Over the last decade Suffolk’s non-league scene has thrived, with a number of the county’s clubs achieving promotions through the Bostik Divisions. Whilst many supporters these days may be drawn to Lowestoft, Leiston and Needham Market due to the higher level of football on offer, Bury Town were perhaps the trailblazers for the growing reputation of the region’s non-league sides. Until relegation to the Division One North in 2015 they had served 5 years at the top level of the Isthmian League, and whilst other Suffolk clubs might hog the limelight these days, no trip to Ram Meadow is ever a disappointment, irrespective of results.
Bury Town FC, much like the settlement it serves, is encased in history. If visiting the town as well as taking in the football, you’ll find a place steeped in tales of St Edmund and the Magna Carta, and this folklore- coupled with historic landmarks such as the Abbey Gardens- makes Bury St Edmunds a great location for a day out, not only for the football on offer. The club is one of the oldest non-league clubs in existence, having formed in 1872. Their current ground may not be the one of their humble beginnings, but Ram Meadow is still considered a staple in the market town’s attractions. Despite the disappointment in not being able to develop a new stadium on Moreton Hall following a lengthy negotiation period, the club has quickly looked to put that behind them. In recent years, the clubhouse has been upgraded, giving all supporters the perfect pre-match environment to socialise and discuss recent events surrounding their teams. Alongside the new clubhouse stands the old stand, maintaining a historic element inside the ground, which seems appropriate given the club- and towns- long history.
The Scholars defend a set piece at Ram Meadow
Potters Bar Town were the visitors on Tuesday night, for the first midweek match of 2018. The Scholars, who found themselves 6th in the league going into the game, had acclimatised well on their return to the Bostik fold following their move from the Southern League Division One Central, and a fruitful Christmas period which saw them pick up 3 wins from 4 had led to a growing belief that they could achieve a play-off place come the end of the season. For Bury Town, who harboured play-off ambitions of their own, 2 wins in their last 3 had seemingly revitalised their stagnating play-off push, as they entered the game 10th in the league, 5 points behind their visitors. Both teams knew the importance of not only attaining the 3 points, but also of taking the opportunity to partially derail a fellow play-off contenders’ chances in a tightly contested Division One North.
As the match kicked off Bury Town were quickly into their stride, dominating early proceedings, forcing early corners and having much of the ball. The early pressure soon told, as in the 9th minute a corner was flicked on which found Ramadan at the back post, leaving him a simple finish from 6 yards out to give Bury Town the lead for his 21st goal of the season. This early strike allowed the home side to settle, with Potters Bar struggling to find their rhythm. Despite this, they carried an obvious threat on the break, with Murray’s physicality and Dias Fernandes’s trickery causing problems. They had little to show for their efforts, however, until the 22nd minute, when Dias Fernandes’s quick feet led to him being tripped in the area, earning the rather muted Scholars an opportunity to grab a foothold in the match. This was duly taken, as Murray sent Tibbles the wrong way from the spot, but surprisingly it turned out to be a brief moment of delight for the away side. Bury managed to get the ball wide right immediately from kick off, and Hughes drove a shot across the face of the goal which Laurencin didn’t manage to hold onto, palming the ball straight to Ramadan who made no mistake from inside the 6 yard box.
Following the whirlwind 2 minutes which saw both teams score, the game descended into a scrappy battle characterised by a series of fouls which disrupted the flow of the game. Both saw chances go just wide, but Bury’s industriousness- led by Mills and supported by much of the midfield- allowed them to nullify Potters Bar’s attempts to play a neat passing game. This meant that they had to go longer to find Murray, and left them struggling to find a breakthrough as the first period drifted to a close.
The Scholars came out for the second period rejuvenated, moving the ball quicker and using the width of the pitch, which caused the home team’s backline more problems- yet is was Bury who had the next real chance, a set piece allowing Hughes to head onto the crossbar, with the rebound blazed over through a crowd of bodies by Fenn. Shortly after, Casey for Bar was caught marginally offside by the Bury defence, as he looked to go through unmarked. More good work from Ramadan on the 61st minute almost increased the lead, as he squirmed away from the opposing fullback to drill in a wonderful cross, which Yaxley dragged wide at the back post with the goal gaping.
Ram Meadow v Potters Bar Town
The game then went end to end, with a plethora of chances being wasted by both teams. A moment of magic by Doyle almost brought Potters Bar level, with a dipping volley from 30 yards tipped over by Tibbles, but the breakthrough wouldn’t come. As the referee sanctioned 5 additional minutes the away side pushed forward, trying to salvage something from the game before their long trip home. Dias Fernandes had a shot blocked expertly, several corners led to goalmouth scrambles in Bury’s six-yard box, but Potters Bar seemingly couldn’t find a way through Bury’s resolute defence. This was until the 95th minute when Casey was played through by a clever pass, but White managed to get back, producing an excellent last-ditch tackle to prevent a shot on goal and preserving a vital 3 points for the hosts.
In a pulsating and hard-fought game Bury’s quick start saw them home, and then they were able to stay organised and defend heroically to see out a 3rd win in 4 games. Potters Bar may have gone home empty-handed, but a valiant effort to try to gain something from the match should give them encouragement as they look to maintain their play-off charge. One thing is certain- the Bostik North play-off race will throw up many surprises before the end of the season, and both of these sides look capable of being in the mix come May.
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