Welcome to the latest official away days blog from our resident gonzo journo, James Beedie. He continues to take us on his travels to our away games this season, concentrating as much on the experience of the day as of the actual football itself.
This time out, it’s a trip to West Lancashire with James wondering what accents he was going to be faced with for a game which, on paper, seemed an easy one…
Burscough remains one of the few sides in the division that we have yet to meet, another fixture delayed by weather and cup runs means we will play them twice in fairly quick succession. Given their lowly placing in the division this looks on the surface like an easy three points but at this stage in the season there is no such thing, especially when playing against a side in need of a win.
Second-bottom but still in with a fighting chance of pulling off the great escape Burscough have had a tough campaign. With only two wins in the league before the end of November Burscough seemed doomed before hitting a sudden purple patch over the winter. Wins over Prestwich Heys, Squires Gate, Isle of Man and Charnock Richard brought them right back into contention but since then have struggled on the back of consecutive defeats. Getting back to winning ways last week away at Irlam the Linnets know that any chance they have at staying up means getting something from every match, even when those matches include the likes of Bury AFC and Wythenshawe Town.
I’m not that familiar with Burscough and wasn’t sure what to make of them. I knew of Burscough Bridge a structure synonymous with the town and that the local football club was once home to both Dave Nugent and Ryan Lowe in the early 2000s but that’s about it. I wasn’t even sure what their accents would be like, Burscough is typically roped in with the likes of Ormskirk and Skelmersdale as West Lancashire towns that are essentially considered to be extensions to Merseyside. I wasn’t even sure what the accents of the local residents would be and was fully expecting a Scouse voice at the turnstile.
The route to the match however was a familiar traipse through Lancashire. After a quick run up to Chorley I turned off the motorway and took a pleasant drive through the heart of the Lancashire countryside passing farms and small villages along the way.
Arriving at Burscough, a small town in itself but probably the largest single place since Chorley I turned off the main street just after crossing the bridge and turned down a narrow street parking just round the corner from the local Tescos.
The walk to the ground was a little longer than I had expected. Their ground, the new Victoria Park, was built further down the path from the original ground. Little but the closed and rundown clubhouse remains from the original home of the Linnets as newly built houses occupy what was once the pitch and there are signs that these new houses will extend into the gap that Burscough’s current ground fills.
Along the walk with fellow Bury fans we saw a large square white building out in the distance. Looking oddly out of place among the fields on all sides of it, like a monolith in a Kubrick film. We discovered this would one day serve as the new clubhouse to a completed ground that currently serves as home to both Burscough FC and Skelmersdale United however for now it would only be used as changing facilities for the teams while fans would have to settle for a beer tent out the front or queuing by the hutch near the turnstiles.
Arriving at the turnstiles and discovering our hosts were not Scouse and were most certainly Lancashire, wielding the sort of slightly posh Lancashire accents that make them distinct from the Burnleys and Accringtons of this world, I felt I already had a greater understanding of the place.
In and out though a mini wooden maze that the turnstiles presented and emerging with my entry paid and programmes in my hand I looked upon the ground for today. A simple wooden fence hemmed the whole ground in but really there was nowhere beyond the ground to go to. Open fields on all sides gave the ground a hugely open feel. The only structure as of yet is a metal seated grandstand that runs along the pitch and appears on the right as you enter.
Clearly much more is to be built here as this is still a recent development and all good grounds take time to build character but it was quite a simple set up. The all weather surface has proved to be useful this season and will be a money earner and a community asset for the future I have no doubt. The ground is full of potential as there is near unlimited space to build upon except for the far end of the ground that backs out onto the train lines. On all sides of the pitch a narrow tarmac path is set out for fans to stand around pitchside and lean against the green metal railings but on three sides of the pitch this is then surrounded by a grass banking. With much of the pitchside already accounted for many fans ignored the ‘stay off the grass’ signs and climbed to the top of the banking offering a rare high view of the pitch.
I met up with my friends the Hamers and after a quick lap of the pitch took our places opposite the entrance to the ground. The sun was just peeking out of the cloud cover and for the first time in I don’t know how many months I felt the warmth of the sun on my back.
I saw the team warm up with some returning players. MJ Monaghan, only recently revealing his long absence from the team was related to his health and concerned a heart condition. Only revealing this news after he got the all clear to return to full training we were all very grateful to see him out and about again though he would not make the squad for the match. The team news came out and contained a few surprises. Harry Brazel was absent, the rumour being he was on holiday, and so Charlie Doyle continued his tour of Bury’s midfield by lining up as the number 10 for this match having previously played at number 4 as well as a number 8 and out on the wing. The rest of the midfield was boosted by the returns of Chris Rowney and Kris Holt. Niall Cummins was given the nod up front for Bury while it was all change on the wings from the midweek match against West Didsbury and Chorlton. The combination of Gilboy, Higgins and Hellawell replaced by Comber, Doyle and a first start for Sam Unwin.
On Burscough’s team there was no sign of Sope Awe and Billy Ahmed, two players that had looked like decent prospects for Bury all the way back in preseason. Neither of them lasted long once the season started for real and both headed west to Burscough though clearly neither of them stayed. Also missing from the team was former Bury FC forward Chris Sang who had recently joined the Linnets but former Ramsbottom United keeper Charlie Monks would be in goal and in Edward Servuts Burscough have one of the more prolific strikers in the division. Twenty goals already this season despite their league position.
The two teams came out ahead of the match led out by referee Jacob Viera a little after 3 o’clock. The kick off was then delayed a little further when one of Viera’s assistants spotted that one of the goals at one end didn’t have the netting correctly fitted so a longer delay occurred as a groundsman had to fix the problem. In the end he used what looked to be a black shoelace to tie the netting onto the post that Jack Atkinson would be guarding in the first half. At long last and more than five minutes late the match began.
Bury started the match positively with a Comber shot blocked, an Unwin cross headed out before it could fall to Cummins and the resulting corner saw Joe Denman head just wide of goal. When Unwin shot just over the bar again it felt like it was only a matter of time before Bury would take the lead.
When it arrived it came off another incident from the influential Unwin. Fouled in the build up of an attack the resulting free kick was swung in by Jack Tinning for Niall Cummins to head home his eighth goal of the season. It was a good time to score with Bury in the ascendancy early. The goal taking some of the pressure off. It feels like Cummins has been coming into his own recently though for whatever reason he has been mainly scoring in the cups, his last four goals prior to this one all coming in the FA Vase.
Bury pushed for a second Charlie Doyle twice going close with one shot that was palmed away by home keeper Charlie Monks and another that cleared the bar. As the first half progressed however it was the home side that grew in strength. From my position I could hear Jack bark his orders to his defenders as the Linnets pushed to take the match to Bury. From a corner Burscough defender Lewis Willingham headed the ball onto the post. “That was the moment”, I thought.
With barely seconds left of the opening period Matty Williams barged over Nuno Costa in the box and referee Jacob Viera pointed to the spot. Burscough’s number nine Edward Servuts stepped up to take the spot kick with twenty goals to his name already this season, but he could not add to it on this occasion. Jack Atkinson dived down to his left and forced the ball away maintaining Bury’s lead into the break.
The second half was a far harder task for the visitors. Attempts on goal were at a premium with only a couple of loose half chances well wide of the target and none of them troubling Monks. At the other end Bury’s tiring defence had to withstand the onslaught of the Burscough attack and contend with the pace of Xenon Bahula and Nuno Costa especially.
The defence held out admirably and finally the full time whistle rang out and Bury AFC’s unbeaten run extended by one more match. “Made hard work of that” was the often repeated phrase around the terraces as fans made their way home but as we enter the business end of the season the most important thing is the three points that were secured by the moment of magic by Cummins, the tireless hard working defence all match and the great penalty save by Jack Atkinson.
I made my way back up the long path back to the Silver Shark, making a quick stop at the Tescos before heading home. As I began the drive back with the victory mint already eaten I thought about the match. It was another match done, another away trip completed and another three points earned but the fact remains we have some tough matches coming up, Wythenshawe Town and Northwich Victoria at home in the league and Congleton away in the Vase. We need to find a way to be at our best in this difficult run in order to win some of the tougher matches that will be coming our way soon.
I turned back the way I came in, the Silver Shark twisting through the country lanes back to Chorley before turning south for home.
To catch up with any of James’ blogs from last season’s championship-winning run and away games so far from this season, you can head to the ‘Fear and Loathing’ website HERE.