RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: Bury Town 2 Waltham Abbey 1
Goals from Ollie Hughes and Bradley Barber saw Bury come from behind against Waltham Abbey to get their 2016/17 campaign off to a winning start at Ram Meadow this afternoon.
In an insipid first half, the visitors had taken the lead from the penalty spot 31 minutes in when Ryan Blackman converted after Blues’ debutant Andrew Cusasck had gone in on him late.
But Bury went into the break level after a goalkeeping error saw Ollie Hughes gobble up a rebound following Bradley Barber’s free-kick causing mayhem.
Barber, revealed as the Blues’ new playing captain with last year’s incumbent Phil Weavers now club captain, then kept his cool to slide the hosts into a 56th minute lead that they did not relinquish in a dominant second period.
Bury boss Ben Chenery named three summer signings in his starting line-up with Dan Heath winning the race for the goalkeeper’s starting jersey, while ex-Norwich United man Cusack started at left-back and youngster Kryan Clements, on a season-long loan from AFC Sudbury, partnered Weavers at the back.
International clearance not coming through yet meant there was no place in the matchday squad for their other new signing, defender or midfielder Tom Debenham, who had joined after having completing a football scholarship in the USA. Meanwhile, a prior commitment meant that striker Sam Reed was also not on the teamsheet, while veteran Justin Miller is not available until after the first three weeks of the season.
With the new clubhouse yet to be finished there was a healthy-looking crowd enjoying the outside bar and BBQ in the glorious sunshine.
Bury, playing a 4-4-2 diamond formation, got on the frontfoot early on with Barber and Aitkens, at the tip and anchor of the midfield respectively, sending long-range efforts off target while Weavers headed over Barber’s free-kick.
The first effort on target came in the 14th minute when Josh Mayhew’s header from Tevan Allen’s cross found the hands of Anthony Page.
Up the other end there was a hairy moment a couple of minutes later when Heath could not get his hands on Abbey’s first corner and after it sailed over him, Billy Holland could only loop his header up in the air.
Waltham had to make an early change in the 23rd minute when striker Jack West went off with a leg injury, being replaced by Ryan Flack,
Just after the half hour mark the visitors were awarded a spot-kick when Cusack miss-timed his challenge on Blackman as he looked to cut a cross back from the right side of the area. Blackman himself stepped up and sent Heath the wrong way, firing into the left-hand corner.
Bury almost got back on level terms in bizarre circumstances in the 38th minute when new boy Clements’ seemingly-harmless cross-cum shot from the left wing had Page pedalling back to his line, and, with the sun in his eyes, saw him push it up against the crossbar before gathering.
The Blues got the equaliser their probing had deserved though following a 42nd minute free-kick.
After Hughes had been fouled just outside the area, Barber’s shot cannoned off the wall, and after Remi Garrett pounced on it Page saved before spilling out with Hughes on hand to stab home.
Bury hit the woodwork again soon after when Barber, running on to a deep cross, sent an effort spinning up off the far post.
The teams were unchanged at the start of the second half and again Bury began strongly, with Cusack’s goalbound volley from Garrett’s looping cross cannoning off Sam Robbins’ head.
From the subsequent corner Ollie Canfer was on his knees as he struggled to direct his near-post effort at goal.
But within a minute the hosts were celebrating going ahead with a fine throughball from Allen split the Waltham defence to put Barber clear with the captain cooly slotting the ball beyond the on-rushing Page.
The Blues were well on top and had more chances to add to their lead with Barber’s deep arrowed cross just over the head of Canfer and Hughes’ effort after some clever link-up play with the Bury captain lacking power.
Abbey were rarely troubling the home rearguard but passed up a great opportunity for an equaliser in the 76th minute. Flack sent the ball over from the right and Yemi Avelani, with a free header, failed to connect properly.
The Blues brought on veteran midfielder John Kennedy five minutes from time to help see out the game, and despite the referee playing an extra seven minutes, there were no further chances at either end.
Bury had put in a strong second-half display to take their first three points of the season at the first attempt, and will now look to add to that tally at Witham Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).
BURY: Heath, Allen, Cusack, Aitkens, Weavers, Clements, Garrett (Jolland 73), Mayhew (Kennedy 85), Hughes, Barber (De’ath 90+5), Canfer. Unused subs: O’Sullivan.
Free Press Man of The Match. Bradley Barber. Shone in new captain’s role.
* For a video of the thoughts of Bury manager Ben Chenery, log back on to this website from 1pm on Monday.