bury 1 (Adams 56)
Rochdale 1 (le Fondre pen 90)
Dale team: Lee, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton (s/o 30), Kennedy, Higginbotham (D’Laryea), Jones, Perkins, Rundle (Buckley), Howe, Dagnall (le Fondre)
I am struggling for what to write about the match today. Do I write about the football (which was ugly)? The Bury fans (equally so)? Or the away support (come on lads, we’re hardly the Chippendales…)?
But derbies always are ugly. The usual football etiquette doesn’t apply, tactics become superfluous and players become legends by assaulting the hated opponents. Small, meaningless tackles become red-card offences in the eyes of one set of supporters, and always, always, the referee has a shocker.
Of course, today was no different. Bury v Rochdale and vice-versa is always a crap match. All that matters is that you win, or failing that, don’t lose. And that’s all that really did matter today, Hereford winning comfortably to ensure the Dale can’t gain that final automatic promotion place. So today was about pride. And I thought we ended up with it just about intact.
Ninety minutes before kick-off, walking through Bury town centre before the match, you could spot the odd Dale fan amongst the Saturday shoppers, and he’d give you a quiet nod, happy that he isn’t alone. Bury fans in passing motors would shout “come on you Shakers” at you, gauging your reaction for possible aggression. I like this kind of day, this experience, when football can make people smile at you, or turn away depending on the colour of your shirt. Usually you just turn up at a ground, watch the match and go home. Walking through the opposing team’s town centre gives you some perspective on what the match means to people. It’s the closest we have to singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on the streets of Manchester.
It was good to see so many people wearing their holiday shorts at the match, and I laughed when a few chanted “What the fuckin’ hell are those?” at some guy’s green Hawaiians. In case you didn’t know, one of Bury’s directors earlier this year resigned because fans were complaining about his frequent and inappropriate wearing of shorts. Of course this is hilarious to your average Dale fan and today’s mocking homage was inevitable. Plus, it gave us a chance to show off our tanned and toned Rochdale legs (I’m not speaking personally here, I wouldn’t wear Bermuda shorts even in Bermuda). Bury town centre must have looked a right weird place at half two.
At five to three it looked like we hadn’t used up our full away allotment of 2,800, which was highly disappointing. But to nobody’s suprise, a load of Dale fans were still queued up outside the ground and the match was delayed to let them all in. I still don’t know if they all did or not. Various figures from 2,800 to 3,500 have been mentioned as the away support – let’s just say it was higher than normal. I know for certain we filled the Cemetery End anyway.
The match kicked off at quarter past three, after some gleeful chanting about how Dale were going to Wembley and how Bury’s season was all over. The Fred Perry lot to the left of us all had to be pushed back by luminous coat-wearers, presumably to stop them spreading airborne diseases to us.
The game itself, as I’ve said before, was crap. House husband’s favourite Andy Bishop beat the offside trap early on, but the shot was saved by gypsy Lee’s left foot. You would have expected him to score, and he probably did himself.
A few minutes later, a Bury attack again was thwarted by Lee (fast becoming a fan favourite) as he pulled off a double save from Glynn Hurst. I was in disbelief, it was a genius save (or saves I should say). Straight after, we went up the other end and the guy behind me said “If we score now, it’s all down to Lee…” but we never did because Dagnall’s shot was saved by Jim Provett in the Bury goal.
We played poorly in the first half, and after thirty minutes Nathan Stanton got himself sent off after casually tripping the whippet Elliott Bennett. Personally I didn’t think he was the last man, as Tom Kennedy and Rory McArdle were both flanking Stanton and surely had caught up with Bennett. It wasn’t what you’d call “a clear goal-scoring opportunity”, put it that way. But Stanton had to walk, and we had to finish the match with ten men. The unlucky Kallum Higginbotham was replaced by Nathan D’Laryea to fill in the gap, and we converted to a kind of 3-4-2 with Ramsden moving forward to a wing-back position.
It didn’t work.
The only other notable event in the first half was a booking for Gary Jones, not that notable you’d think, but it was when you consider that it was barely even a foul. Jonah didn’t even back-chat; referee Mike Jones just gave him a booking for tapping the guy’s ankles slightly. The decision had Dale fans all around standing up and remonstrating with the referee (as if he can hear you). The referee always, always, has a shocker…
And after some more rubbish football, the half was over. Time for a bit of a rest, a nice settle and an opportunity to let your hands and throat cool down. Dale were winning the battle off the pitch at least, although I did actually hear Bury sings some songs this year which is an improvement. The first fruits of the Knilly revolution I suppose. I full expect Bury to challenge for a playoff spot next year after playing some no-fear attacking football and putting faith in young wingers. Now where have I heard that before?
The second half was rubbish too, but a slight improvement on the first from our perspective. Ramsden was pushed further back making our formation a 4-3-2, as he was allowing Nicky Adams too much space. Nevertheless, it was Adams himself that scored Bury’s goal in the 56th minute, played in by Bishop the future-Dale winger belted it in past Lee. He was allowed far too much room, and the Dale defence all looked towards Tom Kennedy as if it was his fault. Obviously he argued to the contrary. I couldn’t tell myself, it was all down the other end.
Five minutes later, we made our second substitution, Adam le Fondre replaced Chris Dagnall (quiet and not sharp enough) as we looked to attack despite our one man disadvantage. Five minutes after that, Will Buckley came on for Adam Rundle and we we’re now playing a 4-2-3 or a 4-2-2-1, I couldn’t quite decide. Whichever way, Howe was playing as target man and le Fondre and Buckley were playing either side of him. We started to play a bit better like this, with le Fondre offering the bit of pace which Dagnall was worryingly lacking.
We still didn’t have many chances, but the loudest noise came in that period between today’s two goals; “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Wemb-er-ley, que sera sera” rang out from the Cemetery End after Bury’s song of “staying down, staying down, staying down”. It was actually quite apt for today the first song, as no matter what happened we were still in the playoffs (Hereford were winning two-nil at half-time we’d heard). This match was now played only for the rivalry.
The biggest talking points of the second half came in the last ten minutes. First, while a corner was waiting to be taken, an altercation arose between already-booked Ben Futcher (Bury’s centre-back) and Rory McArdle (our wall). I was too busy looking in the penalty area to notice, but apparently Futcher had tried to head-butt McArdle (whether in retaliation or not, I don’t know), but the tall ex-Lincoln man had got it all wrong and bust his nose. Well that’s how the story goes, make of it what you will, but the upshot was that Futcher received his second yellow and thus his marching orders. Ten men a-piece, after this we got just a little bit more belief.
In the end our equaliser was a controversial one. It looked as if the referee had given a foul against Dale inside the Bury penalty area at first, but as le Fondre put the ball on the spot we all realised we’d had a penalty. Gary Jones was as surprised as we was, shouting in angry-fisted joy to the away support. le Fondre scored the kick (bottom right of goal, palmed but not saved by Provett) and it felt as if all was okay with the world. Like I said before, all that you care about in these derbies is the result. A defeat is unthinkable, a win memorable, but a draw is acceptable. We could all go home with our prides intact.
But, it could have been so much different after the penalty had been scored, when Rene Howe and Efe Sodje tussled after a through ball; the ball was gathered by Jim Provett but Sodje slid into him and the ball popped up for Howe to slot it in. All fine and dandy you should say, a two-one victory to Dale. But inevitably the referee had other ideas and disallowed the goal, presumably on the basis that “it looked a bit dodgy”.
We can all accept an away draw to our rivals though, given our poor display. We are in the play-offs, either to play Wycombe or Darlington it would seem, and next week’s match will serve as welcome starter to the main course of the play-off matches. Today’s match was, in essence, just a derby. It was ugly, it was occasionally awful, but at least we didn’t lose.
Viva la revolucion!