Bury Town 2
Lowestoft Town 0
Bury manager Richard Wilkins was pleased the Blues lifted their fourth piece of silverware in four years to ease the pain of missing the play-offs.
Following on from last year’s Isthmian League Cup triumph and the Premier Cup and Southern League Division One Midlands success of the previous two seasons, Craig Parker and Tom Bullard struck to defeat Ryman League Premier rivals Lowestoft Town at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground on Tuesday night.
Wilkins conceded injuries had wrecked the Blues’ chances of meeting their league objective, but hoped momentum could be gained through the summer by finishing their campaign on a high.
“It was a good game,” he said. “It was end-to-end and there were chances for both sides, but we showed a bit of quality when we needed to and I thought we looked strong considering we haven’t had a competitive game for two-and-a-half weeks.
“I was really pleased — it sort of made up for a season where we lost our way with injuries and were never really able to achieve what we set out to do.
“It’s always nice to win a trophy, so we’ll take that and finish our season on a high.”
Played in a constant downpour of rain, the early signs were not good for the Blues as they were forced to scramble away a low cross after just 10 seconds, but they soon worked their way into the game.
The first sign of their intricate midfield play was in evidence when Parker turned in midfield and Jordan Patrick burst forward before Lee Reed’s rasping 25-yard drive was superbly kept out by former Needham Market goalkeeper Andrew Plummer, who flung himself to his right at full stretch.
More neat passing worked an opportunity for Sam Reed, who dragged his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area in the 10th minute, but Bury had to wait just another 180 seconds to take the lead.
A Lowestoft counter-attack broke down and Lee Reed mugged Adam Smith on the Bury right before being joined in their own breakaway by Sam Reed, John Sands and Patrick.
Sam Reed’s strike was well kept out by Plummer, but Parker followed up to volley home his 15th goal of the season.
The Trawlerboys tried to respond immediately when Scott Mitchell rattled the crossbar with a 25-yard free-kick less than a minute after Bury had taken the lead.
Michael Frew missed the coastal outfit’s best chance to get back into the game when he headed Joe Francis’ cross straight into Marcus Garnham’s hands from six yards, but at the other end, Patrick streaked away from ex-Blue Lee Smith and rolled the ball across goal and wide.
A diving Lee Smith headed Adam Smith’s cross wide and then sent over a left-wing corner that Gleeson narrowly nodded over at the back post when he should have found the target.
Plummer made an excellent reaction stop from an unmarked Sands before the west Suffolk outfit did their best to hand Lowestoft a way back into the match.
Patrick played his side into trouble, allowing Mitchell to send a deflected drive at Garnham, before Russell Short did not get enough purchase on his header back towards his goalkeeper and Frew nodded the ball past the custodian before right-back Short recovered.
The half ended with Garnham plunging to his left to keep out a skidding shot from Chris Henderson, but Bury deservedly led when the whistle sounded for the interval.
In a quieter opening to the second half, some tremendous one-touch build-up play was wasted by a frustrated Sands, who slashed high and wide seconds after appearing to be fouled.
Lowestoft’s efforts to find an equaliser resulted in Frew lifting the ball into Garnham’s hands and Tom Bullard making a goal-saving tackle on former Bury teammate Henderson.
However, the Blues upped their levels again and Sam Reed was denied by Plummer at his near post before Sam Nunn’s free header skidded wide of the goal.
Evan Key, producing his best display in a blue shirt to date, bravely blocked as Lowestoft desperately tried to force the ball home from a minor scramble in the Bury penalty area, but it was down the other end the net would bulge in the 66th minute.
After Curtley Williams was booked for hauling down Sam Reed, Lee Reed curled an inswinging free-kick into the 18-yard box with his left foot and Bullard rose at the back post to loop his header over Plummer and into the goal.
It was only then that Lowestoft really came to the party as Garnham tipped away Frew’s header before Nunn cleared Henderson’s follow-up off the line.
Lee Smith stung the hands of the Bury goalkeeper before the same player angled a drive just beyond Garnham’s left-hand post, turned a cross wide from close range and then curled a free-kick into the side netting.
There was time for Billy Clark to make a cameo appearance — his first competitive action since December — even if it was just for a matter of seconds before the final whistle sounded and Bury were trophy winners again.