Bury Town 4
Tooting and Mitcham United 2
by Derek Bish at Ram Meadow
RICHARD Wilkins hailed the character of his Bury Town side after they came through a bruising encounter with Tooting and Mitcham United at Ram Meadow.
The visitors had six players booked, two sent off, as well as having manager Mark Beard sent to the stand by referee David Avent — who also awarded three penalties during the match.
Billy Clark’s brace from the spot and strikes from Tom Bullard and Sam Reed helped the Blues overcome struggling Tooting, who looked for long periods as if they may earn at least a point to take back to south west London.
“We gave away two goals through naivety, but we showed tremendous attitude and character to come back having played 120 minutes on a boggy pitch on Tuesday,” said Wilkins.
“The three points were massive for us.
“The performance was probably typical of us lately — there was some very good play among some naive and careless play.”
Bury had just 11 senior players available and although John Kennedy and Kieran Leabon were named on the bench, they failed late fitness tests and took their place in the stand.
In a dismal first half, the only three shots on target were tame efforts from Tooting, while Bury responded with eight shots — all off target — the closest being when John Sands played a one-two with Clark and rippled the side netting with a low left-footed strike.
However, the Blues also lost Danny Cunningham to injury, who was on the end of three bad challenges that all warranted yellow cards.
Clark finally mustered a shot on target for the home side within 60 seconds of the restart, but Jack Giddens reacted well after a spot of pinball inside Tooting’s six-yard box.
The free-kick count continued to rack up against the visitors, but it was Sam Nunn’s foul on Chris Sessegnon that proved most costly, with his needless dive in earning Tooting a penalty and Nunn a booking.
Ashley-Paul Robinson converted the resultant spot-kick, which finally sparked the match into life.
Three bookings followed swiftly after — two to Tooting, one to Bury’s Tom Bullard — when a melee broke out as a result of Mark Briggs clattering into Lee Smith.
The Bury pair at the centre of it got their swift revenge when Smith’s free-kick was glanced on by Bullard into the right-hand corner of the net.
Robinson’s dangerous tackle on Clark resulted in the visitors’ goalscorer being dismissed at the end of a mad four minutes, which started with his strike from the penalty spot.
Marcus Garnham had to make a tremendous fingertip save from substitute Reece Hall, but when Bullard was felled by Michael Noone — who was lucky not to pick up a second booking — Clark’s penalty appeared to have finally broken Tooting’s resistance.
However, the Blues’ backline was caught out by Luke Wanadio’s long pass, allowing Kofi Lockhart-Adams to poke the ball past Garnham.
The home crowd of 357 was not downhearted for long as — almost straight from kick-off — Wanadio’s weak header back towards Giddens was latched on to by a stretching Sam Reed, who deftly guided the bouncing ball over the advancing custodian and into the back of the net.
Luke Ingram — a first-half replace-ment for Cunningham — should have made the game safe when, from two breaks, he failed to pick out an unmarked Clark and then shot straight at Giddens when one-on-one.
Sands suffered the same fate deep into stoppage time, but Bury were awarded another penalty when Giddens stamped on the striker as he attempted to retrieve the ball.
The visiting custodian was given his marching orders by Avent and Clark blasted the ball home to end a breathless second period.