Bury edge closer towards the Bostik League North Division play-offs with Boxing Day victory at Soham Town Rangers
It happened deep in stoppage time and was a moment that epitomised Bury Town’s Boxing Day performance away at cross-county neighbours Soham Town Rangers.
Bury – playing in their changed orange strip – were already three unanswered goals to the good by this point and cruising towards a third straight win on this date over bottom-of-the-table Soham.
Nevertheless, that did not stop experienced centre-back Ian Miller from throwing himself in front of one last shot to ensure that his side not only headed into Tuesday’s derby date against AFC Sudbury with back-to-back victories, but also a first clean sheet since October 27.
It summed up Bury’s afternoon, one in which at times they struggled to get their usual passing game going on a difficult pitch, and yet they were still worthy 3-0 victors.
It was hardly backs to the wall stuff for Ben Chenery’s troops, but they were resolute when required – right up until the last when former professional Miller put his body on the line one final time.
Chenery – a defender himself during his playing days with the likes of Cambridge United and Canvey Island – was delighted with how his team had stood up to the challenge.
“Coming here on Boxing Day for a local derby against a team who are bottom of the league on a difficult pitch, it could have been the perfect storm for them,” he said.
“But we understood that and have worked hard over the Christmas period. Yes we can move the ball around, there is no question we can pass the ball well, but the other side of our game today needed to be key. That block by Ian Miller towards the end was as pleasing as anything.
“The desire is there. I have always said I do not want any team to work harder than us, which is something I can control. I cannot control misplaced passes and things like that, but I can when it comes to attitude and commitment – we showed those in abundance today. We were really good value for the win and it could have been by more at the end.”
Set-pieces were key for Bury at Julius Martin Lane and they went close from one of them as early as the ninth minute when Ryan Jolland’s inswinger from the right struck the angle of post and crossbar.
However, it was from the other flank that the away side eventually broke the deadlock with 24 minutes on the clock.
Playmaker Jake Chambers-Shaw was the architect, curling in a free-kick that was flicked goalwards by captain Ollie Fenn and beyond the reach of Soham goalkeeper Josh Pope.
And a second goal arrived just nine minutes later via the same method. This time it was Jolland sending the ball into the danger area and when Soham failed to clear, their former midfielder Ryan Horne was on hand to lash in his first goal since the opening day of the season.
From a Soham perspective, they were struggling to make any inroads against a Bury rearguard that was well marshalled by Miller, with deep-lying midfielder Fenn offering some added protection in front of the back four.
On the one occasion they did get in behind just moments before the break, full-back Callum Russell fizzed in a cross down the corridor of uncertainty between Bury goalkeeper Luis Tibble and his defence, but nobody in a Soham shirt was lurking to apply the finishing touch.
Last season’s leading goalscorer Cemal Ramadan had been kept largely quiet during the first half, but he burst into life for Bury three minutes shy of the hour mark when he was slipped through by Jolland’s slide-rule pass, only for Pope to make a smart save at his near post.
Soham, who have the Bostik League North Division’s worst home record, then had a period of pressure without causing Tibbles too many problems, but the game was up in the 68th minute when Jolland produced a finish of real quality.
The lively midfielder inherited possession in a central position 20 yards from goal and rather than go for power, he calmly curled a left-footed shot that left a full-stretch Pope clutching at thin air.
Chambers-Shaw almost produced a carbon copy goal – albeit with his right foot – three minutes later while Ramadan got too clean of a connection on an Ollie Hughes cross when more of a glancing header was required.
It could, and perhaps should, have been an even greater winning margin as further openings came and went before the final whistle, but it was still a relatively routine three points for Bury, who extended their unbeaten Step 4 run over Soham to 12 outings (nine victories) in the process.
Bury: Tibbles, Scott, Stafford, Fenn, Miller, Clements, Chambers-Shaw (Machaya 82), Jolland, O Hughes (T Hughes 87), Ramadan, Horne
Free Press Man of the Match – Ryan Jolland: A good afternoon’s work from the midfielder, who got one goal and an assist as well as hitting the bar. He also made several driving runs with the ball at his feet to set Bury away on the attack