Following on from a successful pre-Christmas run and the return of football after the recent lockdown restrictions, Bury AFC were able to continue their festive form in an incredible Boxing Day clash, coming from behind to win 3-2 against Chadderton, despite going down to ten men early in the second half.
Scott Metcalfe was shown a straight red after a poor two-footed tackle on Chadderton right-back, Harry Dean, leaving the home side with an uphill battle to secure a result which looked ever more difficult when Chadderton took the lead opportunistically on 63’ through Joseph Richards and an own goal by substitute Jordan Downing.
Downing atoned for his error by bringing the New Shakers back into the game on 72’ with a header from a corner, before the in-form striker Tom Greaves stepped up to find the back of the net, not once, but twice, to turn the game around and generate the kind of dramatic scenes we have become accustomed to at the Neuven Stadium so far this season.
The win sees Bury remain top of the NWFCL First Division North table, creating a four-point gap albeit with nearest contenders, Lower Breck, now having three games in hand.
During the first half, it was a tale of two play styles. AFC played the ball and probed for openings, whereas the opposition threat was created via the set-piece. The best chances for AFC came to Greaves, and he had the ball in the net in the first 15 minutes after a high cross from Matty Williams, Greaves rose up to challenge ‘keeper Fleet. However, the referee adjudged a foul had led to the goal and the effort was ruled out.
As for Chadderton, the best chance for them came in the form of Adam Dale, as a free kick was cleared away to him, and his half volley was easily caught by Kai Calderbank-Park.
However, the second half ramped up the drama within the first 20 seconds, when captain Scott Metcalfe overran his touch as he came forward into the opposing half, only to meet Harry Dean with a two-footed tackle and the referee immediately reached for his pocket and the red card.
With chances at a premium and gaps opening up at the back for ten-man Bury, a goal would no doubt change the game. And just after the hour mark, the visitors took the lead. Jimmy Moore, now with the captain’s armband, attempting to shepherd the ball out of play, was dispossessed by Richards who, with his next touch, slid his shot past a stranded Calderbank-Park with a cool finish.
More horror was to follow seven minutes later, after a free kick from the Chadderton left was floated into the Bury penalty area and was intercepted by the retreating Downing. But instead of clearing the ball away, the ball was tucked into the far corner of his own goal. Two down, 20 minutes to go.
Liam MacDevitt had joined Downing on the pitch during the second half and both substitutes would have an influence on the game as the home side looked to peg Chadderton back. Downing would make the first big impact, as he rose like a phoenix to bring Bury back from the ashes of defeat to head the ball from an Aiden Chippendale corner.
Build-up play on the Bury left moments later eventually led to the ball ended up finding its way to Tom Greaves, doing what he does best: finishing clinical chances. His ghosting in at the back post led to a headed finish across the keeper, Harrison Fleet, and brought the Bury faithful out of their seats with joy and their team back on level terms after two goals in three minutes.
With the pressure placed on the Chaddy goal going into the final five minutes, MacDevitt, who had been making a nuisance of himself in and around the opposition defence, made a darting run into the penalty area. He was brought down and the referee immediately pointed to the spot and up stepped Tom Greaves in familiar circumstances, with a chance to secure the three points. Normally dependable from 12 yards, the biggest surprise was when Greaves hit the ball towards the ‘keeper’s right-hand corner, Fleet managed to save the initial shot and looked to have kept a point for the 14th place side.
However, with defenders scrambling, the ball miraculously bounced its way back to Greaves, who took a second to compose himself, and on his weaker left foot, fired the ball into the net on the volley to send the 150-strong crowd in the ground into raptures. The Christmas present of three points secured for Andy Welsh’s men as we head into 2021 top of the table.
Bury AFC return to action on Saturday 2nd January with a 3pm kick-off at Holker Old Boys.