RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NOTH: AFC Sudbury 2 Bury Town 0
A goal in each half for red-hot AFC Sudbury, via Luke Callander and ex-Bury youth product Liam Wales, proved to be a just reward for dominating the A134 West Suffolk Derby against an injury-ravaged Bury Town — and in turn saw them go top of Ryman League Division One North.
In front of 769 at The Wardale Williams Stadium, Bury’s bright start soon faded as AFC began to bombard Neil O’Sullivan’s goal, while opposite number Marcus Garnham was a virtual spectator for much of the game.
Callander finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute when smashing in via a heavy deflection off the inside of the left-hand post after O’Sullivan had done well to block at the feet of James Baker, following Callander’s cute throughball.
The second half saw the conditions deteriorate with torrential driving rain in a strong wind.
But after the hosts weathered an early Bury storm, there was to be no let up in their attacking domination.
The second goal eventually arrived inside the last 10 minutes, with substitute Wales taking the final touch from James Baker’s shot at a right-wing corner to divert beyond O’Sullivan and effectively seal the three points.
Bury manager Ben Cherny had warned his side - who had seen their strong start to the season fade at the back end of the year to leave them eighth in the table and on a miserable run, having tasted defeat four times out of their five December fixtures - could be without up to eight first-team players, decided to play former AFC player Darcy De’ath throw the pain barrier again, meaning it was seven out.
AFC, in stark contrast, were able to name the same starting line-up which beat Witham Town 2-1 on Boxing Day to record their eighth straight Ryman One North victory to extend their club record run (previously six game at step four level).
The only change to the matchday squad for Jamie Godbold’s side was a place on the bench for promising academy defender Tyler French, in place of fellow teenager Stefano Mallardo.
Chenery had said in the build-up to the first league meeting between the two in five years that he was not coming to ‘park the bus’ with his patched up side, and he was true to his word as the west Suffolk Blues showed attacking intent from kick-off, without being able to trouble former Ram Meadow hero Marcus Garnham.
In an end-to-end frantic start to proceedings, it was a counter-attack by the hosts which almost brought the first goal.
Garnham’s long throw sent Jordan Blackwell running clear in the Bury half, but Neil O’Sullivan parried it away for a corner.
The game was held up by injuries to James Baker (bloody nose) and Bury’s Connor Hall but burst into life again when Joe Maybanks, the player who had been on loan from Braintree Town to Bury Town in September before joining AFC Sudbury, provided the spark for Callander, his right-wing cross headed just over by the number noine, who had seen a shot deflected out by Joe White minutes earlier.
Maybanks, who had already balzed one over the crossbar, went close hitting a shot on the run in the penalty area that was not far over the bar.
At the other end, in a now rare Bury breakaway, former AFC striker Ollie Hughes got away down the left but his low cross was cleared at the near post by Baker.
Another ex Blues player, Craig Parker, sent a shot rocketing over the bar, while at the other end the ball bobbled in the AFC box before on-loan Ipswich Town Academy player Cemal Ramadan failed to get hold of a shot and it trickled through to a grateful Garnham.
In the 37th minute Good a boor back header by Matty Collins let Blackwell in on gaol but O’Sullivan again thwarted him by smothering at his feet.
The almost relentless pressure finally told two minutes later when Callander fired home his 18th of the campaign after Baker’s one-two with him had seen O’Sullivan stranded after blocking at the striker-turned-defender’s feet this time.
The goal was no less than AFC had deserved, and it should have been added to before the break as Maybanks curled wide and Blackwell saw another effort saved by O’Sullivan when one-on-one, this time the Bury custodian throwing out a right foot to deflect wide.
Callander looked in the mood to inflict further pain on AFC’s fierce rivals and sent a venomous effort just wide before lashing another over the bar.
Bury managed to get into half-time just one goal behind and clearly benefitted from the break, starting the second half with renewed purpose, pinning AFC back in the opening stages as the rain began to drive down in a now strong wind.
AFC weathered the early storm though and began to pick up where they left off before the break, with O’Sullivan having to rescue them with several more saves, thwarting Blackwell off his line once again.
Bury’s first shot on target had not come until the 79th minute when substitute Jed Wigley’s low fizzing effort had been comfortably claimed by Garnham.
It was an ex-Bury player in substitute Wales who eventually put the result beyond doubt, making it 2-0 after getting the telling deflection on James Baker’s 81st minute shot from a contested right-wing corner.
The result saw AFC move three points clear of Cray Wanderers, who saw their home game with Aveley postponed, and the Yellows also hold a game in hand on the previous leaders.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Robinson, Wilkinson, Berquez, Henshaw, Baker, Blackwell (Newman 89), S Clarke, Callander (Wales 76), Parker, Maybanks (G Clarke 80). Unused subs: Bailey, French.
Bury Town: O’Sullivan, Skevington, Allen, Collins (Wigley 75), De’ath (Hammett 61), White, Garrett, Hall, Highes, Rammadan (Jolland 78), Canfer. Unsued subs: Bedingham, Nurse.
Free Press AFC Man of The Match: Luke Callander.
Free Press Bury Man of The Match: Neil O’Sullivan.
* For manager video reaction from both camps, log on to this website tomorrow from 1pm.