Saturday 5th September 2009
Bury 0-2 Accrington Stanley (League Two)
With no City game due to the international break, I decided to make the short journey to Gigg Lane for a Lancashire derby against Accrington Stanley. I’d been to Gigg on previous occasions so I knew what to expect from this traditional ground.
It wasn’t that long ago that Bury were one division below the top-flight, and Gigg Lane reflects this recent history. It’s certainly one of the best grounds in League Two, with all four stands being all-seater and a capacity of almost 12,000. I was sat in the corner of the Cemetery End stand alongside my Bury-supporting friend. This stand was behind the goal to the left of the dugouts, and held Bury’s more vocal support – unfortunately this included the dreaded drum. The away support was housed in the Manchester Road End on the opposite side.
For their 125th anniversary, Bury had eschewed their usual white and blue kit for a brown and sky-blue effort, the first colours the club wore. Traditional it may be, but not exactly pleasing on the eye. Despite a fine season last term which saw them defeated on penalties in a play-off semi-final against Shrewsbury, Bury hadn’t started this campaign well. They’d only picked up six points from a possible fifteen, were yet to score at home, and lost 0-3 at local rivals Rochdale the previous week. Accrington’s start had been even poorer, with only three points won, but most of their problems were concerned with off-pitch matters. A few days before the game they had been given eight weeks to pay the Inland Revenue to the tune of £308,000 or faced liquidation. As a result, fans from both teams were raising money to “Save Our Stanley” before the game – in 2001, Accrington hosted a benefit game when Bury faced similar perils.
Both teams’ poor start to the season was evident in a scrappy opening to the first half, with passes going astray and neither goalkeeper called into meaningful action – although the flow of the game wasn’t helped by some fussy refereeing. As the half wore on, however, Accrington began to take control of proceedings and looked dangerous from set-pieces and crosses. They passed up a golden opportunity midway through the half when Bury’s offside trap failed miserably from a free-kick and four Accrington players were left unmarked in the penalty area, but the ball was headed wide. The natives were getting restless, but the home side finished the half the stronger and Bishop wriggled free of the defence in injury time, beat the keeper, but saw his shot cleared off the line.
Bury looked like they’d carry this momentum into the second half when Bishop was sent clear in the area, but sent his shot high and wide with his left foot. Despite sporadic threats from set-pieces, neither side was looking like scoring. No sooner had I remarked that “this game’s going to finish 0-0, isn’t it?”, Accrington took the lead with seven minutes remaining. Robert Grant took advantage of a defensive mix-up to race clear and clip the ball over the advancing Brown to send the “Stanley Ultras”, who had created most of the atmosphere all game, into raptures. This sparked an exodus of three sides of Gigg Lane, and Stanley sealed the win two minutes later when Grant slid home after a counter-attack. Bury briefly threatened to snatch a consolation but minutes later the referee’s final whistle was greeted by boos from most of the home fans who remained.
Despite Bury’s poor performance causing a rather ill-tempered atmosphere in the home end, it was still an enjoyable visit to Gigg Lane. It’s an impressive lower-league ground in pleasant surroundings, and arguably deserves to host games at a higher level.
Clip of a failed Bury attack: