RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION
Bury Town 1
Maidstone United 2
Bury Town assistant manager Christian Appleford conceded his side threw away victory in an eventful tie against table-topping Maidstone United.
Bottom-of-the-league Bury found themselves with a golden opportunity to clinch a morale-boosting and shock victory after taking the lead through Joe Whight in the 51st minute, before seeing the visitors reduced to 10-men two minutes later as Billy Bricknell was shown a straight red card for dissent.
However, the Blues’ failure to capitalise on their numerical advantage was punished in a disastrous three-minute spell as Jack Parkinson levelled from close-range in the 70th minute before substitute Frannie Collin curled home an exquisite free-kick moments later to complete the turnaround for the title-chasers.
That resulted in the Bury players being locked in the dressing for a considerable amount of time after the match, with Appleford revealing manager Ben Chenery and his own frustration.
“For almost an hour we have done the right thing and then we’ve thrown it away,” said Appleford, who was sent out in place of Chenery after the manager refused to conduct a post-match interview with the Free Press.
“We have been naive, sat too deep, and allowed them to come back into the game and take all three points.
“I don’t think it is down to a lack of belief, we just invited pressure on to us. We tried to tell them not to sit deep but it was too late.
“We were not beaten, we’ve gifted them the win and that is the most frustrating thing.
“We can’t afford to do that where we are. In mid-table you can get away with a couple of games like that, but when you’re down the bottom it will cost.
“We have picked up from defeats in the past and I think that is key. We’ve not lost to a relegation rival, we have lost to top of the table.
“No one expected us to get anything from the game but we should have, and so we have to move on.
“We can compete at that level, but it is about taking that into the next phase of games and get on another good run.”
Home custodian Alex Archer was called into action after just five minutes as he had to be alert to make a point-blank stop to deny Matt Bodkin at the far post.
That early Maidstone pressure continued, with James Rogers firing narrowly wide from the edge of the area in the 20th minute, while Shane Huke could only direct a header over Archer’s crossbar from an in-swinging corner 10 minutes later.
The Bury custodian was again on top form in the 39th minute to deny Bricknell, who forced his way into the area but could not beat Archer, who saved well with his legs after racing off his line.
And against the run of play, the home side almost snatched the lead a minute later as Joe Benjamin robbed Sonny Miles of the ball before releasing Connor Hall, whose stabbed left-footed effort whistled agonisingly past the left upright.
At the other end, Archer as doing his utmost to keep his clean sheet intact as he got down well to tip away Tom Mills’ curling effort from the edge of the area in the 42nd minute before also denying Steve Watt from close range, with the centre-half firing the rebound over the bar as the score remained goalless at the break.
The home side came out rejuvenated after the restart and broke the deadlock in the 51st minute.
A quick counter-attack saw Jordan Patrick release Whight, who made no mistake from just inside the area, firing an unstoppable left-foot strike beyond the reach of Lee Worgan and into the top left corner.
The home side were then handed a major boost just two minutes later as the visitors were reduced to 10 men. After seeing his penalty appeals turned away, Bricknell continued his protests to referee Stuart Franklin, who in turn brandished the forward a straight red card.
Just two minutes later John Sands had the opportunity to double Bury’s advantage, but he could only drag a left-foot shot wide of the mark after racing on to a long ball.
And he was made to rue his wastefulness in the 70th minute as Maidstone levelled. A cross from the right saw Archer deny substitute Alex Akrofi, but as the ball was played back across the goalmouth, captain Parkinson was on hand to bundle home.
The equaliser appeared to knock the home side, who were then dealt another blow just three minutes later as the league leaders showed their pedigree to snatch the lead.
A John Kennedy foul presented substitute Collin an opportunity from 25 yards out, and he made no mistake, brilliantly curling the ball beyond a helpless Archer into the top right corner.
The hosts attempted to push forward in the final stages but they failed to make a further breakthrough as the 10-men of Maidstone held firm for the win.