On Saturday 3rd August 2013, I went to Gigg Lane to watch Bury play Chesterfield in the first game of the 2013/14 season.
The wait is over. After all the talk, the predictions and excitement the new season had finally arrived and for the Spireites the 2013/14 campaign kicked off with a trip to Bury. It was a beautiful summers day and we made the journey to Greater Manchester on the Chesterfield supporters coach with much anticipation, hoping that our side could kick-start the season with three points. I had never seen a game at Gigg Lane, although I had briefly visited the home of the Shakers back in 2008 for a look, and so this added to my excitement as I ticked off another of the ’92’ from my list.
We arrived at the ground with little over an hour until kick off time and had a look around the outside of the stadium, soaking up the matchday atmosphere, taking photos and purchasing our tickets before heading through the turnstiles and taking our seats on the Manchester Road End where visiting supporters are housed.
For both sides the new season signalled something of a new start. Bury were billing this game as the start of their revolution, with the club starting the campaign under new ownership and boasting an almost entirely different squad, the Shakers were hoping to return to the third tier at the first time of asking. Meanwhile, Chesterfield boss Paul Cook was embarking on his first full season in charge of the club and he had made no less than ten summer signings to ensure that they would not fall short of the top seven this time around.
The two managers named a number of debutants amongst their starting elevens. Paul Cook gave debuts to five of his new signings – Ryan Edwards, Ritchie Humphreys, Jimmy Ryan, Sam Morsy and Gary Roberts – while a remarkable seven players made their first league starts for Bury. The home side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Ashley Grimes and Tom Soares leading the attack for the Shakers. For Chesterfield, Marc Richards started in the lone striker role while Ryan Edwards and Sam Hird was the chosen centre back pairing due to injury of first choice defenders Liam Cooper and Ian Evatt.
The game got underway in front of a crowd of 4,337, over a thousand of which had made the journey from Derbyshire, and it was Bury who started the game strongest – Shaun Harrad forcing an early save out of Tommy Lee in front of the away supporters.
The Shakers had a number of corners in the early stages of the match, but the solid Chesterfield defence held out and the visitors almost took an early lead on the counter attack. Summer signing Gary Roberts saw his effort blocked before fellow debutant Jimmy Ryan fired the rebound just yards wide of the far post.
Bury had the best opportunity of the game so far on the 20th minute when Craig Jones’ free kick found the head of Andy Procter. The midfielder was left unmarked in the box and looked certain to convert the chance, but he failed to get a good connection on the ball and it fell harmlessly into the arms of the relieved Chesterfield goalkeeper Lee.
And the Shakers should have been ahead on the half hour mark. Soares picked up the ball inside the area and controlled it, cutting past a player, well before somehow blazing his effort into the stand with an open goal at his disposal.
On the stroke of half time, the home side again came close to scoring when Nathan Cameron fired a strike goalwards but Lee managed to keep it out to make sure the game was scoreless at the break.
After being on the back foot and struggling to get going for the majority of the first half, the Spireites came out looking like a different side in the second period and a superb solo goal from Jay O’Shea put the Spireites ahead on the 50th minute. The Irishman went past defender Gareth Roberts before curling the ball into the opposite corner, much to the delight of the travelling supporters and players alike.
Bury immediately went looking for a way back into the game but they were caught on the counter just after the hour as the Spireites doubled their advantage. Richards was on the receiving end of a long ball forward and he charged past Richard Hinds before firing a low shot home at the near post.
Chesterfield continued to dominate the play without creating many other clear cut chances. Cook replaced the two scorers with Tendayi Darikwa and Eoin Doyle, who made his league debut for the visitors. Doyle was unlucky not to add a third to the Spireites’ tally in stoppage time when his effort was cleared off the line but in the end it did not matter as Chesterfield headed back to Derbyshire with all 3 points and a clean sheet.
It had been the perfect start for Chesterfield and the result sent the supporters home with much reason for optimism. After a couple of disappointing seasons the Spireites will be hoping to return to League 1 and anything less than a top seven placed finish would be a huge blow for the club. For Bury, while the defeat is obviously disappointing, their first half performance in particular showed that they are tough opposition and should certainly be up in the business end of the table come May.
Next up for both these sides is Capital One Cup action in midweek. Bury host Crewe Alexandra while Chesterfield travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds United which is sure to be a very tough tie for the Spireites on Wednesday night.
Bury 0–2 Chesterfield
O’Shea ’50, Richards ’66
Lainton, Begley, Roberts, Procter, Hinds, Cameron, Jones, Holden (Mayor ’75), Harrad (Jackson ’68), Grimes (Forrester ’61), Soares
Lee, Talbot, Humphreys, Togwell (Smith), Hird, Edwards, Roberts, Morsy, Richards (Doyle ’73), O’Shea (Darikwa ’84), Ryan