Second-half goals from Ollie Hughes and Tevan Allen saw Bury overturn a half-time deficit against Dereham at Ram Meadow on Monday to make it three wins out of three over the festive period.
Ben Chenery’s men moved back into the Ryman League Division One North play-off places with the hard-earned three points that tested their character on a boggy pitch that made passing difficult.
“We had won the two games previously comfortably, but I knew this would be a different game with the condition of the pitch — being so heavy,” said boss Chenery.
“I thought we were full value though (for the win) as we controlled the majority of the game, though in the final third we struggled a bit.”
The Blues went into the 1pm kick-off in front of their biggest crowd of the season so far — 341 — having scored 10 goals in their previous two games, following Boxing Day’s 4-1 success at Soham Town Rangers and Friday’s 6-1 home rout of Wroxham.
The confidence gained was evident early on against their mid-table cross-border opponents with recent signing Leon Ottley-Gooch and Ollie Hughes both firing efforts off target.
But it was The Magpies, who had also won their last two, who broke the deadlock in the seventh minute. From full-back Harley Black’s deep cross, striker Joe Gatting was given too much room by Tom Debenham to smartly steer in beyond Neil O’Sullivan on the half volley.
The shell-shocked hosts almost fell further behind as Daniel Beaumont was able to get behind the defence, only to fire a few yards over the bar.
Bury gradually managed to regain their composure on the ball and captain Bradley Barber forced a save from Joshua Glover with a curling effort, before Ottley-Gooch made a mess of a Darcy De’ath cross at the far post.
Ottley-Gooch’s own enterprising delivery, drilled into the far stick, almost found the in-rushing Hughes, while just after the half-an-hour mark Debenham forced a flying save from Glover with his shot on the turn seeing the goalkeeper fly to his right to tip it away.
From the corner Bury were celebrating an equaliser after Kryan Clements’ header was dropped by Glover, only to see confusion reign at Ram Meadow as the referee ran over to his official before clarifying he was awarding a foul on the goalkeeper. Pictures (above) later showed the ball may have never crossed the line anyway, but the foul looked harsh.
Rhys Logan should have doubled Dereham’s advantage after being given time and space to get his foot on Ryan Crisp’s centre, but from close range he could only scuff his effort wide of a relieved O’Sullivan’s post.
As the half entered added on time, a two-footed challenge from Bury captain Barber on former Needham Market striker Crisp, just in front of the away dugout, prompted Dereham’s players to rush in before having to be pulled away. But Barber gained the mercy of referee Darin Geary, who did not go with the reaction of the players as he put up a yellow card.
Luke Read sent a looping header over the crossbar at the start of the second half, while the referee was soon on the receiving end of boos from the large home support.
After booking Tevan Allen for a challenge which saw him receive a boot to the chest from Logan, moments later he halted a goalmouth scramble to give Dereham a free-kick when one of their defenders had become stuck on top of the ball with the goalkeeper out of the picture.
But The Blues got back on level terms on the hour mark when Hughes’ tenacity to chase down what looked a lost cause, when Read flicked on Barber’s raking pass from his own area, was rewarded as he managed to flick it over the onrushing Glover.
End-to-end action ensued as Read put wide before Dion Fray’s half volley sailed into the darkening sky.
But with 20 minutes to play Bury got the all-important third goal when Allen, given too much space to attack Hughes’ cross from the left, sent his header beyond Glover.
While Chenery withdrew the hard-working Hughes for top scorer Josh Mayhew, who had been suffering still from a tight hamstring, Dereham brought on their only two substitutes at once in a bid to strike back.
It almost paid off as Lewis Gibson put a low ball into the Bury penalty area, but with Gatting following it in, O’Sullivan was swift off his line to scoop it up.
From a late corner Gatting, under the tight attentions of Debenham, was wayward with a first time shot in what was the last clear sight of goal the visitors had before the final whistle.
While Friday’s game showed how Bury can rip a side apart, this home victory will have been just as pleasing for Chenery, as his side displayed the sort of character needed to have a chance of staying in one of those top five positions.