Bury v Rochdale, 12noon on 7th Mar 2009, at Gigg Lane
Keith Hill doesn’t give a monkey’s about Bury, or so he says. In an interview with the ‘Fishul site Hilly stated, “We are handling our situation how we feel best. With respect to what Bury are doing I couldn’t care less to be perfectly honest.” Quite. But will our assistant manager Dave Flitcroft, youth team manager Chris Beech, left-back Tom Kennedy and on-loan midfielder Nicky Adams feel the same? The links between the two teams are no longer just geographical, practically half of Dale’s staff used to play for the Buckets. After all, we never used to sing “You’re Rochdale’s feeder club”, to those huddled two thousand at Gigg.
The derby this year also has a smidge of extra added spice, (as if it needed it); both sides are aiming for automatic promotion from Division Four and a win for either would strengthen their position whilst weakening their opponents; Mark Lawrenson would probably call it a six-pointer. So, with both sides aiming to forego the playoff lottery, Wembley related chants might not be aired unlike last year, where it was practically all the Dale sang, and instead the E-I-E-I-E-I-O’s will ring around Gigg Lane from both sets of supporters. This is actually a massive game for once.
Indeed, so massive is this game that the authorities have decided to bring forward the kick-off from 3 o’ clock to 12noon to try and ease the congestion which saw the match delayed by fifteen minutes last season. So instead of being in the pubs at ten to three and rushing to get into the Cemetary End in time for kick-off like usual, Dale fans will now be in the pubs at ten to twelve. If they’re open that is. In another effort to quell the danger of delays, Bury Football Club have also made tickets available from the Main Stand office inside Spotland – over 800 were already sold by this morning, with another 1,300 on sale until noon on Friday. The 2,100 tickets are for use in the West Stand of Gigg Lane, and when this inevitably fills up the rest of the Dale contingent will be housed in the Main Stand, of which a thousand seats have been allocated. Bury must be damn sure that we won’t bring more than 3,100.
This season’s officials too are of a slightly higher calibre, at least on paper, than what we’re used to – Premier League ref Alan Wiley is set to be the man in the middle for Saturday’s game, with fellow elite ref Stuart Attwell acting as fourth official. More used to judging whether or not Didier Drogba is diving or not, it will interesting to see how they react to a Nathan Stanton elbow for instance, or Lee Thorpe’s backing-in. Expect whistles.
As far as Rochdale team news goes, Chris Dagnall will miss the match due to an automatic 3 match suspension picked up in the defeat to Barnet last night. Gary Jones is also not likely to start after picking up a groin strain against Darlington, but may make the bench. The other Jones, Mark, too is set to stay in the shadows after a tight hamstring saw him miss the Grimsby game. Aside from that, Dale have a full squad to choose from bar Marcus Holness and Jon Shaw, who are loaned out to Barrow and Crawley respectively.
Bury might have Stephen Dawson back from a suspension but their official site and the FA’s own Suspended Players list seem to be at odds with each other, the former reporting that he will be allowed to play while the latter saying he won’t. Aside from that one question mark, the Buckets will possibly welcome back keeper Wayne Brown and centre-half Ben Futcher from injury, as they both are due to play in Bury’s reserve fixture against Man City tonight. Alan Knill thus has the luxury of an entirely fully-fit squad to choose his starting XI from, barring any late injuries. An injury to top-scorer Andy Bishop would be handy from a Dale perspective, the totally heterosexual forward has scored fourteen league goals this season, two more than our own top scorer Adam le Fondre.
For those of a pessimistic nature, it is notable that Rochdale have only won one of the previous eleven matches against Bury, but the one in which we did came at Gigg Lane two years ago when Glenn Murray scored the only goal of the game. Another 1-0 would do just fine, Bury are handy under Knill and score a lot at set-pieces, which is a particular weakness of this Dale side. A draw however is more realistic, given Rochdale’s terrible record against Bury and both sides recent good form. One thing is for definite – it will be ugly and it will be hard fought… but oh I how love those ugly, hard fought derbies.
Written by Matt Boothman on 4th March 09