STEP forward Ashley Yeoman: this was your night for glory.
United’s young striker emerged from the bench to score a dramatic and emotional injury-time winner against Bury on a massive night at Plainmoor.
Lee Mansell scored early for the Gulls with a terrific header and there was only team likely to win, but a slack moment in the Yellow defence allowed Clive Platt to snatch an equaliser midway through the second half.
Yeoman was thrust on with Jayden Stockley for the final knockings in a game United had to win to keep the survival dream alive. The young pair had read the script and combined to record a monumental three points.
United manager Chris Hargreaves made two changes from the side beaten at Cheltenham on Saturday, one enforced and one tactical, starting with captain Mansell returning to midfield in the place of the suspended Joss Labadie.
The strategic switch saw Elliot Benyon replace Stockley in attack and the boss also had a fresh forward option on the bench, with Yeoman back from a loan spell at Dorchester Town.
Bury manager David Flitcroft opted for a change of goalkeeper after Brian Jensen hobbled out of the 0–0 draw at Southend. Reece Charles-Crook was the new man with the gloves, and the other alterations saw Platt, Daniel Nardiello and Craig Jones replace Chris Hussey, Ashley Grimes and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
The brighter start came from those in Bury red and United needed a strong challenge from Krystian Pearce to thwart a promising move on the edge of the penalty area, as a subdued Plainmoor waited for their team to wake up.
The reality, however, was the sleepiest person inside TQ1 was Charles-Crook, who was caught wandering off with the ball by the alert Benyon, who robbed the ‘keeper by the corner flag and darted back inside for a shot at the vacated net, but Pablo Mills rescued the situation with a clearing header from under his own bar.
United had found their feet and Shamir Goodwin twice bamboozled Bury with neat passes inside the full-back for Dale Tonge. The first cross was cleared by the visiting defence but no such luck second time around.
Tonge measured the delivery to perfection and Mansell made a surging run into the box to plant an unstoppable header past the stranded Charles-Crook. Credit all round for the pass inside, expert cross and the positioning of a delighted Yellow skipper.
The next ball into the Bury box caused yet more havoc and Charles-Crook continued his nervous start by dropping the ball under heavy pressure from Enoch Showunmi, but referee David Phillips spared any embarrassment by blowing for a generous free-kick.
Bury eventually gathered their composure to pounce on a sloppy touch from Showunmi and Danny Mayor broke into the space in midfield to test Martin Rice with a dipping shot, but United’s custodian was up to the challenge with a smart low save.
At the other end, Charles-Crook was having a nightmare, as a horrendous sliced clearance had the Yellow Arm howling with derision, amusement and hope. The next attack saw a sweeping cross from Courtney Cameron volleyed narrowly over by Showunmi.
Plainmoor then held its breath after Tom Soares spread the ball wide to Jones, who profited from a fortunate rebound to evade the challenge of Kevin Nicholson and United were mighty relieved to see eventual shot dragged inches wide.
The Gulls responded with a delightful outswinging corner from Cameron picking out the unmarked Aaron Downes and the Australian defender was only a fraction off target with his header aimed at the far corner.
As a decent first half drew to a close, chances became more scarce but the general pattern remained positive for United, with Goodwin having a fine game on the right flank and Cameron not far behind on the opposite side of the pitch.
Bury, meanwhile, stuck to their principles of passing the ball out from the back. It was an admirable but dangerous ploy, and United thoroughly deserved their slender advantage at half-time.
The interval gave the Gulls a chance to assess a knock picked up by Cameron and he was deemed not fit to continue, prompting a full second half for Danny Stevens to impress and he soon troubled Frederic Veseli with a darting surge down the left.
Flitcroft turned to his replacements early in the second half, removing Soares for Hussey. The new man had barely crossed the white line before Nicholson curled a beautiful free-kick around the wall and inches outside the post.
The swirling wind was becoming an increasing factor for the United defence but Downes and Pearce were up to the aerial challenge, repelling the ever-more industrial approach from the visitors.
The Gulls then won a set-piece by the corner and the inviting delivery by Stevens was asking to be headed past a static Charles-Crook, but a
combination of Pearce and Showunmi could not stretch the neck muscles far enough to reach the ball.
Bury had offered nothing as an attacking force and yet they found themselves level when the Yellow defence fell asleep from a Chris Sedgwick set-piece. The initial cross was headed clear but when the ball returned to the box, United stood still.
Platt was alive to the chance, composed himself in the left channel before steering a neat finish past Rice. The shock of an equaliser prompted the Gulls forward to win a corner and Downes was only a fraction away from immediately restoring the home lead.
Bury sought to build on their renewed belief with the introduction of Akpa Akpro for Nardiello. The substitute instantly caused a problem at the back post and United were grateful to Downes for an excellent defensive header.
A double Yellow change came next and it was a brand new strike-force for the final 15 minutes. Showunmi and Benyon were withdrawn for Yeoman and Stockley.
The Gulls entered a massive final 10 minutes with a lump down the line from Dale Tonge flicked on by Stockley and Mansell has burst beyond the front-men to arrow an awkward half-volley toward the near post, but Charles-Crook smothered the ball comfortably.
United next had Goodwin one-on-one with his man and it was no contest, as the man on loan from Brighton jinked into the box and was desperately unlucky to see rifled cross just elude Stockley at the back post.
The Gulls were heaping on the pressure and frantic defending from Bury blocked the next Goodwin effort after a succession of dangerous corners whipped into the danger zone. Damon Lathrope then smashed an ambitious long-range shot inches wide.
Rice came to the fore in the final minute, standing up well to block a Platt attempt and what a massive moment it turned out to be.
Nicholson picked up the ball on the left and hoisted a cross toward Stockley, who competed gamely with the Bury defence and did enough to ruffle
feathers. The ball dropped perfectly for Yeoman breaking into the box.
A young man who has come through the United youth system and a natural born finisher sized up his chance for glory, and swept an assured finish past Charles-Crook and into the bottom corner.
Plainmoor erupted with joy and relief. We deserved to win this game and the glimmer is getting brighter.
Bring on Newport on Saturday.
United [4-4-2]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 17 Shamir Goodwin, 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 6 Damon Lathrope, 11 Courtney Cameron (23 Danny Stevens H-T); 25 Enoch Showunmi (19 Jayden Stockley 76), 26 Elliot Benyon (14 Ashley Yeoman 76). Substitutes [not used]: 1 Michael Poke [GK], 8 Ben Harding, 9 Karl Hawley, 29 Anthony O’Connor.
Booked:Cameron 32, Pearce 45, Benyon 52, Mansell 80
Bury [3-4-3]: 30 Reece Charles-Crook; 34 Pablo Mills, 29 Frederic Veseli, 3 Jim McNulty; 12 Chris Sedgwick, 19 Tom Soares (11 Chris Hussey 54), 16 Andrew Tutte, 7 Craig Jones [capt]; 18 Daniel Nardiello (17 Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro 73), 22 Clive Platt, 15 Danny Mayor (24 Jake Carroll 89). Substitutes [not used]: 4 Richard Hinds, 10 Ashley Grimes, 14 Lewis Young, 21 Brian Jensen [GK].
Referee: David Phillips
Attendance:1,738 (75 away).