Bury Town 2 AFC Hornchurch 1
by Derek Bish at Ram Meadow
CONNOR Hall’s full league debut for Bury Town could hardly have ended in more dramatic fashion than it did on Saturday against high-flying AFC Hornchurch.
The 18-year-old England Colleges defender replaced the injured Mark Coulson at left-back and put in an impressive display as the Blues moved up to sixth in the Ryman League Premier Division thanks to their 2-1 success over the 10-man Essex side.
It looked as if a controversial penalty was going to deny the home side victory until John Sands pounced three minutes into stoppage time to fire the ball home in front of Bury’s second biggest home crowd of the season.
Speaking on the Ram Meadow pitch after his debut, Hall said: “I thought it was brilliant — I was a bit dodgy to start with, but I grew into the game and tried to put myself about a bit in the second half.
“I’m aiming to get a run of games in the first team. I want to be there or thereabouts and, when I get a chance, impress the manager.
“They were second in the league before the start of the game. It was quite a physical one to come into, but I thought I coped all right with it.
“This year I feel a lot more a part of the team. It was my first year training with them in pre-season, I’ve been on the bench lately and now I’ve started a league game.”
Hornchurch were the stronger side in the early stages, but there was a lack of incisiveness from both teams and it looked for long periods as if just one goal would settle the match.
The opener arrived in the 23rd minute when Sam Reed was quickest to the near post to meet brother Lee’s right-wing corner and guide the ball inside the post with his right foot.
Marcus Garnham made a superb block after Hornchurch’s Frankie Curley was afforded too much space around the Bury penalty area before the Blues’ stopper dived to hold Rickie Hayles’ header from the resultant corner.
Tempers flared for the first time on the stroke of half-time when Reiss Noel was booked for hacking down Sam Reed from behind and a similar challenge just six minutes the other side of the break resulted in the visitors’ number five receiving his marching orders.
However, Bury could not make their extra man count thanks to poor decision-making in the final third, the first when Sam Reed accelerated away from Hayles but shot at away custodian Joe Woolley when a pass across the six-yard box would have been better.
Kieran Leabon scuffed the ball into Woolley’s hands with 20 minutes to play before John Sands forced the keeper into a class save with a 25-yard drive that was superbly tipped over.
Sam Reed hit Woolley’s legs when one-on-one again and Bury’s misses could have proved costly when Sam Nunn was harshly adjudged to have handled Jonathan Hunt’s fierce shot and the former Birmingham City midfielder was the man on the spot to tuck the resultant penalty beyond Garnham into the bottom right-hand corner.
Lee Reed headed brother Sam’s cross wide, but the Essex outfit seemed set to earn all three points when Lewis Smith released Michael Spencer, only for him to put the ball past the left-hand post.
But there would be a sting in the tail and, when Leabon made a driving run down the left, his cross hit the legs of Sam Reed and the ball bounced free to Sands, who swivelled to drive a low right-footed shot into the net past a stranded Woolley.
The match ended on a sour note when a mass brawl broke out at the final whistle, with Bullard receiving a cut mouth in the melee.