RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: Bury Town 1 AFC Sudbury 1
It was honours even at Ram Meadow tonight as newly-crowned champions AFC Sudbury had to come from behind at half-time to earn a point at plucky Suffolk rivals Bury Town.
The Blues had been on an awful run of form but deservedly took a 1-0 advantage into the break courtesy of former AFC man Ollie Hughes’ 36th mintue bullet header.
AFC were a different proposition in the second half and Luke Callander’s 52nd minute bundled effort was the least their probing derserved, with the striker almost winning it twice at the end.
Jamie Godbold made one change from the side who confirmed they will be promoted as champions with a 1-0 win at Tilbury on Saturday, with former on-loan midfielder Joe Maybanks dropping to the bench in place of George Clarke.
The champions bossed the opening 10 minutes with Ollie Berquez soon forcing Neil O’Sullivan to make a good block 13 minutes in after the ball broke to him following a free-kick which the Blues failed to clear.
But Bury, who had gone into the match bottom of the league’s form table on a run of 13 games without a win in all competitions and five straight defeats, soon found their stride and were unfortunate not to get their noses in front after a flurry of chances within a few minutes of each other.
First, veteran Justin Miller saw his long throw punched back out to him and sent it firing back with change, with Garnham only able to parry it out. Ex-AFC striker Hughes latched onto it but saw his follow-up shot blocked by Ryan Henshaw’s quick thinking.
A minute later Miller was denied by Garnham again, who pushed out his low effort following a corner breaking loose.
Nick Ingram was next to test the former Bury promotion-winner, forcing him to turn around his near post after a strong run down the right was matched by a strong effort.
Sudbury finally managed to get the ball back down the other end but only for Bury to almost punish them on the break. A long ball sent Hughes running in on goal but James Baker was on hand tracking him to make a superbly-timed sliding tackle, with Hughes getting away a shot at the second attempt that was parried away by Garnham.
An injury to Ingram forced Bury into an early change in the 32nd minute with Sam Reed coming on.
Former Bury midfielder Ross Bailey should have done better on the break at the other end, failing to hit the target with an angled half volley before the champions found themselves deservedly behind in the 36th minute.
Bradley Barber sent a corner in from the right and former AFC striker Hughes made a good run onto it before thundering his header past the helpless Garnham.
It was no less than Bury’s extended pressure had deserved and the Blues were able to take that advantage into the break without suffering any more scares.
AFC started the second half with renewed vigour and began forcing the play again like they had at the start of the match, with Robinson forcing a good near post save.
The equaliser arrived seven minutes after the re-start when Parker sent a ball into the box and Robinson forced O’Sullivan into another good block before Callander bundled the ball home.
AFC were close to getting their noses in front when Callander brought down a goal-kick sublimely and sent Wales down the right with the number seven firing a low ball across the face of goal with no-one able to get a decisive touch.
It was not until the 64th minute that the game’s first card was issued, Wales receiving a yellow for sliding in on O’Sullivan after the whistle had gone, with team-mate Callander also booked a minute later.
Bury had offered almost nothing as an attacking threat in the second half but soon had two good chances within two minutes after surviving a big scare at the other end.
Substitute Joe Maybanks, who had been on loan at Bury from Braintree earlier in the season, got his feet all wrong when a cross landed at his feet with time and space, but he sliced it up in the air with the goal gaping.
Down the other end a Bury breakaway saw Josh Mayhew, who had been largely anonymous, force Garnham into a good low save before substitute Ryan Jolland was guilty of skying an effort form a good position.
There was almost a late winner for the champions as Callander twice got behind the Bury backline, on the first occasion, in the 90th minute, lifting the ball over the on-rushing O’Sullivan onl to see it come back off the foot of the post before sending the rebound wide.
He then latched onto a Garnham long kick before rounding the Bury keeper, but only to see Jolland head away his cross before Bury scrambled it clear, grateful in the end to have gone toe-to-toe with the champions and come out with a point.
BURY: O’Sullivan, Allen, Wigley (White 77), Kennedy, Miller, Hall, Hughes, Aitken, Mayhew, Barber (Jolland 74’), Ingram (Reed 32). Unused subs: Collins, Hammett.
AFC: Garnham, Robinson, Cunningham (Newman 71), Berquez, Henshaw, Baker, Wales, Bailey, Callander, Parker, G Clarke (Blackwell 68). Unused subs: Maybanks, S Clarke, Wilkinson.
Free Press Man of The Match: Luke Callander. AFC Sudbury striker was a constant meance and scored a deserved equaliser. Could have won it at the death.
Referee: M George.