Derby duel a blockbuster

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By Mark Williams

BURY Town’s blockbuster Suffolk derby clash against Lowestoft has become even more critical – after the title-chase took an unexpected twist this week.

The Blues have revenge on their mind when they travel to Harrow Borough tomorrow (3pm), but Town supporters all have one eye cast on Tuesday’s most eagerly-anticipated game of the season at Ram Meadow (7.45pm).

Following two convincing Ryman League Premier Division victories in a week, coupled with league leaders Sutton United’s surprise defeat at Hendon on Wednesday, Richard Wilkins’ second-placed team have trimmed the gap at the top from eight points to five – with a game in hand.

“It’s wide open again,” said Wilkins. “We need to take Saturday’s game very seriously because a win there will set us up perfectly for Lowestoft. Undoubtedly though, it is a huge game in midweek. It is a Suffolk derby, a top-of-the-table clash and we really need the crowd to turn up and get behind us.”

The long-time rivals last played a competitive league encounter five years ago – when a certain Tom Bullard headed home the only goal of the game in Bury’s promotion-winning year from the Ridgeons League.

However, the Trawler Boys have come on leaps and bounds since 2006, after reaching the FA Vase final at Wembley in 2008 and are being widely tipped to claim a third straight promotion this year.

Only a sudden dip in form – they are without a win in seven – has blighted the club’s impressive climb up the Non-League ladder.

Still sixth in the table, the Crown Meadow outfit’s saving grace are three games in hand which, if they win them all, will see them re-enter the title race.

In contrast, the Blues are flying again. One defeat in nine games – that a bizarre 5-2 blip against tomorrow’s opponents at the start of the month – has got everyone at the club believing Blue Square South football is just around the corner.

“It is going to be a great game,” said Wilkins. “Both us and Lowestoft like to pass the ball and attack. We have had them watched and they have good pedigree. They are going through a bit of a bad spell at a crucial time, but they won’t be happy with that and will be determined to put that right. We will have to be at our very best if we are to win the match.”

The Blues’ 3-0 home win against Carshalton Athletic on Saturday was quickly followed by a scrappy 2-0 triumph against Horsham three days later.

The latter was far from a vintage performance in front of the club’s lowest home league crowd of the season (339), but Wilkins was only concerned about the three points.

“It was scrappy at times and we were huffing and puffing – but we got the three points and that has to be pleasing,” he said. “The crowd wasn’t the biggest, but to be fair to the people who were there, they created a good atmosphere. We will need that again when Lowestoft visit.”

Holding midfielder Neil Andrews is a major doubt for tomorrow’s game with a hip injury, while winger Chris Henderson, who lives in Lowestoft, is expected to feature against his hometown club, following more than three months out.