Fan’s View – Bury and Bristol Rovers

Photo courtesy of Jon Whiles Photography
Photo courtesy of Jon Whiles Photography
Article by Paul Beasley

BURY

The Trackside is one of those pubs that get us real ale fans slobbering at the mouth. Unfortunately we didn’t arrive in time to sample its delights so had to settle for “the pub near the ground.” How many times have you asked someone where they had a drink before the game only to be told “in the pub near the ground, don’t know what it was called”? This pub near the ground was the Staff of Life and we got a pleasant typical Yorkshire pint that was more than acceptable.

It’s just not on that we no longer have a “pub near the ground”. Oh how I wish the Priory would rise from the ashes. I suppose the Blackbird is our closest now with the Golden Ball (pint for just £2.70) not that far behind. The Brit. Now I’m going back a bit. Couldn’t have been much closer to the London Road End. Never really my pub of choice but it was there. Now we have nothing there.

I must stop this digression. The old days are gone, gone forever. The Manor is gone, gone forever.

Bury had won three, drawn two and lost just one of their last six games before our visit. And that defeat was to Chesterfield. It was no secret that they’ve improved significantly since David Flitcroft took over as manager and on Tuesday’s showing I think there’s no doubt that they’ll continue their climb away from the danger zone.

I can make a case for us deserving the draw but the side that had the much better claim to all three points was without a doubt the Shakers. To me the game seemed to be played at tremendous pace, largely dictated by the home side. I don’t know if I’d been tricked into thinking this because the terracing on which the away seating is bolted is so shallow that we weren’t that far off eye level or because we’d seen some pretty slow stuff by comparison recently. Not only did Bury move the ball around quickly, they came forward with it quickly too and also closed us down quickly. I thought they would possibly tire but they didn’t.

If I’m building them up as world beaters that certainly is not the intention but they were one of the better sides we’ve played recently. We moved the ball around quite well and quickly too, but created hardly anything all game. It wasn’t as if Bury were creating that much either and although Ryan Clarke wasn’t as busy as he had been at Exeter a week earlier he was still required to do a couple of things to preserve a point for us.

Their goal was of course down to an error by him but there was more to it than that. Again Matt Bevans had a very good game but again we conceded after he had given their wide man ample room to cross. Again I reckon a proper old fashioned centre half – Michael Raynes for instance – would have got the ball away even if it had meant taking out a team mate or two. What happened was Johnny Mullins and Clarkey jumped in to each other in half hearted fashion (it’s not in the script to injure a team mate, obviously) and neither dealt appropriately with the ball. There were a few Bury men in close proximity but not doing anything that remotely looked like fouling, which was a pleasant surprise, although we would have been delighted if they had conceded a free kick.

Pleasingly we did not let this affect us. We didn’t panic, never looked like we’d completely handed the initiative to the team in white and went straight up the other end and equalised. Amazingly we’ve now scored a goal from a corner in consecutive weeks. We used to be so poor at set pieces.

Danny Rose delivered this corner with a much higher trajectory than normally seen and there was Josh Ruffels at the far post to register his first ever league goal with a perfect header. So perfect that we initially thought he was Mr Mullins.

Were there any players worthy of special mention? I’ll go for Callum O’Dowda. Until now I’ve seen nothing from him to suggest he merits being anywhere near the first team but on Tuesday he looked quite confident and was not frightened to ask for and go looking for the ball. He had a little trick and I liked how, intentional or not, when his marker had the ball he made the Bury man come inside.

I was a bit disappointed in Nicky Wroe, who doesn’t seem to be the quickest around and when the Davids, Kitson and Connolly, came on they were able to do nothing to change the pattern of the game and swing it our way.

All in all though a good point from another solid performance but the four teams behind us all have a game in hand. If Fleetwood win they go past us and the other three could end up on 50 points like us. In 8th position Newport have played three fewer games. Unlikely I know but if they were to get maximum points, they would only be two behind us.

We still have to play all of these teams and the two above us. Tightness has been a constant theme in League Two this season and there is no indication of any let up. As the games tick by the tension can only increase with some intriguing contests coming up. It may not throw up much for the footballing purist to get excited about but I’m keenly anticipating what is ahead in a kind of masochistic sort of way. Throw in a little bit of the Williams and Potter flair and we may just have the right ingredient to go with the grinding resolve and experienced heads we already have out on the park.

BRISTOL ROVERS

At football over the years I’ve experienced an alsatian or two a yapping and a snapping in close proximity but Saturday was the first time I’ve been sniffed for drugs. A nice little black thing it was, actually. It missed the Wye Valley HPA, consumed in the Annexe, so I was allowed in to the Memorial Ground.

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I’ve slagged off the South Stand before and feel every right to do so again. It may be covered but it’s not got a roof as we know it. The view is obstructed by poles and it makes the scaffolding at the Priestfield Stadium look good. £20, they’re having a laugh, but we pay it because we follow our team wherever they may be.

I wasn’t totally down after this one but was a little disappointed. Unlike Bury, Rovers were a team at the bottom that looked like they were a team at the bottom. If we have serious ambitions of going up automatically we really should be beating opposition of this standard. And let’s be honest the team that, based on near misses, had greater claim to the extra two points again wasn’t us. We did of course have much greater claim to the points based on playing the game in a fair and honest manner. They smashed elbows in faces. They tripped players off the ball. (I thought so on the day and having recorded and played the Football League Show in slow motion the evidence is 100% conclusive.) But when we have to suffer a referee as totally shite as Lee Collins (he has form) these things are allowed to pollute football without punishment. There’s no chance though of ever getting the blight of incompetent referees sorted is there when Howard Webb is (supposedly) our best? This sets the bar pretty bloody low and the FA suits in their blinkered world, when they refuse to face reality and consider for one moment that justice and fairness have some place within the sport, refuse to rescind Andy Carroll’s red card. Thoroughly despicable tossers the lot of them. (Evidence to the contrary gratefully accepted).

Earlier in the season the complaint had been that whilst we were creating quite a lot of chances, we were missing most of them. Now we are creating very few chances so to win games of football our conversion rate has to be very high. In this game we scored an excellent goal but I can only recall one other chance worthy of the name when Beano set up Ruffels in the second half. He really should have done better, but this is League Two and composure is not that often to be found on the menu. Such is the difference that separates player and teams from the pack. We are very much in the pack, a pack from which no team has been able to kick on from the front.

This winter has been so very different to all others I can remember. No snow, very little frost but rain, rain and rain with plenty of gusts of wind thrown in. This obviously affects playing surfaces and makes conditions in which matches are being played, to say the very least, rather challenging. I think that because this has almost become the norm at times your average fan has forgotten that it might be fair to cut a bit of slack. So perhaps we should applaud all participants before we start to pick the performance apart. (Okay, go on then, the officials too because it was a bit soggy and blowy for them as well).

At half time I think we had fair claim to the lead. I doubt our organisational resolve and defensive qualities, even with Raynes and Jake Wright out, could be better.

And as for the goal it was very special, the quality of which should not be underestimated. Tom Newey fed Beano. After releasing the ball Newey attempted to continue his forward run. A flicked out foot ensured that instead of this happening he ended up on the deck. Very sneaky and I will admit difficult for the referee to pick up. Beano’s control was very good and after he had fed Kitson our ginger haired one showed what a multi talented man he is. He turned into a winger and from wide on the left touchline beat his man and got a cross in which Deane Smalley chested perfectly into the onrushing Beano’s path which was dispatched with a perfectly executed volley. Beano was back to his hard working best and was a real pest to the Pirates’ back line.

In the second half we’d been quite comfortable at 1-0 but never looked like we could, or possibly didn’t feel the need to, get a second to kill the game off. Then with a quarter of an hour or so to go we seemed to become more vulnerable. Perhaps the home side realised that it was about time they responded to the disquiet amongst their fans and the chant of “we’re supposed to be at home”.

Ryan Clarke had been called on to pull off a great save low to his right not long before the equaliser came. In the build up to this play Wroe had suffered an elbow deliberately swung into his face. It was 100 times worse than Andy Carroll’s accidental dangling. Lee Collins was not even 10 yards away. Lee Collins did nothing. Referees are allowed to get away with doing (or not doing) what they want and never have to explain their decisions. But “the referee’s decision is final” so they probably have more right to sing the “do what we want” song than anyone else in a football ground.

The goal we conceded came from a well delivered free kick and O’Toole got a good header on it so it would probably be unfair to posit that perhaps, just perhaps, with a Raynes or Wright out there, we could have kept it out. But I can’t help thinking that.

After the equaliser the Gasheads really got behind their team and twice we came within a whisker of conceding. The final whistle was a relief and when you are playing a team struggling like them it shouldn’t be. But out and about we remain unbeaten and we still await the return of some of our better players. I’ll try and turn this into a positive and not get worried that Williams is taking longer to return than we’d first been led to believe. And I’ll try and put a positive spin on our league position because even if those below us win all their games in hand, which isn’t going to happen, we’ll only drop to 6th.

That there’s no game this coming midweek can only be a good thing as it will allow players and fans alike time to recharge their batteries. I feel like I need it so I can’t imagine what the players who’ve played every game must be feeling like.

3 Responses to Fan’s View – Bury and Bristol Rovers

  • Old Gas says:

    There is a very good reason why Oxford are unbeaten away. I have not seen such a blatant display of cheating, play-acting and continual harassment of the officials since the heydays of the "Dirty Leeds" teams of the 1970's. Every time Rovers started a forward break one of your cheating gits went down like he'd been shot, screaming like a girl. Pathetic.

    Rovers are really poor are they? Doesn't say much for Oxford then, when we've taken 4 points from you.

    You want to petition your manager to cut out the cheating and play to the spirit of the game; you might lose a few more games away, but at least people would enjoy the football a bit more.

    • Paul Beasley says:

      “ Doesn't say much for Oxford then, when we've taken 4 points from you.” – Fully agree. We’ve been crap at home and most of us fans recognise that. We don’t claim anything different. And it was a disappointing performance from us at your place. But that doesn’t make Rovers any good either. Bury looked vastly superior. As for biased – well I played the elbow incident again in slow motion and I would suggest it takes a rather biased fan not to recognise it for what it clearly was. And I’d call the trip cheating. That was captured on camera too.

  • NIBBLER says:

    What a load of tosh. The most biased blog I have ever seen. Look at the stats, more possession, more attempts, more corners and anybody could see the alleged elbows were accidental. lets face it, Rovers were the better side and unlucky not to win.