RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Bury Town 2 Lewes 1: Stand-in captain Russell Short believed Ryan Semple’s 96th-minute winner was no less than Bury Town deserved against Lewes on Tuesday.
Short and Lewes’ Jack Dixon exchanged strikes either side of half-time, but — after the Rooks controversially had a second ruled out for a foul on debutant Miles Smith — Semple dramatically struck deep into stoppage time.
With six first-team players missing and three making their first start for the Blues, their success against a Lewes side that had previously been beaten only once in the league this season was all the more remarkable.
“I thought we deserved to win,” said Short. “After a bit of a rough spell, we’ve all stuck together and dug in.
“We were missing six first-team players, but everyone stood up, did their job and we thoroughly deserved the three points.
“There were a lot of changes in the summer and it takes time to gel, but we’re definitely getting there now — there’s a great team spirit and everyone is pulling in the right direction.”
With all the absentees — including Danny Cunningham (eye injury), who is yet to make his third debut for the Blues — Bury made five changes to the side that knocked Chatham Town out of the FA Trophy on November 2.
Histon players Smith and Jack Higgs — who have signed on dual registration terms from the Cambridgeshire club — as well as Team Bury striker David Lampshire all made their first starts for the Ram Meadow-based outfit.
Richard Wilkins’ charges looked solid in the opening exchanges, but the visitors appeared to be slowly gaining the upper hand when Nicky Wheeler found Marcus Garnham’s hands on the break and Bridges inadvertently looped a header towards his own goal that Garnham athletically arched back to tip over the crossbar.
However, Bury snatched the lead when David Bridges crashed a header against the crossbar from Semple’s left-wing corner and Short followed up to thump home the rebound left-footed from just inside the 18-yard box.
Garnham spread himself to save from Reece Hall five minutes before the interval and was called into action again just past the hour-mark to acrobatically palm Dixon’s curling effort around the post.
In between, Higgs had tested visiting custodian Rikki Banks from long range, but Lewes struck next through Dixon, who got in front of everyone to power in a header from Bayan Fenwick’s left-wing free-kick.
The Rooks looked as though they would go on to win the match and had the ball in the back of the Bury net 11 minutes from time, only to have it ruled out in controversial circumstances.
Wheeler mugged Smith on Bury’s right and crossed for substitute Dan Smith to convert with a diving header, but after a lengthy discussion between referee Mark Potkins and one of his assistants, it was decided — much to Lewes’ disgust — that Wheeler had fouled the Blues’ right-back.
The remainder of the match became a niggly affair, until the 96th minute when Liam Wales showed great tenacity on the left to get away from his marker and coolly square the ball to Semple, who curled it into the corner from just inside the penalty area before disappearing to the bottom of a pile of delirious blue-shirted players.
Reflecting on Lewes’ disallowed goal, Short added: “My first reaction was that it was a foul.”
Bury: Garnham 8, Smith 8, Dunbar 8, Kennedy 8, SHORT 8, Bridges 8, Semple 8, Bailey 7, Lampshire 7 (Roulston 63, 7), Higgs 7 (Wales 85, 7), Patrick 8. Subs not used: Kawaguchi, Weavers.
n Bury Town SuperDraw week 24 results: £1,000 D Aston; £150 M Kitney; £100 M Smith; £75 B Kyne; £50 R Monk, I Craik; £25 S Bruce, S Bartholomew, J Young, J B Kempton. The birth date drawn was 11/02/46, but there were no winners so next week’s prize will be £300.