The big day arrived. What would lay in store during the course of the 2020/2021 season? Can my charges cock a snook at the board and the pundits predicting an almighty struggle to stay in the National League?
(1885 Bury score first):
Ebbsfleet United (h): 1-0
A more dominant and encouraging performance than the slender margin of victory suggests. Three times the number of shots, restricting the visitors from Kent to not a single clear-cut chance, and overall, bedding in the new faces very well. Kelsey Mooney, the star striker signed from Hereford, looked threatening throughout, and capped an impressive debut with a cool half-volley into the far corner from a clipped ball by left-back Akeem Hinds, a fellow newcomer, this time from Rotherham United. However, Luke Ward, a centre-back recruited from Shrewsbury Town, was dismissed late on, which did take the gloss off an otherwise consummate display.
Solihull Moors (a): 4-2
Games come thick and fast in the fifth tier, but the Shakers were unchanged, save Ward’s enforced removal. Mooney picked up from where he left off the previous weekend, rising highest to head home a Dion McGhee corner. The former Manchester United youngster provides real competition for Denilson Caravlho in the advanced playmaker role behind the sole striker, and was helping to fashion plenty of opportunities for Mooney. In the second half, Gaël Bigirimana, once of Newcastle United, smashed into an empty net from distance to level things up briefly; Dylon Meredith restored the advantage five minutes later from a raking Harold Essien cross. George Baker scored the pick of the bunch, however, volleying in from 25 yards out from a poorly headed clearance.
Essien then thought it was a great idea to experiment as to whether 1885 Bury could get a second win on the bounce a man light, scything down Paul McCallum. The resulting free-kick was blasted in by Bigirimana for his second of the match. A late penalty on the counter whilst trying to absorb pressure was put away by Mooney to settle some nerves.
Chesterfield (h): 0-0
Ah, Chesterfield. Many are the recent high-profile encounters with the Spirerites, all of which of course were contested at a higher level. Not that it meant much after two matches, but this too was a (rather unexpected) top of the table clash at Pilsworth Park. The first 45 yielded just one shot on target between the two sides, but the lion’s share of chances were created by my young XI. The second period followed much the same pattern, but it was hard to be disappointed – seven points in the first three was a far better return than anyone was hoping for or indeed expecting.
Eastleigh (a): 1-1
Baker rattled the bar from outside the box on the five minute mark, and Essien cleared off his own line… before bringing down Ben Williamson. Byron Harrison hit the spot kick against the woodwork, Meredith crashed the outside of the post on the counter. Whirlwind stuff. Ross Woodcock, who’d been begging for more starts, became the third player to get sent off in the opening four matches. That didn’t perturb Meredith from venturing forward and slotting in at the near post. Steven Ziboth evened things up for The Spitfires with quarter an hour left on the clock. Réda Johnson received his marching orders, although it didn’t affect the outcome ultimately.
Notts County (h): 0-2
Another big club in the doldrums. The Magpies came out swinging from the first whistle, which was capped off by Wes Thomas finishing under Charlie Andrew. The journeyman poacher made sure of the victory for the visitors, profiting from a mistimed header by Akeem Hinds. The young full-back’s day went from bad to abject when he became the fourth individual to be sent off. Must be something in the water on the industrial estate…
Wealdstone (a): 4-1
The brilliantly named Michael Gash smacked in a rebound for the Ruislip-based outfit in the ninth minute, but The Stones were soon brought back to earth with a cheaply given away penalty. Mooney, returning to full fitness, did the honours for 1-1. Despite having to operate for the vast majority on the back foot, a great lay-off by Ellis Hudson set up Baker to complete the turnaround. Denilson Carvalho was on the end of a deep Fergus McAughtrie cross to bag a third, and the Brazilian squared for Mooney to lash in a fourth. Further chances were spurned to increase the gap, but it was great to be back to winning ways in an even contest.
Havant & Waterlooville (h): 2-0
A quiet opening to this one. Mooney and Meredith both went close with efforts that whistled past the post, and a superb passage of play saw Woodcock become the latest member of the ‘hit the bar’ club. Baker followed suit. 20 shots in the first 45 because of a late flurry hadn’t yielded a goal. The deadlock was broken from another penalty (Mooney dispatching), and Carvalho finished the good work by Essien to put the icing on another delicious cake of a display.
Well, well, well. Fourth in the league after seven games, and that’s been on merit. What next for 1885 Bury? Find out later in the week!