RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: Bury Town 1 Cray Wanderers 1
An own-goal from Tevan Allen inside the final 10 minutes left Bury’s play-off hopes hanging by a thread as a possible three points turned to one in an action-packed contest which saw fellow promotion chasers Cray Wanderers end with 10 men at Ram Meadow this afternoon (Saturday, February 20).
Josh Mayhew had continued his fine run of form in front of goal since joining the club at the turn of the year, firing the home side into the lead in the 64th minute.
There were several goalmouth scrambles at both ends, but after Allen diverted past his own goalkeeper from one in the 82nd minute, and neither side were then able to force a last-gasp winner.
The ninth placed Blues — nine points adrift of the play-offs — went into the match on an unbeaten run of five matches, but having seen three points slip out of their grasp at Romford, with the relegation-threatened side scoring an equaliser in injury-time.
Ben Chenery made one enforced change to that line-up, with veteran midfielder John Kennedy suspended, teenage winger Dan Hammett came in. The home side were only able to name three of the five allowed substitutes, with eight first-team players unable to start.
Cray had largely led the table up until Christmas but after only two defeats in the league up until mid-December, they travelled to Bury low on confidence having suffered six defeats in their last nine to slip out of the play-off places (6th).
Bury made a bright start with visiting goalkeeper Nick Blue punching clear a penetrating long throw-in from Darcy De’ath from the game’s first attack, while Matty Collins lashed wide on the half-volley.
Cray were forced into a substitution in the 10th minute when defender Adetayo Osifuwa had to come off, replaced by Raymond Powell.
But Bury were soon riding their luck at the wrong end of the pitch as they had to rely on a crucial intervention from Tevan Allen, doing well when sliding in facing his own goal, to divert Jamie Mascoll’s cross away from trouble with James Duckworth lurking.
Weavers and Canfer both had stabs at converting a goalmouth scramble...but the covering defenders managed to block on both occasions
Temper flared in the 26th minute when the referee controversially signalled a passback against Bury’s Darcy De’ath, who had appeared to slice a clearance over his head. But the wall stood up when to Grant Basey’s piledriver from inside the penalty box, to serve justice.
The chance of the half fell to Ben Hunt, who somehow steered over with the goal gaping after Duckworth’s cross had been headed down into his path by Aryan Tajbakhsh.
It was Tajbakhsh who then registered the game’s first shot on target, forcing O’Sullivan to tip his effort round his near post.
Bury did manage to apply pressure at the other end soon after, Josh Mayhew’s teasing cross just evading Nick Ingram and Hammett, while Garrett curled beyond the far post.
But Cray would have felt they should have been ahead at the break, with O’Sullivan caught stranded wide on the edge of his area, but Tajbakhsh saw his shot blocked on the line and cleared by a combination of Allen and Phil Weavers, before Hunt put over the bar. O’Sullivan then made amends soon after by blocking Duckworth’s shot at his near post.
Cray continued where they left off from the re-start, forcing two corners in the opening two minutes, before Bury cleared off the line once again, this time from Jay Leader at point-blank range from a further corner, following O’Sullivan parrying from Dean Carpenter’s long-range thunderbolt.
Just past the hour mark there was drama at the other end as both Weavers and Ollie Canfer both had failed attempts to beat a defensive wall on the line after Blue had dropped Garrett’s free-kick cheaply.
They did not have to wait long to be handed the lead though, with Garrett seeing an effort from the edge of the area handled by Powell, who got away without a second yellow card, having just been booked moments beforehand.
Mayhew confidently dispatched the 64th minute penalty kick, firing low and hard into the bottom right-hand corner, with Blue not even moving.
Bury were forced into a change immediately after with Darcy De’ath, who has been playing through a recurrent foot injury, being replaced by Ollie Hughes, who himself had been a big doubt with an Achilles heel problem.
Weavers and Canfer both had stabs at converting a goalmouth scramble to double Bury’s advantage but the covering defenders managed to block on both occasions.
It looked a big miss eight minutes from time though when a deep cross into the box bounced past O’Sullivan off Allen’s chest for 1-1.
Mayhew went close to a late winner, drilling past the far post with an angled drive, and Bury’s cause was given fresh hope in the 87th minute when the referee called back play to show a second yellow card to Tajbakhsh, after he had gone in late on Garrett.
But rallies at both ends failed to produce another meaningfull effort with both sides having to settle for a point.
Bury host play-off chasing Thurrock on Tuesday (7.45pm) wondering how they will put out a team, having seen two more players go off injured and Hughes suffering a reaction to his Achilles heel.
But Chenery’s side know that nothing less than three points will do if they are still harbouring hopes of gate-crashing the top five.
BURY: O’Sullivan, Skevington, Allen, Collins, De’ath, Weavers (c), Garrett, Canfer, Ingram, Mayhew, Hammett. Subs: Aitekns, Hughes, Yallop.
Free Press Man of the Match: Matt Skevington. The recently-turned 18-year-old put in a lung-busting performance that showed plenty of passion. It was just a shame his match ended early as his name was added to a mountainous injury list.
*Log back onto this website on Monday for a video interview with manager Ben Chenery.