Lowestoft Town 0, Bury Town 1
Suffolk neighbours Bury Town inflicted only a second home league defeat on Lowestoft Town yesterday, with the race for a place in the Ryman Premier play-offs to be decided on the final day of the season.
After a competitive first half high on tempo, if not clear cut chances, Town wasted the perfect chance to boost their play-off hopes from the spot. Suffolk neighbours Bury Town inflicted only a second home league defeat on Lowestoft Town yesterday, with the race for a place in the Ryman Premier play-offs to be decided on the final day of the season.
In what the Trawlerboys will be hoping is not their side's final outing at Crown Meadow this term, striker Matt Nolan's penalty miss before half-time proved costly as Chris Henderson lashed home from distance in the 76th minute.
It left Bury leapfrogging their hosts into third place, before Saturday's final weekend of the campaign.
With Sutton United already promoted as champions, the four teams below them will be involved in the end of season play-offs for a second promotion berth into the Conference.
Lowestoft sit fourth and with their final game a trip to already relegated basement side Folkestone, they have an excellent chance of being involved in next month's promotion shake-up.
But with six play-off hopefuls separated by just three points, Blues joint manager Ady Gallagher knows his side need to finish the job.
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'To me, honestly looking at it now and trying to be as positive as I can about it, our play-off hopes are still in our hands and I would rather a sucker punch today than in one of our play-off games,' said Gallagher. 'If we can play ourselves into those games, then hopefully the little bits will go our way – not everything went our way today.
'I felt we were the better side and it's disappointing we didn't get something from the game to be honest with you. I felt we controlled it for long parts, Bury were a direct side and I suppose their goal came from being very direct.
'It was a great strike – but it's just one of those; sometimes they go in the top corner, sometimes they end up in the harbour.
'I think we created a larger share of the chances throughout the whole game and obviously we've missed a penalty, but results haven't all gone against us today, so although it's disappointing there is plenty to play for.
'We've been on a run of six clean sheets and we have only conceded a goal from 20-odd yards today – a 25-yard hoof has just gone in the top corner.'
Gallagher refused to criticise Nolan for his miss from 12 yards, despite seeing Lowestoft miss their fourth successive penalty.
'I think Matty would feel he struck the ball really well, I just don't think it was quite wide enough of the goalkeeper,' said Gallagher.
'If you hit the side-netting with that type of power or the keeper goes the wrong way, then you score. But this happens in football.
'You get little spells where goals from penalties just don't go in for you. And it means nothing because it will probably end up being us going through on a penalty shoot out. That's just the way it is.'
After a competitive opening half high on tempo, if not chances, Town wasted the best of the lot from the spot four minutes before the break.
Dale Cockrill sent the lively Lubo Guentchev clear and he linked well with Nolan before being sent to the ground by Henderson – but Nolan's penalty was too close to Bury goalkeeper Marcus Garnham, who saved low to his right.
Kieran Leabon flicked Andy Reynold's crossbar with a dipping effort as the visitors had the best of the early second half exchanges in the burning heat, and although Lowestoft pressed as the half wore on, Bury struck the killer blow.
Blues full-back Andrew Cave-Brown failed to deal with a long ball forward and Henderson took advantage to break clear and fire an unstoppable effort high to Reynold's right, leaving a small pocket of the impressive 1,246 Bank Holiday Crown Meadow crowd ecstatic and the rest stunned.
It was the first goal the hosts had conceded in more than 700 minutes of football, and only a brilliant save by Reynolds denied Lee Reed adding a second in injury time – with the forward blazing his rebound over – as Bury clung on to a hard earned three points, and left their Suffolk rivals with one more chance to beeok their own play-off ticket.
• Lowestoft (4-4-2): Reynolds 7; Cave-Brown 5, Gaughran 6, Haynes-Brown 7, Ainsley 7 (Forbes 85 n/a); Guentchev 8, Cockrill 7, Mitchell 6, Francis 5; Forshaw 6, Nolan 5. Subs (not used): Halliday, Stock, Fisk, Crane. Booking: Forshaw 79.
• Bury (4-5-1): Garnham 8; Hunter 6, Hipperson 7, Bullard 7, Coulson 6; Leabon 7, Andrews 6 (Nurse 90+3 n/a), Scowcroft 6, L Reed 7, Henderson 8; S Reed 7 (Nunn 90+3 n/a). Subs (not used): Chaplin, Clark, Pope. Booking: Bullard 79. Goal: Henderson 76.
• Referee: Ian Rathbone 6
• Attendance: 1,246