Bury Town manager Ben Chenery believes his side ‘have grown’ after seeing off Tonbridge Angels at Ram Meadow on Saturday.
The Blues recorded just their third win in 22 matches in all competitions this season to lift themselves out of the Ryman League Premier Division relegation zone with a 2-1 triumph.
Although Tom Parkinson headed the Angels into the lead at the end of a dominant opening half an hour, Bury were the better side for the remainder of the match and levelled through Jack Willbye before Connor Hall smashed home the winner midway through the second half.
“I’m proud of the lads,” said Chenery, who lost long-serving goalkeeper Marcus Garnham to AFC Sudbury in the week leading up to the game but acquired the services of striker Chris Benjamin from Billericay Town and midfielder Jack Willbye, back on loan from Sky Bet Championship outfit Ipswich Town. “Everybody dug in, were accountable for themselves and really ground out the win.”
He added: “I felt we were in control for spells and they were as well, but I just felt we have grown a bit as a team.
“Connor Hall was fantastic, as was Miles (Smith) alongside him — there were a lot of good performances.
“Seeing Justin Miller, who is a good friend of mine and has played a lot of League football, in there calms them down and Chris Benjamin at the top has helped to give us a better spine.”
Tonbridge’s Chris Piper fired the first warning shot when his blockbuster left-footed strike from almost 40 yards was tipped around the post by Steven Fenner, who was thrown in for just his second Bury appearance after Garnham’s departure last Thursday.
That marked the start of a good period of pressure from the Angels and last-ditch blocks from centre-half Smith and goalkeeper Fenner in quick succession prevented the visitors from taking the lead through Tommy Whitnell and Ben King.
Charlie Slocombe shaved the Blues’ crossbar and it was no surprise when Tonbridge took the lead on the half-hour-mark.
King was level with the edge of the centre circle in Bury’s half on Tonbridge’s left touchline when he delivered a pinpoint pass to beyond the far post where Parkinson looped a header over the stranded Fenner and into the net.
Whitnell was afforded far too much space between Bury’s defence and midfield, which allowed him to drive a low shot just past the foot of the left post, but Bury — who had shown much more attacking intent than in recent weeks — levelled nine minutes before the break.
New signing Chris Benjamin touched Jordan Patrick’s cross goalwards, goalkeeper James Steel saved, but the ball broke for Willbye to steer the loose ball into the net.
Hall made two crucial tackles in his own penalty area, the second of which raised a penalty appeal from the away team for handball, but referee Mark Potkins waved play on.
Substitute Alex Teniola, on for Piper early in the second period, should have put Tonbridge back in front with his first touch, but headed over the top from eight yards.
After that, Bury were in almost complete control and had a huge shout for a penalty themselves when Willbye mugged Laurence Ball on the edge of the Angels’ penalty area and was brought down by the defender.
Although Potkins did whistle on this occasion, he indicated for a free-kick, not a spot-kick, much to the anger of the Blues’ supporters behind the goal and Chenery.
Chris Benjamin — whose namesake Joe, an ex-Tonbridge striker, limped off in the first half — tested Steel with a low shot and, at the other end, Billy Medlock backheeled the ball at Fenner.
They merely preceded the winning goal, which arrived from the boot of Hall in the 68th minute to take the defender level with Remi Garrett as Bury’s leading scorer this season with three goals.
Hall met Willbye’s corner from the left with a header that Steel kept out, but the left-footed player followed up to thrash the ball into the roof of the net.
Bury sat a little too deep, but kept Tonbridge at arm’s length for the remainder of the encounter and Whitnell’s tame flicked header into the hands of Fenner was all they had to offer.
The Blues left the field to a huge round of applause from the adoring Ram Meadow faithful and match-winner Hall was delighted to repay them.
He said: “It was brilliant for us and the fans because we’ve been getting a lot of stick recently.
“We’ve been working hard, trying to get a result, so for that to go in meant a lot to me.
“We’ve got to kick on now — hopefully this is the start of a good run.
“We’ve got to start putting results together because we’re right down there.”