COMETH the hour, cometh the man.
Ahead of what is undoubtedly Bury Town’s most critical game of the Ryman League Premier Division season, captain courageous Tom Bullard has declared himself fit and ready to rumble (writes Mark Williams).
The Blues have desperately missed their inspirational leader for almost a month due to an ankle problem, but he is poised to start his first game since March 11 when Bury bid to topple league-leaders Sutton United tomorrow (3pm).
Victory for title-chasing Town will edge them to within two points of the summit and more than 100 Blues’ fans are set to show their support when they endeavour to make it a sea of blue in south London.
“This game represents exactly why we play at this level,” said team boss Richard Wilkins. “There will be a big crowd of more than 1,000 and we will take our fair share of support – which will make for a great atmosphere.
“Of course it is a huge bonus having Bully back. We all know that he gives everything to the cause and he is a leader. Sam Nunn and Roscoe Hipperson have done well lately so it really gives me something to think about. It is must win for us in terms of wanting to win the league. They have said they are going to go out all guns blazing so that means both teams will be going for it.
“We tend to thrive on the big stage and we need to win if we are to have a real go at winning automatic promotion in our final five matches of the season.”
Midfield trio James Scowcroft, Chris Henderson and Kieran Leabon have all improved fitness levels following injuries and Wilkins believes his outfit are in as decent shape as they have been all year.
“Everyone is coming back to full fitness at just the right time and we are in good shape,” said Wilkins. “It can all change very quickly though. With hard pitches at this stage of the season, it is always possible you can lose a couple of players quickly.”
The Blues will need to be at their very best if they are to return to Suffolk with all three points – The U’s are undefeated at home in the league all campaign.
But Town will cast their minds back to the reverse fixture on January 22 when goals from Lee Reed and James Scowcroft completed a fine comeback in a 2-1 win, in front of 720 spectators at Ram Meadow.
“It is still very tight at the top of the league and we haven’t even cemented our play-off place yet,” said Wilkins. “I think they will be happy with a point because that will maintain their five-point lead with five to go and they will be tough to catch then.”
This fixture doubled in enormity when United were surprisingly held to a 0-0 stalemate at struggling Aveley on Saturday - the same afternoon that Bury were grinding out a hard-fought 1-0 win against Croydon Athletic.
“I told the players that this game could prove to be more difficult than the Sutton game because they are fighting for their life at the bottom,” added Wilkins. “When you review the game, our goalkeeper Nick Pope didn’t really have a shot to save in anger so I have to be pleased in that respect.”
*Meanwhile, Wilkins added that following a meeting with the players late last week, he has decided to field a strong side for the Suffolk Premier Cup final against Needham Market next Friday (7pm).
There was some doubt as to what team the Bury chief would field, with such a crucial league game away at Cray Wanderers, less than 48 hours later.
“The players wanted this and they are fired up for the final,” he said.
The club is open between 12 and 1pm on Sunday, and Monday evening for those wishing to book their place on a coach for the Portman Road showpiece. Tickets are £5.