Bury Town 1
When the curtain comes down on the 2017/18 campaign in late April, this — on reflection — could be the day Bury Town’s play-off bid realistically ended.
It was the type of afternoon when sides with genuine top-six aspirations have to find a way to claim the three points, no matter how ugly.
It was dark, it was dank and so wet that come the final whistle parts of the Ram Meadow pitch resembled the home straight of a particularly soggy Cheltenham Festival.
And in bottom-of-the-table Cheshunt, the hosting Blues were pitted against a team fighting desperately to preserve their Step Four status.
But ultimately Bury were not up to the challenge, letting a one-goal lead slip as the division’s basement boys gave their survival hopes a huge shot in the arm with two late interventions.
It inflicted a third straight defeat on Ben Chenery’s charges, with the lottery of the play-offs now threatening to disappear into the distance.
A disappointed Chenery said: “We knew it was an ideal scenario for a side that is bottom of the league in terms of the pitch.
“It is a leveller, it is horrible and we cannot play our football. But we knew that and we addressed that during the week in training.
“We got ourselves into a position to win the game and we lacked some resilience for the last 15 minutes — some real men to dig a result out on a difficult pitch.
“Footballers are very good when things are going well, but when you need to dig in, we did not do that in what are difficult conditions, I understand that. But we did not show enough know-how to dig it out.
“We did not clear our lines, we got caught on the ball in silly positions and gave away too many long throws into our box — we spoke about these things at half-time.
“I am really disappointed and ultimately it comes down to characters on the pitch.
“When you need to dig one out, it comes down to leaders on the pitch and we did not have enough of them to do it — that is really disappointing.”
Neither goalkeeper will have felt particularly over-worked during a lacklustre and largely uneventful opening 45 minutes in west Suffolk.
Bury carved out their only meaningful chance in the 29th minute when Ryan Jolland weaved his way down the left flank.
His low cross was perfectly-weighted for the onrushing Bradley Barber, but from point-blank range the Bury skipper was thwarted by Amadou Tangara in the Cheshunt goal.
Up the other end Bury’s number one Luis Tibbles got down well to his right to palm clear Jason Hallett’s header from a long Ricky Sappleton throw-in.
The second half was threatening to go the same way until the 55th minute when Bury’s opener lifted the gloom.
Tevan Allen’s left-wing corner failed to clear the first man, but he got a second chance and made amends with a floated cross that a leaping Kyran Clements planted into the bottom corner with a firm header.
Cheshunt fired their first warning shot 20 minutes from time when Raphaele Duyile found himself all alone at the back post, only to skew his shot wide when he should have done better.
Bury’s Ollie Hughes will have had a similar feeling of regret two minutes later when he broke clear of the visiting defence but could not get the better of Tangara.
It would prove to be a pivotal moment in the game because with five minutes remaining the ball broke kindly for Hallett inside the Bury box and despite losing his balance, Cheshunt’s number nine still managed to steer his effort inside Tibbles’ far post.
Reeling from the fact it appeared they would be dropping a crucial two points, it got even worse for Bury in the first minute of stoppage-time.
After the home defence failed to clear their lines a bit of pinball ensued, before it rolled for Cheshunt substitute Kyle Roberts to tuck home a chance it would have been harder to miss — a goal that could well end up having a big impact on both teams’ seasons.
Bury: Tibbles, Cooper, Jolland, Fenn, White, Clements, Allen, Robinson (Yallop 80), Ramadan, Barber, Hughes.
Free Press Man of the Match - Ollie Hughes: He may have been unable to convert his second-half chance, but Hughes was comfortably Bury’s best player. He worked tirelessly and linked up play well.
• Former Bury Town youth players Jack Lankester and Brett McGavin featured as Ipswich Town Under-18s crashed out of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday evening.
The duo both started the last-16 tie at Portman Road, which ended in a 2-0 victory to visiting Blackpool.
McGavin — son of former Bury Town player Steve — was the captain while Lankester, who scored twice in the previous round against Dagenham & Redbridge, spearheaded Town’s attack on a disappointing night for the Suffolk side.
Town last won the FA Youth Cup in 2005 — a team that contained former King Edward VI School pupil Ed Upson, now of MK Dons.