Man-of-the-match Billy Clark did not mind being upstaged by Ryan Semple’s wonder goal as Bury Town thrashed Grays Athletic 5-1 in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy.
Clark scored twice — including a penalty he won himself — and set up one other as the Blues blasted into the first round proper of the FA Trophy for just the third time in their history.
Adam Bailey-Dennis and Shane Tolley were also on target, but Clark’s two-goal show and Semple’s 25-yard screamer were the stand-out moments of a brilliant Saturday afternoon for the Blues at Ram Meadow.
“Personally, it was brilliant to score two goals after coming straight back into the team,” said the former Ipswich Town midfielder.
“It was a brilliant team performance, all five goals were excellent and we couldn’t have asked for more really.
“The team spirit is brilliant at the moment, everyone seems to know what they are doing and we’re all working well together and working for each other — we’re not carrying anyone.
“I don’t think the scoreline flattered us at all, we were the better team.”
All three of Bury’s players returning from suspension — Bailey-Dennis, Clark and Tolley — went straight back in the side, in place of Ross Bailey, Jack Higgs and David Lampshire, who had all started the Blues’ 2-1 victory over Lewes the previous Tuesday.
Clark got the hosts off to a great start by winning a penalty for handball and emphatically converting the resultant spot-kick to give his side a third-minute lead.
Rather than spring the game into the life, the early strike appeared to take the sting out of proceedings and it was not until Carlos bulldozed his way through a lackadaisical Bury defence to stab home Grays’ equaliser in the 25th minute that there was another shot.
The Blues almost imploded when Seb Dunbar’s backpass went to neither Bailey-Dennis or Marcus Garnham and Jeff Hammond latched on to the ball and rounded the home custodian, only to strike the outside of the post from an acute angle.
Bailey-Dennis also almost gifted Grays a goal, but Hammond shot straight at Garnham, and the towering centre-half instead provided the platform for his side to go on and win the game when heading in Clark’s inswinging left-wing free-kick at the far post seven minutes before half-time.
The hosts lost Russell Short to injury at the interval after the Blues’ stand-in skipper had twisted his knee when trying to keep out Grays’ goal, but Joe Whight was an able deputy on his return to the side from his own knee problem.
Bury’s star men put their team in charge seven minutes after the break when Semple clipped the ball in behind Ian Gayle, who had the ball nabbed off him by Clark and the attacking midfielder calmly slid it home to make the score 3-1.
Grays still looked dangerous, with Carlos continuing to cause problems and Gayle testing Garnham, but Semple’s moment of brilliance sealed the visitors’ fate when he skipped past one player and unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard piledriver that sailed beyond the outstretched arm of Johnson and nestled in the top left corner of the net.
Tolley, who provided a lot of selfless work in attack, got on the scoresheet five minutes from the end when Jordan Patrick demonstrated electric pace to escape down the left and cross for the former King’s Lynn Town man to head home at the far post.
That secured Bury’s best result of the season so far, £4,000 in prize money and a place in the first round proper at home to Eastleigh on Saturday, November 30.
Reflecting on Semple’s wonder strike, Clark added: “It was probably goal of the season — with goals like that, I don’t mind him taking centre stage.”
n Bury Town SuperDraw week 25 results: £1,000 F M Taf; £150 G J Brookes; £100 A King; £75 M Magliocco; £50 L Williams, B McKinven; £25 P O’Brien, N Adams, M Woollam, L Stokes.
The birth date drawn was 15/09/66, matched by M Danks (£300). Next week’s prize: £100.