Black Pudding Derby delight for 'Dale
We’ve all been there: the hubris and cockiness borne of conviction and enthusiasm coming back to bite us firmly in the backside. And so it was on Saturday for the Bury fans – rejoicing at being back in League 1 and fortified by pre-match pints in the metal box of a social club adjacent to Gigg Lane (£1 in for non-members; distinct odour of hot dogs, cooking lager and sweat) – who lustily serenaded their Rochdale counterparts with a chant of “You’re the shit of Lancashire“. Just eighteen minutes in, and with the shellshocked home side already three goals down, the chant rang out again – though this time from the away end, mocking and merciless.
The ‘Dale fans, in whose midst we were positioned, couldn’t quite believe their luck. Prolific marksmen Chris Dagnall and Chris O’Grady are long gone, as is the architect of their promotion from League 2 in 2010, Keith Hill, and their only victory thus far this campaign had come, somewhat surprisingly, at Loftus Road as a pre-Fernandes QPR were humbled 2-0 in the League Cup. And yet here they were, in the process of administering a sound thrashing to their local rivals.
Admittedly, the scoreline owed much to Bury’s defence reacting to a crossed ball as though it was an airborne bomb. Ashley Grimes – the subject of a Monday Profile when a free-scoring loanee at ultimately doomed Lincoln last season – was totally unmarked to head in the first after five minutes, as was defender Marcus Holness to repeat the trick five minutes later. Another headed effort smacked off the Bury crossbar before Nicky Adams became the next player to profit from the home side’s sloppiness, punishing ‘keeper Cameron Belford for parrying a low shot straight to his feet. Mike Jones pulled a goal back following a long punt upfield, Blackburn loanee and Belford’s opposite number Jake Kean caught out and left to watch the shot sail over his head into the back of the net, but the half undoubtedly belonged to the visitors.
The chances of the Shakers salvaging something from the afternoon looked even slimmer just two minutes after the restart courtesy of more beyond-hapless defending, when David Ball’s optimistic effort was allowed to bounce up and into the roof of the net by a static white-shirted onlooker in close attendance. Andy Bishop reduced the arrears shortly after the hour mark and Kean was forced into spectacular action to tip away a curling free-kick. But, despite Adams being dismissed for a second yellow card (the first for that heinous sponsor-annoying crime of removing his shirt to celebrate his goal), Rochdale coasted to a richly deserved victory, with the ‘Dale supporters alternately saluting Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro to the tune of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and taunting home defender Efe Sodje. The kufi-clad Nigerian may have responded by fixing the entire away end with a glare, but in the dressing room afterwards, as someone nearing his 39th birthday, he will have reflected ruefully that retirement can’t be far away.
Having started the campaign well, with a point at much-fancied Huddersfield on the opening day and subsequent wins over another of the division’s big fish Sheffield Wednesday and Championship outfit Coventry, Bury are now very much on the slide. Last night’s defeat at fellow promotees Chesterfield was their fourth in a row in the league. For Rochdale, the win (I’d call it long-awaited, but having been stuck in League Two for 41 years prior to promotion, ‘Dale know a thing or two about waiting…) seemed like just the result to kickstart Steve Eyre’s reign – and so it proved, another three points since having propelled them above Bury in the table.
Personally speaking, that’s now twice I’ve watched Rochdale in the flesh, and twice they’ve stormed to a handsome away victory in a derby match – the first time was even more impressive. So, ‘Dale fans, if you want to buy me a ticket for the away end at Deepdale…
(An aside: I spotted Jim Gannon walking into the ground – didn’t recognise his companion, but safe to say it wasn’t Geoff Horsfield…)