The banners read ‘Supporters not Customers’ and ‘Making Friends not Millionaires’ at Gigg Lane Bury on Saturday. And as the millionaire Premier League footballers were putting their expensive feet up, enjoying a weekend off, football in that part of Lancashire at least seemed to have rediscovered its soul.
Home side FC United of Manchester hosted visitors Blyth Spartans in what turned out to be a thoroughly engaging game of football in front of a boisterous but amicable crowd. A reassuringly heart-warming football experience.
Spartans started with a 4-5-1 formation with Daniel McGuire spearheading the side.
Blyth manager Tom Wade explained:” In most away matches this season we’ve not started well and have ended up chasing the game so I wanted us to be solid and disciplined. FC United are a very attacking side and we had to stop them over-running us. The plan worked well until the last ten minutes when we ran out of legs.”
The Spartans took the lead on 11 minutes, the nature of which pleased Wade.
“We have been working on our set pieces so it was nice to score from a corner. It was a good cross by Steve Turnbull and Joe Kendrick did well to get to the ball and head home. I think it’s probably the first goal we’ve scored this season like that from a corner.”
McGuire, up front for Blyth, continued to impress with his running, guile and burgeoning confidence.
The young former Seaton Delaval player was taking photos of the impressive Bury FC stadium prior to kick off – somewhat different from the homely charms of Delaval’s Wheatridge Park ground where he was playing last season. A sign of how far the player has come in so short a time.
Blyth stubbornly resisted the home side’s advances until the 80th minute when Mike Norton nipped in front of Ritchie Slaughter to equalise. FC United went ahead within a minute, this time through Tom Greaves.
“Another couple of sloppy goals conceded by us,” said Wade. “They were running out of ideas. They were controlling play up to the last third but seldom got through or around us. But we were running out of steam a little.
“I thought we deserved a point from the game but the positives are that we had good shape, were competitive and worked hard. The lads are 100% behind the cause and understand what is being asked of them. We did well for 80 minutes but need to do it for the full 90. We have improved massively in the last two weeks.”
Wade was full of praise for the vociferous travelling supporters.
“They were superb, outstanding!” he said. “I said to the players before kickoff that the home fans would be noisy and for it not to dishearten them when they came out of the tunnel. But what actually happened was all they could hear were the Blyth fans!”
The game was the first in which new coach John Cornforth was involved.
Wade commented: “The lads took to John immediately. He organised a great warm up and he is a calming influence of them. John is massively experienced, and it shows.”
Explaining the division of responsibilities he continued: “I will be picking the team and signing players with John advising. John himself will be running training and will be more involved in the football side of things.”
If not a winning start for the new duo at the weekend it was a highly promising one on an occasion which augured well for Blyth and the intrinsic spirit of football.