Manchopper in….Rochdale

Rochdale_AFC_logoFleetwood Town FC

Result: Rochdale 0-2 Fleetwood Town (SkyBet Football League 1)

Venue: Spotland (Sunday 29th December 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 3,123

To round off 2014, I had decided to go full circle. 2013 had been rounded off with a trip to Spotland to see Rochdale defeat Bristol Rovers by 2-0, as both sides were destined to depart League 2, though in completely contrasting directions.

This time, I was heading back up to the North Manchester town to see the Dale, now plying their trade in League 1, entertain their fellow promoted side from last term, Fleetwood Town. The latter were to have their day in the sun at Wembley, as they secured promotion via the play-off route thanks to Antoni Sarcevic (previously of Woodley Sports) and his fine strike.

Alas, there was to be no sighting of him today, I was to discover. I set off though, at just after midday, and headed into Manchester for my bus connection. Of course, due to the day it was Sunday services, thus making the timings a little more difficult. But fear not, as a seasoned traveller in the dangerous world of public transport, I was not to be denied.

On the way, I met with Rob McKay, the West Didsbury & Chorlton Match Secretary, who was making his way to the Etihad Stadium. After a chat about all things non-league, especially attendances, we parted ways in St. Peter’s Square, and I headed to Shudehill for my second bus of the day. Soon enough, the 17 bus pulled in and I was off towards Rochdale.

50 minutes or so later, I arrived into the interchange and there I waited for the local service to dump me directly outside Spotland Stadium. After being safely delivered, I headed for the Dale Bar where I was to meet up with Ian Wright. No, not that Ian Wright, but a loyal Dale fan. Ian said he’d keep an eye out for me, so off I headed to the bar and as I was waiting for service a voice next to me called “Manchopper?”. It happened that Ian was stood next to me for a bit and had weighed me up “in portrait” to ensure it was me and probably not to confuse someone massively by calling them a name as above!

With a drink in hand, Ian invited me over to take a seat with him, his wife Lesley and his son Sam. A teamsheet was passed around, which I was kindly allowed to keep and I slotted into the programme I had purchased at the bar. “The Voice of Spotland is a good issue for £3, the standard price for a league programme in general. After a bit of a chat, Ian and his family bid me farewell, for now, but with the offer of meeting up after the game to go in the bar upstairs. The perks of being a groundhopper!

Anyway, the clock was ticking over towards three-o’clock and kick-off was fast approaching. So, I downed the remainder of Kopparberg in my glass and headed back out into the chilly Lancashire afternoon.

Approaching the gates

Approaching the gates

After paying £15 for a place on the Sandy Lane Terrace (not at all bad for a League 1 game), I was into Spotland for the second time. I stood within the higher reaches of the covered terrace to get a better view, I figured, and ended up in an almost identical place to where I had stood almost 12 months ago to the day. Co-incidence? Yes, of course. What else were you expecting me to say? That it was a spooky thing that I was drawn back to the spot? Ok, stop now I’m scaring myself….

To take my mind off this, I think this is probably the best time to delve into the annuls of Rochdale’s history.

History Lesson:

The current Rochdale A.F.C. was founded in 1907, but there was a previous club (which had no links to the current club) by the same name which ran from 1896-1901. Around this time, the area was predominantly rugby dominated, which meant it took until 1896, and the foundation of the club for an association football club to come into existence, occurring when Rochdale Athletic Club & the Rochdale Athletic Ground Company. they joined the Lancashire Combination.then the Lancashire League, finishing mid-table throughout their existence. The club moved to St.Clement’s, now known as Spotland, from the Athletic Grounds just before their financially induced demise. They folded on 1 January 1901, and 6 years later, the new incarnation of Rochdale A.F.C. came into being.

Nicknamed ‘The Dale’, the club originally plied their trade in the Lancashire Combination, where they recorded two title wins, in 1910-’11 and 1911-’12. Since Dale were accepted into the Football League (FL) in 1921, they have spent an astonishing 77 of its 85 league seasons in the lowest tier, more than any other club. However, they have never been relegated to the Conference, and twice been promoted, in 1969 and 2010. Despite winning no silverware since joining the League, they hold the honour of being one of only two sides from the lowest tier to have competed in the League Cup final, in 1962.

After WWI, the club initially applied to join the newly expanded FL, but were knocked back, until their successful application in 1921, when they were recommended for promotion to the new Third Division North. Their first league fixture was a home tie against Accrington Stanley, which ended in a 6-3 triumph. However, this was arguably the highlight, as the club finished bottom, and had to reapply for membership. In 1923-’24 & 1926-’27 the club finished as Third Division North runners-up, and only picked up further silverware in 1948-’49, in the form of the Lancashire Cup. In 1958, the league was restructured again, which saw the two regional divisional sections combined into the Third and Fourth Divisions, with Rochdale securing a place in the Third Division. However, they were relegated at the end of the season, returning to their usual place in the lower reaches.

They were promoted again in 1969, winning the Lancashire Cup in 1971, before being relegated once again in 1974, and they were not destined to rise the divisions again until 2010, meaning the club played 36 consecutive seasons in the FL’s bottom division, some going as far as to nickname it the ‘Rochdale Division’, due to their stalwartness. This is not helped further by their record of having the lowest average position of any club who have continuously played in the FL. They share the dubious honour (with Hartlepool United) of contesting the most FL seasons without reaching the top two tiers of the League (82 seasons until 2010)).

They finished bottom in ’77-’78, having to reapply for re-election, being successful at the expense of Southport who dropped out. Wigan Athletic replaced them. Again The Dale finished bottom in ’79-’80, but again were re-elected by the narrowest of margins, one vote, over Altrincham. They reached the play-offs in 2001, but lost out to Rushden & Diamonds in the semi-finals.

Following this a period of managerial instability followed, with John Hollins, Paul Simpson, Alan Buckley and Hollins again all given the job but being sacked, all within a 5 year period. Keith Hill was to be appointed, in something of a masterstroke, as he was to become, arguably, Dale’s most successful manager to date. With now Bury manager David Flitcroft as assistant, he led Dale to a 5th-placed finish in 2007-’08, beating Darlington on penalties, before losing to Stockport County 3-2 at Wembley. (Look at those two previous names, and ponder where they are now). 2008-’09 saw Rochdale reach the play-offs again, via a 6th-place finish, but once again were denied in the semi’s (by Gillingham), but it was to be third time lucky in 2009-’10 when Dale beat Northampton Town at Wembley, to end a 41-year wait for promotion.

After suffering relegation back to League 2 in the interim, Keith Hill returned and guided the club back to League 1 last season by attaining automatic promotion via a 3rd place finish.

Main Stand

Main Stand

Willbutts Lane Stand.

Willbutts Lane Stand.

Back to the present day now and, more specifically, the 108-year-old Spotland itself. The ground was filling up nicely now with the terrace already beginning to have it’s regulars housed within it. From this vantage point you have, to the right, the Main Stand which houses the ticket office, ‘clubhouse’ & corporate areas. To the left is the Willbutts Lane Stand, which houses the away followings, so today was mostly empty, bar a few hundred travelling “Cod Army”. Directly opposite the terrace, is the Pearl Street Stand, behind which you will find the car park. Housed in the rear of the stand are some further amenities & a further bar, on the outside of which is a small plaque recording the opening of said facilities by the legendary Nat Lofthouse. Spotland has a current capacity of 10,249, the vast majority of which can be seated.

Pearl Street Stand

Pearl Street Stand

The sides entered the field as the strange Dale mascot got to work, and the game was underway, Dale going close almost immediately. However, this was as good as it got for the home fans as Fleetwood bossed the remainder of the half, both in terms of possession and chances. It was of little surprise to anyone in attendance when they struck first, captain Mark Roberts’ header from Stephen Dobbie’s free-kick creeping in at the far post, the centre-back wheeling away to his fans in delight.

On the stroke of half-time it was two as on-loan Blackburn man Josh Morris slid home a low ball in. Morris had deserved that goal after being a constant threat.  This goal signalled food time, so I headed for the adjoining food hut where I purchased a Steak pie for £2 (I think). Again, it was a high quality piece of culinary. Sufficiently filled and remaining on the terrace, I awaited the beginning of the second period.

Spotland Sunset

Spotland Sunset

Match Action

Match Action

The sky had just turned a shade of pink-orange and the floodlights were taking full effect over the grass below, tended to by the final time by Dale’s groundsman, who was leaving for Qatar, we were informed. Now that’s a culture shock!  As expected, Fleetwood maintained their solid defensive shape, without committing forwards too much, meaning Dale were being invited to attack them more and more. This looked to be a mistake when the referee, who had hardly endeared himself to the home fans before, or indeed any time afterwards, awarded a penalty for holding, McLoughlin the offender, Dale captain Lancashire the perceived victim. To be fair to the defender it looked the proverbial six-of-one, but he was booked and Fleetwood’s Chris Maxwell prepared to face the spot-kick taker Ian Henderson, but his kick rattled the underside of the crossbar and was bundled clear.

The Villain, Ian Henderson

The Villain, Ian Henderson

Cod Army enjoying their win

Cod Army enjoying their win

This seemed to buffet the momentum out of Dale who, despite attacking with more threat than in the first half, never really looked like finding the net and so it was Fleetwood who held out for a much needed win, their first in six matches, no less.

After the final whistle, I headed for the ticket office, the agreed meet up point for the bar, where I met up with Ian once again and was guided to the room. It was surprisingly fuller than I’d imagined, but I battled my way to the bar and with a cider in hand settled in to watch Newcastle v Everton. After seeing Jamie Allen be awarded man of the match, meeting the brilliant Edgar’s Gift pairing Neil & David and their charity’s patron, Dale’s #7, Peter Vincenti, and asking his girlfriend if she enjoyed the perks of being a WAG (involving holding orange juice and bags),I was offered a lift back to Dale town centre with Ian and his family in a taxi. Much appreciated! All superb people.

Me, the Edgar's Gift Pairing and Peter Vincenti.

Me, the Edgar’s Gift Pairing Neil & David and Peter Vincenti.

So, not long after I was heading back towards home with another great day out stored in the memory banks. Football 2014, you’ve been great Here’s to even better football in 2015!

My Rochdale M.o.M.- Jamie Allen
My Fleetwood Town M.o.M.- Stephen Dobbie

RATINGS:

Game: 7- Not a bad game overall, number of chances.
Ground: 7- Nice ground, with a modern feel, yet still maintains its character.
Food: 8- Very tasty pie, well worth the money if you’re peckish!
Programme: 0- There you go, Ian! 😉 *8 really.
Fans: 6- Quite subdued, not helped by performance level. Tried a few times to get the side going though.
Value For Money: 8- Cheapest in League 1, average programme, good food for price. £5 travel.

Manchopper in….Salford

thCAMJDCAEradcliffe borough

Result: Salford City 2-1 Radcliffe Borough (Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North)

Venue: Moor Lane (Friday 26th December 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 246

Boxing Day morning began with a little trepidation, as I logged on to “Twitter” for the usual mid-winter postponement check. Granted, I had some alternatives set up in case my first choice fell victim to the wet and rather chilly weather, but as it happened I needn’t have worried. The news filtered through from Salford City’s Moor Lane that it was game on!

It was soon after that I was venturing out into the chilly, but still rather mild for this tie of year, Manchester air and boarded the 255 service to Piccadilly Gardens. With my leather jacket making a welcome return to the fold, I was feeling rather pleased with my choice as the sun shone through the windows, giving the illusion of warmth. Soon enough, I’d pulled into the bus station and made the short 5 minute hop over to Shudehill Interchange in the Northern Quarter of the city. Once here, I had a 20 minute or so wait for the 98 service onwards towards Moor Lane. Sadly, I decided it wasn’t enough time to warrant a rushed trip to the Lower Turk’s Head opposite, though I was given a small chuckle when I saw some apartments above a kebab shop termed as being “luxury”. This wasn’t quite the word I’d use to describe them, however.

Anyway, now on board my connection service, I was at the junction of Moor Lane after around a 25 minute journey. With little to no public houses within the near vicinity, I had already made the decision to head straight for the ground. With small signposts aiding me, I found myself cutting up the, almost, appropriately named Nevile Road (with the connection to the “Class of 92”, you see, and soon enough was stood outside a pair of gates emblazoned in newly panted “SCFC”. It happens that this is the back end of the ground, there is also a turnstile on the opposite side of the ground, on Moor Lane itself. Anyway, after handing over my £7 entrance fee, and a further £1.50 for the “Red Ammie” programme, I entered into the home of the Ammies.

Turnstile

Turnstile

The gates

The Salford gates

The other entrance, reached from Moor Lane.

The other entrance, reached from Moor Lane.

Moor Lane is a familiar stomping ground for me, having been a regular visitor when following Trafford in both the North West Counties and Northern Premier League. Though Trafford have had the better of the recent times, finding themselves a league above Salford, at time of writing, and having beaten them to the Counties title beforehand, it appears that, sooner rather than later, the positions are going to change.

That is all for the future, though. So, back to the present before we delve into the past. Despite being a familiar ground to me, as I stated previously, Moor Lane has undergone quite the facelift and smartening up process following their famous investors input. It seems I may be in the minority in saying so, but I think that anything like this is good for the non-league game. Not only does it provide much needed publicity for the lower leagues, but it can also help the club in question in turn, and this is clearly shown in Salford’s attendances this season which, I stand to be corrected, are much better on average than last season’s. It still features two stands, the main, old stand and a smaller covered terraced on the opposite side. Both goal ends are open, with one serving as the club car park. Cover your windows! Moor Lane has a capacity of around 1,400.

Welcome To Salford City.

Welcome To Salford City.

Clubhouse, facilities & Main Stand

Clubhouse, facilities & Main Stand

Terraced stand

Terraced stand

With a new, smart clubhouse, changing rooms area (far removed from the old ones in the back of the stand!) and fresh facelift for both stands, Moor Lane is looking resplendent again and is attracting a good atmosphere now, with the larger crowds and much more merchandise on show in the stands. It was the former for where I headed first, and I got myself a £3 Kopparberg, before settling in to watch the latter stages of the Chelsea-West Ham game on TV. With 30 minutes to go to kick-off, and both the bar and ground filling up nicely, and camera crew still filming the upcoming documentary in attendance, it seems the best time to delve into the history of, “The Ammies”, Salford City Football Club.

History Lesson:

Formed in 1940 under the name Salford Central, the club competed in local leagues, progressing up these rather steadily, climbing the Salford City Amateur League as Runners-up’s in Division 2 and 1 (twice) as well as lifting one Challenge Cup, in 1951, their first silverware. The club then switched to the Manchester Amateur League where, under the name Salford Amateurs (where the Ammies nickname derives), they won one honour, the Hulme Celtic Cup in 1964, then the Manchester League where they were more successful, winning the First Division and Murray Shield in 1969 an then lifting four Premier Division titles in 5 years, between 1975 and 1979. On the cup front during this period, the club lifted three Lancashire Amateur Cups (’71,’73,’75), two Manchester Challenge Trophies (’75 &’76) and two Manchester Intermediate Cups (’78 &’79). In 1977, the club also attained the, rather princely, title of “Champion of Champions”.
Leading up to 1980, the club committee put in lots of work to improve facilities, resulting in admittance to the Cheshire League. However, this stay lasted just two seasons, when the hard work paid off. With the amalgamation of the Lancashire Combination and Cheshire League, the North West Counties League (NWCFL) was born, and the Ammies took their chance to progress into the pyramid.
In 1989, and under the Salford City name, the club played at Old Trafford, a forebear of what was to come, as well as installing lights at their home. 1990 saw City play in the FA Cup for the first time, but this celebration of 50 years of existence was tempered with relegation at the end of the campaign. When the league restructured in 1992, the club re-took its place in the Division One.

Despite cementing themselves as regular challengers in the Counties upper echelons, the club found success and silverware surprisingly hard to come by, with only a League Challenge Cup in 2006 to show before, in 2008, they finished as runners-up to local rivals Trafford and were later granted promotion, due to having the best record in the country of 2nd placed sides who’d applied for the step up.

After surviving initial seasons of struggle in the Northern Premier League, the club staged many a memorable survival push, largely thanks to the continued late season signing and goals of Steve Foster.
2013 saw the club vanquished on penalties following an entertaining Manchester Premier Cup Final at Edgeley Park by defending champions Mossley, a game that I attended. Last season, the club finished an inconspicuous 16th place in the Evo-Stik Division One North, before the well publicised investments and take-over by the Manchester United “Class of 92” and latterly businessman Peter Lim, appear to have given Salford the basis to push onwards to the aim of “league football” in the future. The investment also showed in changes on the pitch, the club’s more traditional Tangerine colours ousted in favour of a United-themed red & white home kit, with the away and third also mirroring the Premier League side’s. The club crest was also changed, with the rampant lion changes to a front-facing lions face, to show the forward thinking ambitions of the club.

The Red Ammie Programme

The Red Ammie Programme

The new crest as displayed in the clubhouse

The new crest as displayed in the clubhouse

Formalities

Formalities

Back to today, and the sides came out to a smattering of applause, with Radcliffe having a sizable chunk of support in the terraces. The game began in the bright sunshine, so I took the opportunity to undergo my lap of the ground. I was to be happy that I took the chance when I did, as the rains came down towards the half-hour point and remained set in for the evening. As it was, the first half was virtually a closely fought non-event, with both sides creating little, bar Boro’s quick frontman Bevan Burey sprinting clear of the flat-footed Salford back-line before firing wildly off target. Radcliffe’s goalkeeper, Altrincham’s Josh Samberg, was largely untroubled, with only a couple of efforts flying wide of his uprights. The only time he was called into action was to keep out a tame effort from the left of the area.

Half-Time, 0-0. So I headed to the food hut, located in the same building as the clubhouse, but with its own serving hatch. After purchasing a £2 steak pie, a nice one by the way, I checked up on the “scores on the doors” from around the country, before heading back outside to avoid the painful coverage shown on screen.

Match action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Looking out towards the car park end from the Main Stand

Looking out towards the car park end from the Main Stand

The second period had just gotten underway as I exited the doors, before retaking y place in the gods of the old, traditional-style main stand. It wasn’t long until the breakthrough arrived. Boro’ had started the brighter, and after forcing a couple of corners, just after the hour mark, centre-back Richard Smith nodded home and ran about seemingly not sure of how to celebrate his strike. He looked to have enjoyed it though, against his former outfit.

However, the lead was to last all of three minutes. Salford broke down the right, and the ball was worked into the area where left-winger Sam Madeley met the cross and expertly diverted the ball into the far corner with his head. 1-1. Madely almost doubled his tally soon after when his effort was saved wellby Samberg, but he wasn’t to be denied for long. From a right-wing corner, the ball dropped within the eighteen-yard box where a poke forward was diverted over the line by Madeley for his and Salford’s second. 2-1.

HMS Scrooge. Appropriate for the time of year.

HMS Scrooge. Appropriate for the time of year.

The Kersal end

The Kersal end.

From there, it was rather plain sailing for City, as they comfortably weathered the storm, both on the pitch and from above to secure a much needed three points and keep up the pressure on Darlington and Northwich Vics at the top of the table.

After the game, I headed back into the clubhouse for another quick drink, and after meeting up again with Radcliffe’s Danny White and Salford’s Martyn Andrews, whom I both know well from their times at Trafford, I was soon on my way back towards the bus stop, where I timed it perfectly to minimise my stay in the chilly evening air. Once back in Manchester Piccadilly, it appeared that there was something falling from the sky. Something frozen. Having been a rather “Frozen”-themed Christmas a day earlier (the Disney film, not actual ice), it appeared that Elsa had weaved her way into the real world. Or, maybe it was just the alcohol and Yorkshire puddings catching up with me. Either way, it was a nice ending to a good day and raised a smile from those in the City Centre.

My Salford City M.o.M.- Ash Dunn
My Radcliffe Borough M.o.M.- Chris Mason.

Moor Lane

Moor Lane

Technology arrives in non-league

Technology arrives in non-league

Moor Lane

Moor Lane

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Not the greatest, but considering the conditions, it wasn’t likely to be.
Ground: 7- It’s improving all the while. Very smart, new services and paint jobs.
Programme: 7- A really good effort, lots of original content, which is always good.
Food: 7- Pie was nice, so happy with that. Price not bad too.
Fans: 6- Rather subdued today, probably down to weather and looked low on numbers in the “ultra” section. Still gave a couple of vocal performances!
Value For Money: 7- Cheap ciders, food decent price, regular admission & programme price. £5-ish travel.

Manchopper in….Bury

Bury_FCLuton Town FC

Result: Bury 1-1 Luton Town (FA Cup 2nd Round)

Venue: JD Stadium (Saturday 6th December, 3.00pm)

Att: 2,790

Another FA Cup weekend was in full swing after Blyth Spartans’ Friday evening triumph over Hartlepool United which sealed Paul Murray’s fate, and my destination was a return to Gigg Lane and Bury FC who were entertaining the recent Football League returnees, Luton Town.

So, after a pre-conceived meeting with Dan Watkinson in Manchester Piccadilly, we caught the 135 bus up towards Bury. The service drops you off a 2 minute walk from Gigg..,apologies, the JD Stadium as it is now known. But beforehand, I had decided that I would finally drop in at the finely named Swan & Cemetery, a favoured haunt of both home and visiting support on matchdays. Today was no different, with both teams being represented within the hostelry. The Swan was decorated with Christmas lights, tinsel and the rest of the usual décor hung from the rafters and the fireplace, giving the pub a warm feeling on a rather icy afternoon.

After a Kopparberg for me and an Orange Juice for me cost-cutting companion, we moved onwards, and down the road to the Staff of Life, located on the junction. Inside was pretty full, with the vast majority watching the latter staged of Newcastle-Chelsea on the TV. We decided to take a table just out of sight of the game and gauge the outcomes on the reactions of those in view. Dan, a Chelsea fan, wasn’t too impressed with the outcome, though, as the Toon came out 2-1 victors.

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

Swan & Cemetery

With Strongbow finished, it was onwards to the ground where, upon arrival, we paid the discounted rate of £10 (as u-23 & student) and purchased a programme, a 130th anniversary issue, for £3. It’s well worth it too.
We had, again, previously decided to complete Gi…JD Stadium, by sitting in the East Stand, meaning that we both will have sat in all four stands of the ground. A little anal I know, but still….
Anyway, we took our seats in the “corner” area that connects the East and South stands, and right behind the corner flag. With just a few minutes to kick-off and a problem-free day so far, I joked the only thing missing was a last minute goal-keeper’s equaliser. It was almost prophetic.

The Main Stand

The Main Stand

The East Stand, our viewpoint for today's game

The Les Hart Stand from our viewpoint

As the teams came out and took part in the “Football Remembers” tribute to the Christmas Truce of the Great War, now seems an appropriate time to delve into the history of Bury FC.

History Lesson:

Bury F.C. were formed in 1885, playing at their current home of Gigg…JD Stadium, since Day 1. The club was formed following the amalgamation of Bury Wesleyans and Bury Unitarians football clubs, and their first match, a friendly versus Wigan Athletic ended in a 4-3 victory. In 1887, the first ‘shed’ was built at Gigg Lane (it’s this from now on!) at the cost of £50, though this was written off & never paid. During this year, the club recorded their highest defeat a 10-0 reverse to Blackburn Rovers. Their first floodlit game took place back in 1889, when 7,000 people turned up to see them lose 5-4 to Heywood Central.

1892 saw the first silverware won, the Lancashire Challenge Cup (LCC), before Bury joined the Football League Division 2 in 1894, which was won at the first attempt, with Bury going undefeated all season, before beating Liverpool in a play-off at Stoke City to achieve promotion to the Division 1, where they were to remain until 1912. Bury’s Football League membership is the (unbroken) third longest, after founder members Preston North End and Notts County. The LCC was won again in 1899, 1903, 1906 & the Manchester Cup was also won around these in 1894, 1896, 1897, 1900, 1903 and 1905. The Lancashire Junior Cup was won for the only time in 1890 too.

1900 saw the club win the FA Cup, with a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley, and this was won again 3 years later, a Cup Final record win, 6-0 over Derby County, which remains to this day. During this latter run, Bury didn’t concede a goal throughout the competition. In 1906, the South Stand was built, the ground was given to the club as a gift from the Earl of Derby in 1922, and two years later the Main Stand was added.

After their second promotion in 1923, the club achieved their highest ever league position, 4th, in the 1926 Division 1. But two years later the club were relegated again, and have not played top flight football since. After further league decline, despite winning the Third Division in 1961, by 1971 the club found themselves in the Fourth Division for the only time. Further cup successes were attained in the shape of more LCC wins coming in 1926, 1958 1983 & 1987, and Manchester Cups in 1925, 1951,1952, 1962 & 1968.

The club recovered with promotions back to the Second tier but in 1998-’99 they were relegated back to the Third tier on goals scored, only the only side to ever have suffered this fate. In 2001-’02, the club were relegated once more into League Two following a spell in administration. In May 2005, the club became the first club to score 1,000 goals in all four tiers of English Football League. They survived relegation to the Conference in ’06-’07 after a final day 0-0 with Stockport County ensured their place in the league. ’08-’09 saw Bury reach the play-offs but lost on penalties to Shrewsbury Town. In 2009, the club won the pre-season ‘Newsquest Cup’ by beating NPL sides FC United, who groundshare at Gigg Lane, and Radcliffe Borough. In 2011 Bury achieved promotion under Richie Barker to the League 1 via a 3-2 win (and an 87th minute Ryan Lowe goal) at champions Chesterfield.

The season before last, Bury were relegated from League One after losing 1-0 to near neighbours Oldham Athletic, finishing 22nd in the league table. Last season, Bury finished in 12th position in the League 2, including my last League visit here, the “Keith Hill Clapping Derby”, christened as such by LostBoyos’ Matt Harrison due to the lack of other entertainment, between the Shakers and Rochdale.

Football Remembers

Football Remembers

Anyway, it was cup day yet again, and both sides were well matched in a even first half, bereft of clear chances. The best of which fell to Bury at the end of the 45, when a mazy run ended with a shot being almost put through his own net by Hatters centre-back Luke Wilkinson, as his clearance narrowly avoided sneaking inside the post. A heart-in-mouth moment for him.

With half-time looming I set off into the concourse for a pie, at £3.60, it’s very pricey but is a tasty one, made by Pukka Pies. Still as a blogger, it is my duty to inform, so I sacrifice my own money for your knowledge. No, no, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me…

Sufficiently warmed, and by now having christened a new dance craze, the “Rafa Dance” done by doing a strange jogging-type arm movement and Rafa Benitez’s “game over” signal a few seasons ago that he was slated for, it’s sure to catch on. Hell, if Gangnam Style can, anything can.

Match Action, and West Stand housing Luton's Fans

Match Action, and West Stand housing Luton’s Fans

The South Stand

The South Stand

It took just five minutes of the second period for the opener to arrive, and it was the Hatters who claimed it, as a tame effort was somehow allowed, by Rob Lainton, to pass through his gloves and legs, Massimo Taibi-like, and Mark Cullen gleefully stabbed home from a yard. It was a horror moment for the young ex-Bolton gloveman, and one that looked to have cost his side the contest and a place in the 3rd Round draw.

With just five minutes of the game remaining, Luton caught Bury on the break and Ricky Miller was desperately unlucky to hit the foot of the post, and this miss came back to haunt the visitors. The referee had just signalled for four added minutes,  when the Shakers won a corner on the left flank. All 11-men went forward, including subs Ryan Lowe, Danny Nardiello and ‘keeper Lainton,  desperate to atone, in some way, for his error.

The corner was swung in and Lainton challenged. The ball dropped around 8-yards out. From the other end, it was a flurry of legs and challenges flying in, with at least one effort being blocked on the line, before the luminous pink spherical object fell to former Manchester United man Nardiello who rifled into the net to send the home fans into delirium and the visiting Hatters fans behind that goal into disbelief. The game ended soon after with both sides living to fight another day. Sadly, as the centenary of that day on the battlefields of Northern Europe is remembered, we are all too aware there were many young men that didn’t.

The Bury players and fans celebrate their stoppage-time leveller.

The Bury players and fans celebrate their stoppage-time leveller.

Scoreboard confirmation of the scoreline.

Scoreboard confirmation of the scoreline.

My Bury M.o.M.- Hallam Hope

My Luton Town M.o.M.- Ricky Miller

RATINGS:

Game: 6- Not the greatest for long spells. Picked up towards the end, as per a cup game.

Ground: 7- Many don’t like it, but I do. Maybe it’s the old-style nature of it.

Programme: 8- The extended stats & historical pieces are a gem. Loving it.

Food: 8- The Steak & Ale pie was very good but the price knocks it down a bit.

Fans: 7- There was a fair amount of vocal backing, which lent itself to a decent atmosphere.

Value For Money: 7- Cheap travel £5, Pie £3.60, cut-price £10 admission, £3 programme. Cheaper than the Conference

Referee: 7- Honestly, I don’t really remember, I doubt anyone cares so a seven will do!