According to the monthly managerial summary, my start to life in the National League North has been graded as a ‘B-‘, with particular criticism reserved for the ‘less than exciting tactics’ to date. What a load of rubbish – I only gave the board and fans a 10-goal thriller the other week! What more do they want? An average of a goal a game in the league?
(1885 Bury score first):
Kettering Town (h) – 0-2
The visitors to Pilsworth Park ‘boasted’ a certain Joe Skarz in their lineup at left-back. The two-time Shaker in real life has seen injuries catch up with him, hence the drop to semi-pro. He was the one laughing however when his opposite number Ross Woodcock was dismissed for unnecessarily pulling back Daniel Nti when already on a yellow. Simeon Oure, carrying a slight knock, was sacrificed for defensive solidity. I needn’t have bothered when a route one free-kick routine left Callum Maycock with the simplest of headers to nod into the far corner approaching the hour mark, leaving me a man light, a goal down, and in a tactical dilemma. Ultimately, I decided for a slightly more positive posture, attacking down Skarz’ flank. Maycock again profited from a dead ball to wipe out the slim positive goal difference I had enjoyed in the league, and whilst defeat wasn’t a disaster under the circumstances, it again made me rue how costly some of the red cards have been this campaign already. Woodcock then bleated about how unfair fining him a day’s wages was, but I was in no mood for clemency.
Leamington (h) <FA Cup Qualifying 3rd Round> – 0-0
The pressure was back on a bit to deliver a result and passage to the fourth and final round of qualifying before the ‘proper’ stage of the FA Cup. James Cook, whose signing has not been popular with fans, was demanding more gametime. I put him to cover in behind the defensive line as a bulwark against balls being launched over the top. Left-winger Fergus McAughtrie had a goal controversially chalked off for offside when he looked dead level, and that was the height of the approach play for almost the entire match, barely even registering a shot afterwards. Leading scorer (a relative term) James Morris also had a strike disallowed, but in truth, the Shakers were fortunate to earn a replay, completely nullified by the opposition.
Leamington (a) <FA Cup Qualifying 3rd Round – Replay> – 0-0 aet (8-7 pens)
The prize on offer for the victors of the replay is a trip to Chorley in the tier above. It was clear how much both teams wanted it – not a single highlight in the first half. Connor Gudger smashed against the post for Leamington to remind the spectators that there was something resembling a football match on display, although there was little else to stir them. Extra time at least meant being able to make a fourth sub to stem the fatigue creeping in to the part-timers’ bodies, and their task was made a touch easier by a tired tackle by Jack Edwards, reducing the hosts down to 10. There was no choice now but to go for it as a shoot-out would not bring any kind of advantage… but it made no telling difference. Leamington elected to take first, and after two goes each, it was 1-1. After four attempts, it was 2-2, Callum O’Neill saving twice, the Shakers’ takers hitting the post or blasting wide. Sudden death wasn’t looking like separating the teams either, with the scores now up to 7-7 from nine attempts apiece. O’Neill shut out his opposite number, and Harry Bircumshaw finally tucked away the winning penalty!
Gloucester City (a) – 1-0
It was then back to the bread and butter of the league after the euphoria had died down and the dark fruit cider had been imbibed. The games coming thick and fast necessitated a few changes to the starting lineup in an attempt to actually score a goal in normal play. Zack Kotwica missed a gilt-edged chance for the hosts (who actually have to play in a different county because of flooding 12 years ago), but aside from that, it was 1885 Bury who were playing the better football, helped in no small way by Morris’ restoration to the team. Vincent Harper inexplicably chested into his own net from a Woodcock free-kick to give me a precious lead, which I then tried to hold onto by bringing on target man Challis Johnson to partner Morris. It did just that, but still provided very scarce amounts of entertainment for the travelling supporters.
Hereford (a) – 2-4
A trip to another reformed former EFL club was a welcome one… at least until they won and converted a second minute penalty. The Bulls then got another one just four minutes later, but thankfully, Tom Owen-Evans wasn’t able to double his side’s tally. Keiran Thomas then played exactly the sort of ball over the top that I’d tasked Cook with cutting out… but he didn’t, and Brad Ash made it two-zip. Ryan Scholes-Beard, fired up from the half-time rollicking, cut their advantage in half with a volley after a great knockdown by Morris. Owen-Evans turned provider to a completely unmarked Jordan Nicholson 60 seconds later. Centre-back Martin Riley heaped further misery soon afterwards, and Morris’ own striker after good hold-up play by sub Joe Thompson meant very little in the end.
Chorley (a) <FA Cup Qualifying 4th Round> – 0-3
As you’d expect, the Lancashire outfit set their stall out from the beginning, taking the game to the young Shakers. Oliver Crankshaw, who was completely bossing Ify Ofoegbu, exploited some defensive sloppiness to give the Magpies the lead. In truth, both full-backs were having a torrid time, and I used all my substitutions to try to salvage a replay, only for Oure to then limp off… sigh. Crankshaw assisted Chris Holroyd, who had a ‘memorable’ spell on loan at Gigg Lane in 2010/2011, and then blasted in a third for Chorley late on. Technically, the exit made it a side bearing the name of Bury’s worst performance in the famous competition for 128 years.
AFC Telford United (h) – 0-0
Back to the tactical drawing board. I can’t escape the fact that the squad were signed in mind to fit a 4-2-3-1, but the emphasis on controlling possession just wasn’t creating enough chances, nor winning the ball back quickly to relieve pressure on the defence. Hitting the woodwork twice in the first half was only adding to my frustration.
Altrincham (h) – 0-0
A sense of déjà vu crept in, further compounded by a Thompson penalty miss. 22 shots and no goals…
Will the tactical overhaul eventually lead to a glut of goals? Check back later on Friday to find out!