Party time at Ram Meadow

AS FOOTBALL matches go this one will not linger long in the memory, but as an occasion it was one to savour.

AS FOOTBALL matches go this one will not linger long in the memory, but as an occasion it was one to savour.

Bury, starting the day in top spot and with a 17-goal difference over second-placed Hitchin Town, knew victory would ensure them of the title.

They responded to manager Richard Wilkins’ call to “get out of the blocks quickly” to the extent that the points – and the title – were wrapped up with just half-an-hour gone.

Marlow looked like a team who had been invited to the party but didn’t want to be there – unlike the bumper 1,550 crowd who were in the mood to celebrate.

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Already missing five first-choice players through injuries and suspensions, the visitors did not arrive until 30 minutes before kick-off after their coach broke down on the A14 at Risby.

Their warm-up complete, the players changed into their shirts by the side of the pitch before walking back into the tunnel only to walk straight out again!

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Bury, oozing confidence after nine straight league wins, soothed any early nerves they may have held by taking the lead after just ten minutes.

Russell Short’s long throw was met at the near post by what appeared to be a routine flick on by Kieran Leabon, but stand-in keeper Gavin Lane inexplicably allowed the ball to creep inside the post.

Six minutes later and it was 2-0. Leabon left defenders in his wake as he sprinted on to Sam Nunn’s long ball from the back and clinically lifted it over the advancing Lane.

Leabon, who was released by Ipswich as a schoolboy and subsequently played for Boston and Histon, completed his hat-tick on the half hour. Ben Coker’s lob forward was not dealt with by centre backs Tom Willment and Mark Avery and Leabon cut in from the left and although he shaped to shoot in the far corner his effort went straight at – and under – Lane.

Bury goalkeeper Marcus Garnham, who was a virtual spectator for most of the match, was called upon to make one splendid save just two minutes before the break.

He twisted upwards and backwards to tip over a sizzling 25-yard shot from Leigh Mason, whose control and passing in the midfield made him stand out for the visitors.

The second half was something of an anti-climax – not that anyone other than Wilkins and assistant Richard Skelly – really cared too much.

The crowd amused themselves with renditions of ‘Are you Sudbury in disguise?’ and ‘Hitchin, what’s the score?’ as Bury lacked the killer instinct that has seen them plunder 115 goals in the campaign.

Lee Reed grazed the top of the bar with a powerful drive from outside the penalty area, but otherwise too many promising moves broke down.

After the fans spilled onto the pitch to congratulate the players, Bury were presented with the shield by Brian McCarty, a director of the Zamaretto League.

The champagne spraying then began to a backdrop of Queen’s ‘We are the champions’ over the tannoy and fireworks being set off as the party moved into overdrive.

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