Christian Appleford believes Bury Town can pull off the great escape, but only if they show the guts on display in the second half on Saturday.
The former Mildenhall Town boss made his first appearance in the Blues’ dugout as assistant to manager Ben Chenery in their 2-1 defeat to Wingate and Finchley.
Having seemingly thrown the match away during a dreadful opening 15 minutes in which they conceded two goals and had Callum Bennett dismissed, rock-bottom Bury’s 10 men fought back after the break and gave their play-off-chasing visitors a real scare before succumbing to their seventh straight defeat.
“I’m here to do what I can to keep the club up,” said Appleford, who went to Chantry High School with Chenery. “Based on what I saw in the second half, we can definitely stay up.
“They played as a team in the second half, worked for each other and supported each other.
“If they start games like they finished then we can do well and nobody can argue that we made a good team look average with 10 men in the second half.”
Reflecting on his reasons for moving to Ram Meadow, less than two weeks after departing Mildenhall, Appleford added: “It was an opportunity I couldn’t really say no to.
“It’s a great club and I’m moving up the ladder.
“There’s a good team and good players here, but it’s a challenge and the right one for me at the moment.”
Bury made one change to the side who started the 1-0 loss at Lewes the previous Wednesday with the fit-again Jordan Patrick returning in place of Kye Ruel.
Any hope of a home win to warm the Ram Meadow faithful on the coldest day of the season to date evaporated inside the opening 12 minutes.
Ola Sogbanmu volleyed a pass behind the Bury defence and Rob Laney raced away from Connor Hall to clip the ball past Alex Archer for Wingate’s opener in the third minutes, but worse was to follow shortly after.
Laney got clear of the Blues’ backline again and Bennett, trailing in his wake, slid in from behind to send the visitors’ number nine crashing to the ground and earn a red card.
Only the acrobatics of Archer stopped it from reaching 3-0 inside 15 minutes.
David Knight’s spectacular volley was heading for the top right corner with the on-loan AFC Sudbury keeper moving the other way until he twisted his body and stuck out his left hand to fist the ball clear.
Russell Short volleyed off target from 20 yards between the two goals, but that was their only attempt of the half as the match descended into a training game.
Sogbanmu fired a tame effort at Archer and another wide with Wingate’s two other attempts at goal and they seemed content to keep possession, something they had plenty of thanks to wayward passing from Bury.
A few boos emanated from the main stand as the Blues departed the field for half-time, but they returned full of determination to turn the match around.
Joe Whight — on for Phill Weavers at the break — made a big difference to Bury’s forward play as Wingate struggled to pick him up on the left of a midfield three in the Blues’ 4-3-2 formation.
Joe Benjamin showed some early signs of what was to come when he smashed wide three minutes into the second half before getting his side on the scoresheet in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.
Wingate goalkeeper Bobby Smith was put into a tight spot by a backpass and the intimidating Benjamin charged down the custodian’s clearance before tapping the ball into the empty net.
Suddenly the home faithful — part of a crowd of 268 that made up the Blues’ lowest home gate for a Saturday league game since last December — were back on side, roaring encouragement from the touchline.
Having taken their foot off the gas in the first half, Wingate could not find the pedal again and only briefly threatened with shots from Knight and Laney that were straight at Archer.
The Blues piled on the pressure and Seb Dunbar’s clipped ball in behind defence was sent over Smith by the knee of Benjamin, but the ball trickled agonisingly wide of the post.
Bury piled on the pressure and forced a succession of corners as well as seeing Benjamin denied one-on-one by Smith but — despite camping inside Wingate’s penalty area throughout stoppage time — there was no way back for the Blues.
There may have been more guts on show from Bury, but their lack of any glory meant they slipped to their seventh consecutive defeat to remain at the foot of the Ryman League Premier Division table, seven points adrift of safety having played more games than all their relegation rivals.