During the five minute walk from my car to the ground I was certain I was going to witness a cracking game of football. A game fuelled by pride and adrenaline in front of a good sized crowd. A game on a par with last week’s away game at Meadow Lane.
How wrong could I be….As I took my usual pew and tucked into a cold mess of a Burger (I don’t usually touch the catering stands, but I hadn’t eaten all day) the first thing I noticed was the mass of empty seats in the away end. Where were all the Latics fans? Was this the result of the trams being out of use or was it solely down to the poor form of Dickov’s men? Either way it was a meagre turnout for a side just 13 miles away.
Hopefully the game would be better than the attendance. After an impeccable minutes applause in celebration of the lives of those Shakers and Latics that have passed away this season, the referee got the game underway.
The Shakers started brightly when Forever Bury Player of the Season David Worrall beat his man inside the first minute and sent a superb cross into the path of waiting striker Shaun Harrad, who somehow managed to send the ball wide of Dean Bouzani’s right hand post. Worrall, who celebrated his Accolade with another excellent performance, turned Bradley Diallo inside out time and time again in a battle that emulated the game as a whole.
At times Bury passed the ball about like a team at the top of the Premier League. Neat flick ons found their man with stunning accuracy as Bury looked for the opener their play deserved, but chance after chance failed to find the target. Oldhams frustrating lack of possession saw them resorting to using their physicality to hinder The Shakers onslaught with both Diallo an M’voto tugging, pushing and pulling at every opportunity. Diallo was clearly struggling to cope with Worrall and made it his mission to maul the Bury man whenever possible, a tactic that the linesman failed to spot despite every one of the 5,111 in attendance witnessing it.
Giles Coke soon started to influence the game and had a fierce shot saved by Bouzanis just 4 minutes in. The Sheffield Wednesday loanee’s crisp passing and desire to run at defenders was causing more chaos in the Latics backline and giving the Gigg Lane faithful something to sing about.
The 35th minute saw the battle on the right boil over as Worrall once again beat his man near the corner flag, only to be brought down cynically by Diallo. The resulting scuffle saw both men given a stern talking to by Referee Andrew Madley and bizarrely Oldham awarded a goal kick. The Officials were having a shocker.
Maybe it was incompetence, maybe it was end of season apathy, either way the officials were consistently making bad decisions that were having a detrimental effect on the game. On another day both sides may have conceded penalties with Jean Yeves – M’voto felling Shaun Harrad before being man handled by Efe Sodje at the other end. The crowds vigorous appeals fell on deaf ears however as neither incident provoked Mr Madley to reach for his whistle.
Half-time was signaled with Bury failing to take the lead despite looking the better of the two sides.
The break saw Giles Coke replaced by Max Harrop due to an apparent reoccurrence of an old back injury. An awkward landing 3 minutes into the second half caused serious problems for Youssouf M’changama who received seven minutes of medical treatment on the pitch for a head injury. M’changama, who came around in the dressing room, was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan via a waiting ambulance.
With play resumed, the match became a stop-start affair due to Oldham winning a series of free-kicks around the edge of the Bury box. One of these set pieces nearly gave Oldham the lead when a Kirk Millar cross was headed over the bar from close range by centre back M’voto.
That was the last chance of any note for either side as everything began to slow down. It was becoming increasingly clear the earlier injuries were on the minds of both sets of players. Richie Barker, who fielded a full strength team for this encounter, had one last trick up his sleeve but despite the introduction of Lateef Elford – Alliyu and Lennell John-Lewis, The Shakers couldn’t find that killer ball as a resilient Oldham held on for a draw.
The injuries seemed to kill the game and it petered out into a typical end of season kick about. The one shining light in this increasingly dull encounter was that of David Worrall, whose energy and commitment will have caught the eye of any watching scouts