SUFFOLK PREMIER CUP
Bury Town 0
Needham Market 0
(Bury win 5-4 on pens)
Ben Chenery hailed the character of his Bury Town players after they booked the club’s place in the final of the Suffolk Premier Cup for the fourth time in the last eight years on Wednesday night.
A step on the non-league pyramid separates these two rivals, but you would not have known it as the Bostik League North Division Blues went toe-to-toe with Premier Division Needham Market on the 3G at AFC Sudbury.
Both sides carved out more than one golden chance apiece during the 90 minutes, but a combination of wastefulness and smart goalkeeping meant the deadlock remained intact.
And so it went to penalties to decide who would be walking out at Portman Road for May’s final and, after eight perfect spot kicks, Needham substitute Ryan Gibbs was off target, presenting Bury’s Ryan Jolland with an opportunity he calmly converted.
“It was a close game and although we are a league below our intensity was really good,” said Bury boss Chenery.
“I am really proud of the lads. We created some good chances to win it and so did they to be fair.
“I am really pleased with the lads for the way they approached the game. They played with no fear and went on the front foot.
“They are an honest bunch. We have had our ups and downs, but they have got character and will always come back fighting.
“We wanted to prove a point tonight and we have done that.”
After Bury’s Ollie Hughes had stung the palms of Needham goalkeeper Danny Gay in the sixth minute, it was the higher-league holders that enjoyed a period of domination.
John Sands fired into the side netting from a tight angle, before Jamie Griffiths was put in the clear in the 35th minute, only to dink wide of the target.
Sixty seconds later Bury’s Luis Tibbles showed good athleticism to thwart Callum Harrison’s curling effort, while Brendan Ocran — in good goalscoring form of late — somehow missed the target from six yards out on the stroke of half-time.
Bury were not without threat either and, in between those openings for Needham, leading goalscorer Cemal Ramadan saw a deflected strike cannon against the base of the post as well as shooting wide — on the stretch — from a Hughes cross.
Ocran was again unable to convert 10 minutes into the second half, although on this occasion the winger did beat Tibbles with a low strike, but Bury right-back David Cooper showed good awareness to get back on the line to clear.
Thereafter it was Bury that showed the greater purpose in attack, the first example of which saw Tevan Allen volley over at the back post with 58 minutes on the clock.
Centre-back Kyran Clements’ header from point-blank range grazed the post in the 65th minute from a right-wing Jolland corner, with Hughes going on to drag a shot wide from the edge of the box.
With penalties looming, Needham almost snatched victory via Gareth Heath’s 89th-minute downward header, yet Tibbles stood firm.
But it was up the other end where there was still time left for some drama as Bury and Allen saw two chances go begging in the second minute of stoppage time.
The winger first latched on to Noel Aitkens’ smart reverse pass inside the box, sending him through on Gay’s goal.
Allen did well to lift his effort over the advancing Needham goalkeeper, but to his and Bury’s frustration the ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar.
However, the danger was not over because, once he had got back to his feet, another opportunity fell Allen’s way — one that he side-footed over the top from eight yards out.
To Allen’s credit, he displayed good mental resilience after those misses to take one of the spot kicks, making it 4-4 after Sands, Harrison, Sam Nunn and Luke Ingram (Needham) and Ramadan, Ollie Fenn and Aitkens (Bury) had all made no mistake.
Gibbs was unable to follow suit but there was nothing wrong with Jolland’s radar as he slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner with Gay committed to diving the other way.
Chenery added: “This one is for the fans. They have stuck with us through difficult times when we have not got results.
“I wanted to make sure they got a day out because it is great for us to go to Portman Road.”
Leiston or Kirkley & Pakefield will be Bury’s opponents.
Bury: Tibbles, Cooper, White, Kennedy, Fenn, Clements, Allen, Aitkens, Ramadan, Hughes, Jolland
Needham: Gay, Dye, Ingram, Kamanzi, K Morphew, Nunn, Harrison, Heath, Griffiths (Gibbs 80), Sands, Ocran (Simmons 59)
Free Press Man of the Match - John Kennedy (Bury): Showed great composure in the heat of battle
• Bury have back-to-back home games in the league, starting with Canvey Island tomorrow (3pm).
That is followed by the visit of Heybridge Swifts on Thursday (7.45pm), with the original match having been postponed last Saturday.