RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Bury Town 0 Thamesmead Town 0: Goalkeeper Marcus Garnham said the Bury Town dressing room remains a happy place, in spite of recent off-the-field revelations.
With the club enduring a ‘tight cash-flow situation’, the Blues’ players did not receive all their money for November and were asked to take pay cuts, while seeing three popular teammates — Shane Tolley, David Bridges and Ryan Semple — move on.
Despite not being at their best, Bury battled to a goalless draw against Thamesmead Town on Saturday — their eighth unbeaten match in all competitions — with Garnham keeping his fifth clean sheet in his last six games.
“We’ve been playing really well at the back and defending really well as a team,” said the former Woodbridge Town shot stopper, who won the Ryman Premier’s ‘golden glove’ award for December after keeping four clean sheets during the month. “I haven’t had loads of saves to make, but I think our togetherness has shown through our results.”
He added: “We’ve always been a tight-knit group, really get on well and help each other out.
“It’s great that it’s showed on the pitch that things haven’t affected us — even though it wasn’t a very good game against Thamesmead — and after the match we’re chatting and having a laugh still, thinking about other things.”
Bury — who welcomed a slightly-above-average crowd of 327 to Ram Meadow — made just one enforced change to the starting XI that beat AFC Hornchurch 3-2 on December 28.
With Seb Dunbar suspended, Joe Whight switched from central midfield to left-back, with the fit-again John Kennedy returning in the middle of the pitch alongside Russell Short.
Thamesmead’s match with Billericay was on last week while Bury’s clash with Hampton and Richmond Borough fell victim to the weather, so it was no surprise the visitors looked the more sprightly in the opening stages.
Sean Roberts shot straight at Garnham and lively winger Rashid Kamara fired well over, but Jordan Patrick responded for the hosts by finding the hands of visiting custodian Rob Budd from 25 yards with Bury’s first shot in the 20th minute.
Garnham was alert again to save low to his right a minute later when Derek Duncan connected with a diving header from Shamir Mullings’ right-wing cross.
Thamesmead targetman Mullings proceeded to twice let the Blues off when he failed to collect Roberts’ ball over the top and then miscontrolled a cross with the goal at his mercy.
Bury improved as the first half went on and Adam Bailey-Dennis planted a back-post header wide from Billy Clark’s left-wing corner before Anthony Roulston could not get enough when sliding in to divert Patrick’s low cross into the hands of Budd.
Patrick was denied a superb goal by the assistant referee’s flag when he strayed just beyond the last man and brilliantly flicked a volley over Budd from Danny Cunningham’s lofted ball forward, but Mead finished the opening period on top.
When Patrick lost the ball in the Thamesmead half, Bury suddenly found themselves on the backfoot and Mullings meandered forward, waltzed his way past two woeful challenges and smashed a stunning 20-yard strike against the underside of Garnham’s crossbar.
Garnham reacted well on the stroke of the interval to punch the ball away from two onrushing attackers, having initially failed to hold Kamara’s long-range drive.
There appeared to be renewed urgency from the Blues when the match resumed after half-time and Cunningham really should have given his side the lead.
The ball had already pinballed its way around the away side’s penalty area once when it happened again five minutes into the second period and broke clear to Cunningham, but Bury’s enigmatic number 11 could only guide the ball against the post when he seemed set to hand them the lead.
Thamesmead were restricted to long-range efforts throughout the remainder of the match and only tested Garnham once — through Kamara.
Bury’s Clark was forced off with a slight knock with just a quarter of an hour remaining, but just prior to that he latched on to Kennedy’s header from Miles Smith’s cross and volleyed across the face of goal and wide.
The introduction of youngsters Ryan Taylor, Liam Wales and Ross Bailey provided a flagging Bury with renewed impetus, but all three missed the target in the closing minutes, with Taylor tamely screwing wide with the final shot of the match.
After the stalemate, Garnham hailed the impact of Bury’s homegrown youngsters.
“The young lads have come on and done really well,” he said. “Taylor put one wide at the end, but it will come because they are good lads.”