Saturday's local football round-up: Late drama at Bury Town as Stowmarket Town go to a replay with Swaffham Town in FA Vase
There was unlikely to have been a game across the country which had more closing stoppage-time drama than at Ram Meadow this afternoon, where Bury Town rescued a point in a 3-3 thriller against Bostik League North Division strugglers Dereham Town.
Ben Chenery's side, who were eighth at the start of the day, had gone into a run of games against sides below them in the table bidding to build on an impressive point at then leaders Bowers & Pitsea the previous weekend, which had seen a patched up defence help see them come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2.
With captain Ollie Fenn and defender Kyran Clements back in the team, they started well in front of another crowd topping 300 at the Denny Bros Stadium, before their plans of victory were dealt a blow when Ryan Horne was sent off for a second yellow card in the space of six minutes less than 20 minutes in.
But Bury responded well to the setback following a sliding tackle from Horne where he won the ball, which had infuriated their manager, taking a deserved 1-0 lead into the interval after Cemal Ramadan slid in Jake Chambers-Shaw's low right-sided cross in the 32nd minute for his first goal in front of the Blues home faithful since his return to the club last month.
The second half saw 10-man Bury fail to exert themselves on the game in the same manner as Dereham's pressure grew.
Just after the hour mark their search for an equaliser was given a helping hand when goalkeeper Luis Tibbles was adjudged to have impeded substitute Karol Wengrizk as he went to take the ball round him. It was hotly-disputed by the Bury players who claimed he had not touched him but a yellow card was shown to the England non-league capped player and he was unable to get near Polishman Wengrizk's penalty, which flew into the top right of the goal.
There was another twist in the 68th minute as Dereham's left-back Thomas McLeish was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Ollie Hughes to make it 10-a-side.
But Dereham went on to take the lead from a corner in the 71st minute when Oliver Ebbage rose highest to nod Jack Beaumont's corner out of Tibbles' reach.
Bury took less than a minute to respond though as right-back Jake Kerins fired in a rebound after Dion Frary cleared off the line.
Tibbles pulled off a couple of good saves before Joe Gatting converted a cross four minutes into five additional minutes.
But there was another instant reply from Bury as, with almost the very last kick of the match, Dereham failed to clear a corner and Ramadan poked home a loose ball after Elliott Pride saved from Clements.
The point leaves Bury still in 8th place and remaining six points off the top five play-off places.
Elsewhere in the division, Soham Town Rangers made it three wins from their last four matches with a 1-0 win at mid-table Canvey Island, with Ryan Auger's 10th minute strike proving enough for all three points.
It sees Robbie Masons' side exit the relegation zone after leapfrogging Dereham Town, though they are level on points with the second-from-bottom side.
Mildenhall Town only lost by a goal to leaders Aveley in a 2-1 defeat at Recreation Way, but are also left on 13 points a place above Soham.
The club had made a trio of new signings ahead of the match and one of those, Hussain Jaffa, scored just before the interval to level at 1-1.
But Alexander Akrofi struck what turned out to be the decisive blow in the 65th minute in front of a crowd of 139.
It was not a good day for those connected to AFC Sudbury as they went down to a 2-0 defeat at basement side Witham Town.
The visitors' task was made all the more difficult when striker Phil Kelly was sent off, believed to be for violent conduct, while manager Mark Morsley was also sent from the dugout as the Yellows came off at half-time trailing 1-0 to John Watson's 17th minute opener.
Watson struck again in the second half with a wonder strike in the 73rd minute as Witham's former AFC Sudbury Academy goalkeeper Luca Collins kept his first clean sheet since his summer move from King's Marsh.
It leaves AFC in 10th place, nine points off their target of a play-off place.
Up a level in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central, Needham Market made it back-to-back victories over Royston Town as they followed up their 2-0 Buildbase FA Trophy replay win on Tuesday at Bloomfields with a 4-2 success on their return to league action in Hertfordshire.
An Adam Mills header had put the Marketmen 1-0 up in the third meeting between the sides in seven days, before Reece Dobson restored their lead only for Vance Bola to score his second solo effort for 2-2 at the break.
A deflected Mills effort and a powerful strike from Dobson, to ensure they both ended with braces, saw them collect the three points with a 4-2 scoreline, leaving them 9th but just two points from Royston in the final play-off spot.
Stowmarket Town were the last Suffolk side left in the Buildbase FA Vase and had been looking to equal the club's record run in the competition at lower-league Swaffham Town, who were the last remaining Norfolk side.
But there was nothing to separate the sides on the scoreboard after the tie at Shoemakers Lane – where Stow were believed to have an away following of more than 100 supporters – went into and through extra-time. This was despite Swaffham being reduced to 10 men during the first period of extra-time, when Danny Tindall picked up his second yellow card, and Stow having three goals ruled out by the match officials.
FA Vase competition rules mean that there will be a replay unless both sides have agreed beforehand to settle on penalties, which they did not. Stowmarket Town have confirmed to us the replay at Greens Meadow will be on Tuesday (7.45pm).
In the Thurlow Nunn Leage Premier Division, struggling sides Framlingham Town (19th) and Ely City (17th) shared the points in a 3-3 thriller at Badingham Road.
The sides had gone into the break level at 1-1 after Ely, who had only one win in their previous 10 in the league, responded to Jake Taylor's opener.
But Framlingham striker Danny Smith responded to Sam Reed's goal which had put the Robins 3-2 up, leaving both in the bottom four.
Hadleigh United took advantage to open up a three-point gap above the bottom two relegation places with a 3-2 home success over mid-table Norwich United.
Kyle Ferguson got the Brettsiders' opening goal with Norwich pulling one back before half-time ahead of second-half goals for Romario Dunne and youngster George Crowe to eventually seal three precious points for Shane Wardley's side.
Walsham-le-Willows continued their fine form with another three points, winning 1-0 at Haverhill Rovers (11th), following a sixth-minute Andrew Cusack strike, to move up to 4th. Rovers had gone into the game without star player Mikey Davis, who the club revealed has moved on to higher-league Cambridge City.
Elsewhere in the division, Long Melford (15th) and Thetford Town (13th) entertained the Stoneylands crowd by sharing four goals to take a point apiece. It appeared a better point for hosting Melford though as they came from 2-0 down, while Newmarket Town will want to forget their goalfest game at The Bloorie.Com Stadium as Woodbridge Town prevailed 6-2, having led 6-0 at the break before goals from Gomarsall and Shaun Avis for the Jockeys.
In the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, Halstead Town had been looking to strengthen their lead at the top at home to mid-table Little Oakley.
But they managed to throw away a three-goal lead given to them by first-half strikes from Ben Morgan, Joe Morris and Kane Gilbert, with the visitors scoring twice unaswered in the second half to claim a point.
It leaves Mark McLean's side one point clear at the summit after second-placed White Ensign slipped up at home to Holland FC, in a 3-2 home defeat. But if third-placed Hashtag United, who were not in league action today, were able to win their two games in hand, they would be three points clear of Halstead.
Thurlow Nunn League First Division North leaders Harleston Town had no such problems in pursuit of another three points to strengthen their title charge as they came away from King's Lynn Town Reserves 6-1 victors for their third straight victory.
Nathan Russell will take the headlines with a hat-trick while Samuel Borrer scored twice and Matt Howard got his first of the season.
Debenham LC (10th) recorded their first win in five matches in all competitions with a 2-0 home success over Wisbech St Mary, thanks to goals from Jake Rudge and Brad Austin.
Following Felixstowe & Walton United Reserves' 3-2 home win over Lakenheath (7th), Diss Town are only four points above the bottom two, following their 3-2 defeat against Fakenahm Town at Brewers Green Lane.
A late disputed penalty ensured Jason Cook's side had nothing to show for their efforts, with Stephen Vincent's strike having put them 2-1 ahead going into the last 10 minutes in a dramatic finale.
Elsewhere in the division, bottom side Needham Market Reserves lost 3-2 at Leiston Reserves while AFC Sudbury Reserves claimed three points at home to managerless Haverhill Borough in a 2-1 home victory which handed caretaker boss Lee Martin his first defeat. Cameron Watson headed home Borough's only goal to leave them 13th in the table and end their recent upturn in form.
* Look out for our Non-League Natter Podcast Team of The Weekend poll on Twitter (via @russclaydon on Sunday).
* For reaction from the weekend's games and the midweek programme, including Stowmarket Town's FA Vase replay, see next week's papers.