RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: Bury Town 3 Maldon & Tiptree 2
Having lost six games in succession, facing the league leaders could well have been a daunting prospect.
But Bury embraced the challenge on Saturday afternoon, coming from behind on two occasions against Maldon & Tiptree before striking the game’s decisive fifth goal in the 74th minute.
It proved to be a debut to remember for Taylor Bannister, who joined The Blues during the week on a one-month loan deal from neighbours Needham Market.
Bury found themselves 2-1 down when the young winger replaced the injured Noel Aitkens on the hour mark, but he turned the match on its head with a victory-clinching brace.
And yet, there was no hint of the drama that was to follow during the opening 20 minutes, with neither goalkeeper called into action.
However, the encounter burst into life soon after with two goals in as many minutes.
In the 22nd minute, Bury’s Leon-Ottley Gooch — operating at centre-back — stretched to intercept Kyle Hammond’s low cross from the right, but only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net.
The home side were level after their very next attack, though, with Regan Pelling cutting in from the right wing to neatly volley in Ollie Hughes’ centre.
That was the only clear chance of note Bury created during the first half, but the same could not be said up the other end of the pitch, where the away side were starting to move through the gears.
Home goalkeeper Neil O’Sullivan had to be at his best to thwart the division’s leading goalscorer Liam Nash, yet he was powerless to prevent Maldon from taking the lead after 33 minutes.
Nash was given far too much time wide on the right to pick out Femi Akinwande, presenting the number nine with a chance he could not miss from six yards out.
To Bury’s credit, they weathered the storm and after the restart were much more of a solid unit, while also posing a greater threat in an attacking sense.
The reward came in the 69th minute as Hughes — always a willing runner — beat Maldon’s advancing goalkeeper Daniel Wilks to Darcy De’ath’s raking pass forward.
Rather than go for goal himself, Hughes unselfishly squared a pass for the supporting Bannister and he squeezed his shot inside the post.
And just five minutes later, Bannister was being mobbed by his new team-mates for a second time.
Hughes was once against the architect, sending a cross from the right flank towards the back post. Maldon’s Hammond appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball, leaving Bannister to stab it into virtually the same place as where his first goal had entered the net.
Dealing with being behind for the first time, Maldon’s response was predictably positive and there were times when they had Bury pegged back into the their own half.
But the defence stood firm, and on the odd occasion they were breached, O’Sullivan was on good form to deny both Nash and Hammond — the latter’s effort in particular looked goalbound until Bury’s number one got his fingertips to the ball in stoppage time to preserve the three points.
The final whistle was met with sounds of approval by the majority of the 340-strong crowd — a noise that had not been heard at Ram Meadow since the 2-1 over Dereham Town on January 2.
Bury: O’Sullivan, De’ath, Cusack, Fenn, Ottley-Gooch, Clements, Pelling (Mayhew 84), Aitkens (Bannister 60), Hughes, Barber, Jolland (Read 86)
Free Press Man of the Match - Ollie Hughes: Many would give the award to Bannister and that is understandable, but Hughes never gave the Maldon defence a moment of peace and also played a big role in all of his team’s goals.
* For a video interview with Bury boss Ben Chenery ahead of Monday’s trip to Aveley, check back on this website on Monday lunchtime. And for further reaction to the Maldon win with captain Bradley Barber, see Friday’s print edition.