by Derek Bish
Witham Town 3 Team Bury 1
TEAM Bury were forced to play more than an hour of their FA Vase second round encounter at Essex Senior League outfit Witham Town without a recognised goalkeeper.
The Suffolk youngsters battled hard against their opponents from a level higher, but came undone to two second-half strikes, with striker Will Hitter keeping goal at the time after Richard Robbins dislocated a finger during the opening period.
Despite the loss, manager Ross Wilding saw his side gave a good account of themselves and believes a third round spot would have been “a fair reflection” of how they have performed in the competition this season.
“The players were disappointed not to have gone through because Witham weren’t the best side we’ve played this year,” said Wilding. “But in the second half we didn’t play very well.
“The lads have definitely learned from the experience of going through a few rounds of the FA Vase, but we didn’t adapt well to missing a few key players through injury.
“If we had gone round further it would have been a fair reflection of how well we have done this year.”
Missing defenders Dan Hitching (fractured cheekbone), Sam Peters (broken arm) and Connor Hall (damaged ankle ligaments) once again, the Blues fell behind when they failed to deal with a corner.
However, Ryan Clark scored an excellent individual goal to fire Bury back in front, before they lost Robbins to injury.
Hitter replaced him between the sticks and made a good save after the break, but Witham — who knocked Walsham-le-Willows out of the competition at the same stage last year — netted midway through the second half and added a third on the counter-attack in stoppage time.
Team Bury must now turn their attentions towards to success in other competitions, including the Suffolk Senior Cup.
They visit Suffolk and Ipswich League outfit Felixstowe United in the second round of the county competition tomorrow (2pm).
Team Bury lifted the trophy at Portman Road two seasons ago and Wilding is hoping that can encourage his current crop of players to push on and do it again.
“Because we are from the league above, we will be classed as favourites, so it will be tough as there will be a lot of pressure on us,” said the Ram meadow outfit’s chief. “We know we have got Leiston St Margarets in the next round, which would be a winnable game as well — we are looking to progress as far as we can.
“Some of the lads who were on the fringes of the squad back then but didn’t make that team have a point to prove they can match that achievement.”
Team Bury return to Ridgeons League First Division action when they welcome Long Melford to Ram Meadow on Monday (7.45pm).
Wilding’s charges are currently bottom of the league, but have as many as six games in hand on the sides above them.
“There will be a lot of pressure on again because it’s not a nice place to be in, no matter how many games in hand you have got,” he said.