Bury Town 1 East Thurrock United 0
MARK Coulson’s cup final cracker won Bury Town their first trophy of what could be the greatest season in the Blues’ history.
The left-back had not scored since the Blues’ FA Cup tie with Staines in October 2010, but he unleashed a 30-yard drive that flew into the bottom corner past a static Richard Wray.
It was a strike worthy of winning the FA Cup, never mind the Ryman League Cup, and capped a dominant display by the Suffolk outfit as they became the first side from the county ever to win the competition.
Bury made three changes to the side that beat Hastings United 1-0 on Saturday, with Coulson, Lee Reed and John Sands recalled in place of Connor Hall, Callum Kearns and Kieran Leabon.
Sands had a chance to prove manager Richard Wilkins right to hand him a starting spot when he raced through after just 53 seconds, but he screwed his shot wide of the left-hand post when one-on-one with East Thurrock goalkeeper Wray.
Sam Reed forced Wray into action in the fourth minute when Danny Cunningham’s cross was headed across goal by Lee Smith to the striker, who forced the Essex side’s custodian into a smart tip over the bar with a powerful header.
The Blues continued on the front foot for much of the opening 45 minutes with Sands’ shot parried by Wray before a stretching Lee Reed guided the rebound just wide of the goal.
But Wray could have been guilty of handing Bury the lead in the 33rd minute when he spilled Cunningham’s cross and Sam Reed’s hooked effort was deflected off target.
Sands’ pace continued to cause problems, but he lacked the finishing ability that had seen him score five Ryman League Cup goals entering the match, with another good chance – after superbly tricking his way past Simon Peddie – kept out by a combination of Wray and Ben Wood.
Bury suffered a blow before the break when John Kennedy was forced off with a tight hamstring, to be replaced by Callum Kearns – returning to the ground where he suffered his serious knee injury in October 2010.
Sam Reed could still have sent the Blues into the break with the lead, but his low shot on the turn was well kept out by a sharp Wray plunging down to his right-hand side.
East Thurrock began the second period in the ascendancy and Bury had to snuff out Kye Ruel in the penalty area before Higgins blazed over from the edge of the box.
But Bury regained control of the game, and with it the lead, in the 58th minute. Just prior to the goal, the Blues fired a warning when Wood had to slide in to clear Lee Smith’s low cross from Kearns’ neat throughball.
And man-of-the-match Smith was involved in the winner, but he could hardly lay claim to an assist when he squared the ball to Coulson a little more than 30 yards from goal.
The full-back took one touch, set his sights and delivered a thunderous, swerving low strike that left Wray rooted to the spot and the ball in the bottom right corner of the net.
Buoyed by the goal, Bury pressed on and Sands’ terrific volley from the edge of the penalty area had to be tipped over by Wray.
There was little in the way of a response from East Thurrock, although there were a couple of hairy moments when Garnham had to claw Higgins’ deflected drive around the post, before Roscoe Hipperson was on his toes to make up for a little mistake from Tom Bullard and clear the ball from the danger area.
The final whistle went just minutes later and Bury’s loyal following gave the biggest cheer of the night when Bullard climbed up the steps of the main stand at Staines’ Wheatsheaf Park and lifted the Alan Boon Ryman League Cup trophy.