Bury Town 1
Witham Town 0
A dogged display capped by a sweeping finish from Darren Mills got smiles back on faces for Bury Town on Tuesday — and a relieved Ben Chenery wants more of the same fighting spirit when Mildenhall Town visit on Saturday (3pm).
Following their previous home game, a damaging 2-1 loss to bottom side Cheshunt, the Blues manager had criticised his squad in last week’s Free Press for not showing enough grit and determination in what he termed a soft ‘Suffolk mentality’.
But their was plenty of guts spilled for the cause in sub-zero temperatures on a hard pitch against Witham Town on Tuesday to provide a much-needed end point on their slide down the table.
Four straight defeats, the latest being Saturday’s 4-2 loss at title-chasing Bowers & Pitsea, had seen this become a mid-table clash for Bury, who had fell to 13 points adrift of a play-off spot, having been just four away at Christmas time.
This three points saw them jump two places up the table to ninth and 10 points off the top six, with play-off spot occupiers holding games in hand.
And while he could not say the win had put them back in the hunt for a play-off spot, Chenery felt the nature of the display that earned the three points is something they must carry into tomorrow’s local derby with 15th-placed Mildenhall, who are managed by former Bury goalkeeper Dean Greygoose.
“It is never nice to lose four games on the trot and it hurts you mentally and physically as a squad of players and a football club,” said Chenery.
“In a funny kind of way we were missing some key players tonight and the ones that have come in and haven’t been playing rolled their sleeves up.
“It was a really good resilient performance in difficult conditions against a team who have been doing well.
“I thought we were good value for it and I was pleased to see Darren (Mills) get his goal.
“I felt we defended really well and the character returns with smiles back on faces.
“We must now continue to move forward with a big game on Saturday.
“It will be a really tough game on Saturday. Mildenhall are a good team and they will come here and play well, of course.
“It will be a good derby game and we did say before the match we wanted to go into Saturday with a good frame of mind.
“It is big for the fans, of course, they are just down the road and like us they are in a similar position to us in the league and it should be a good game.”
On Tuesday the Blues were missing midfield trio Noel Aitkens, Ryan Jolland and Tevan Allen, with Chenery bringing in teenager Tommy Robinson and veteran John Kennedy in a 4-4-2 diamond midfield.
Neither goalkeeper was made to made to really work in a fairly even first half with Witham carving out arguably the best opportunity in the 12th minute, only for John Watson to fire wide running onto Shamido Pedulu’s cut-back.
At the other end, Cemal Ramadan’s low angled drive lacked any venom to trouble Bobby Mason while Kennedy scuffed a volley wide of the far post, with it going under captain Bradley Barber’s foot as the small crowd let out a chorus of ‘arghs’.
David Cooper got caught out at the back but was let off the hook as Corey Davidson went for glory from a tight angle and skied his shot with team-mates well placed in the penalty box.
Bury’s best chance came on the stroke of half-time as a great whipped deep free-kick from Ramadan was met by Barber’s head but went over the crossbar.
Mills, who picked up a needless booking early on for a shove, had to wait anxiously to see if his game was to end in an early shower just before the half-time whistle, but referee Abi Marriott let him off the hook after he left his marker floored jumping for a ball.
Soon after the restart Ollie Fenn got a vital toe in to prevent the lively Pedulu getting a run in on goal.
Shortly after the hour mark the ever hard-working Ollie Hughes played a big part in turning the game in the Blues’ favour.
The wideman went close twice with good headers which had to be saved before his 66th-minute breakaway following an offside Ryan Imbert strike proved decisive.
After a lung-bursting carry down the left, his smart cut-back to Ramadan, once he had drawn the defenders in, saw the ball ricochet off him and into the path of Mills who turned it in with aplomb.
Aside from a free-kick from substitute Elliott Ronto, which went wide, the Blues were not troubled thereafter and after Ollie Dunlop came on for his long-awaited debut, went close to extending their lead as Ramandan volleyed wide of the far post, while Mills got in behind the defence only to see Mason turn it round his post.
•Following Saturday’s derby, Bury will be at home on Tuesday as they look to book a semi-final spot in the Suffolk Premier Cup with lower-league Brantham Athletic standing in their way. (7.45pm)
• Meanwhile, defender Darcy De’ath, who had struggled with injuries this season, has left Bury and signed for lower-league Brantham Athletic.
Bury: Tibbles 6, Cooper 6, Robinson 6 (Dunlop 83’), Fenn 7, White 6, Clements 7, Kennedy 7, Mills 7, Ramadan 6, Barber 7, Hughes 7. Unused subs: Schaar, Wigley, Mayhew (gk).
Free Press Man of The Match: Ollie Hughes - started shakily but really made things happen in the second half.