between a brace from the visitors’ Stefan Payne — both of which captain Bullard felt could have been prevented.

“It’s a massive three points, but I’m disappointed with the two goals we conceded because they were both sloppy,” he said. “They didn’t look like scoring, but those mistakes meant we made it hard for ourselves.”

Bury were unchanged from Boxing Day’s 2-0 triumph at Canvey Island for a typically physical encounter against Hornchurch, who ended the Blues’ promotion hopes in the play-off semi-finals in 2012.

Payne smashed a glorious chance over Marcus Garnham’s crossbar less than three minutes in, but with Clark dominating midfield, the Blues went in front in the eighth minute.

Man-of-the-match Clark skipped away from Elliott Styles and slid the ball into the path of winger Jordan Patrick.

Although visiting custodian Inigo Echepare saved Patrick’s low shot with his foot, the ball looped up and Clark powered home a header from close range.

The Blues’ one-goal lead became a two-goal advantage three minutes later when Whight connected with Danny Cunningham’s deep free-kick and sent his header arcing over Echepare and into the net.

Garnham made terrific saves from Tambeson Eyong and Payne to preserve Bury’s first-half lead.

Hornchurch pulled one back three minutes after the break when Adam Bailey-Dennis failed to clear Purcell’s cross and Payne tucked home from close range.

However, any thoughts of a comeback were ended quickly as Alex Bentley headed Whight’s free-kick over Echepare and into his own net.

Anthony Roulston somehow failed to connect with a Clark cross and Patrick volleyed over as Bury tried to put the result to bed, while Hornchurch had two goals disallowed for offside and Dave Rainford sidefooted a glorious opportunity wide from 12 yards.

They eventually pulled one back when Payne converted another low cross from Purcell, but the Blues held on to close the gap to the Ryman League Premier Division play-off places.

Bury: Garnham 7, Smith 7, Dunbar 7, Short 7, Bailey-Dennis 7, Bullard 7, Patrick 7, Whight 7, Roulston 5 (Taylor 66, 6), CLARK 8, Cunningham 7 (Semple 46, 6). Subs not used: Wales, Bailey.

Attendance: 367.