Bury have tools for survival bid
Ben Chenery believes he now has the squad that can pull off the great escape after holding play-off-chasing Leiston in the Ryman League Premier Division at Ram Meadow on Boxing Day.
With John Sands making his much-anticipated return to Bury Town and Connor Hall starring in central midfield, the hosts were not quite able to turn one point into three against former manager Richard Wilkins’ new club.
Despite the goalless draw stretching their dismal run to just one win in their last 20 matches, two draws in a week have given Blues boss Chenery cause for optimism as they attempt to overhaul an eight-point deficit with 18 matches remaining.
“I’ve turned around a nine-point deficit with 12 games left when playing, so it can be done — you just have to win games,” said Chenery. “If we’ve got three games left and need nine points, then I might have a few sleepless nights, but at the moment I have plenty of football left.
“We’ve also got the players — John Sands is back at the football club, Milton Elenge has come in alongside Justin Miller at the back and looks strong, while Connor Hall is doing well in the middle of the park.
“Yes, I am concerned about our position, but I’m not concerned about whether we can survive because we’re always in the games.”
Joe Benjamin surprisingly dropped to the bench to make room for the returning Sands, while Seb Dunbar and Jordan Patrick returned in place of Tevan Allen and Liam Wales.
Remi Garrett curled the first effort over the crossbar for Bury, while Stuart Boardley responded with a free-kick wide of Alex Archer’s left-hand post after John Kennedy had been booked for fouling ex-Blue Craig Parker.
The Blues were much improved from recent weeks though and Patrick dragged a shot wide before Hall unleashed a left-footed drive that beat former Needham Market goalkeeper Danny Gay, but thundered back off the foot of the right upright.
In between those two efforts, Scott Mitchell was at the centre of the only flashpoint of the opening 45 minutes when he was accused of raising an arm to Dunbar, but referee Alex Guy only brandished a yellow card.
After that, the match petered out towards the break, with Leiston twice off target.
Sands’ first sight of goal came 10 minutes after the interval when he miscued his 25-yard shot and sent it well wide.
Joe Benjamin was introduced just past the hour-mark for Patrick — who was still clearly struggling with the effects of recent niggling injuries.
The first shot on target finally arrived in the 67th minute when Cunningham’s right-wing corner was met by Joe Jefford at the far post, but his header was nodded off the line by a leaping Dunbar.
Two minutes later, Hall thought he had given Bury the lead with a header from Benjamin’s corner, only to see Gay fling himself across goal at the last second to claw the ball away.
Bury may have gone the closest on more occasions, but the best chance fell to Leiston’s Mayhew when he found himself clear on goal.
However, the former Hadleigh United hitman dragged his shot wide and appeared to seriously injure his knee in the process as he collapsed in a heap and limped off.
The stage was set for a hero and Sands was handed the opportunity to write the perfect script on his return when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the area deep into stoppage time, but he was leaning back and could only smash high and wide.
Referee Guy blew his final whistle soon after to signal the end of a game that was more Christmas pudding than turkey feast, but one that gave the Blues plenty of reasons to be hopeful they can have a happy new year in 2015.
Chenery added: “When you are hard to beat and keep a clean sheet, you give yourselves a chance of winning football matches.
“It was important we didn’t get beaten. Because we drew at VCD and with this result, we are building now.
“We’ve got to settle the squad down and I feel it is as strong as I can have — I think they will get better and better.”
Former manager Wilkins believed a point was a fair result on his return to Ram Meadow.
“It wasn’t a great spectacle — there was a lack of quality from both teams,” he said. “The pitches make it difficult at this time of year and Bury were very direct, which we knew they would be. Both teams had chances, but on the whole a draw was a fair result.”
Wilkins believes Chenery can guide the Blues to safety, but acknowledges the next month will be key for his former employees.
“It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of games coming up,” he said. “The next month will tell you if they’ve got a chance.”
Superdraw week 30 results: £1,000 P Vetera; £150 D Moore; £100 F Groucut; £75 J Hughes; £50 Mr Corkingdale, C Lilley; £25 B Cutler, Mr Drake, K Sharpe, D Mills. Birth date: 13/04/74. No winners. Next week: £200.