Bury 0 Southend 1
by The Boy Holty
Well after all that, Tuesday evening turned out to be a bitter disappointment - one of the biggest let-downs in all my years as a Bury fan.
First of all the attendance - 8396 which I think is probably the third largest home attendance I have seen in 26 years or more watching this lot after Man City in 1998 and Millwall in 1997.
Arriving almost at kick-off time, I couldn't get in to the South Stand as they had stopped admitting people even though I could see dozens of empty seats from my second choice vantage point on the corner section of the Cemy End. The Manny Road end looked about 85% full and the Main Stand pretty much the same. There were a few hundred empty seats in the away section of the Main Stand and the Cemy End looked pretty full to me.
I think our capacity is just under 12,000 so I'm surprised that the official attendance isn't closer to 9,000 or even 10,000 but grounds always look fuller than they really are because you don't see the odd empty seat from a distance.
As for the game, Bury started really well and carved out a number of decent goal-scoring opportunities, most coming from Chris Hussey down the left wing who was putting in some fabulous crosses. It actually occurred to me half way through the opening 45 minutes that it was amazing that we were witnessing such high quality football in front of such a huge crowd at Gigg Lane. The club has come a long way in a short space of time and yes I know it was free but if we'd offered free football under the Fenton/Blackwell era just three or so years ago, I bet we wouldn't have had more than four or five thousand coming along.
Southend, under the tutelage of Phil Brown had their tactics spot on and the worst thing about how I feel this morning is that we were out-thought by that orange wanker. They soaked up our pressure, defending well throughout the first hour of the game, and then, knowing that Bury would eventually pour forward in search of the winner, they took advantage and, turning the game into a bit of a scrap, they came into the match and in the last half hour or more matched us kick for kick.
We started getting anxious and quite a few Bury players picked up bookings as it started getting very edgy in the final part of the match and then when Southend went for the jugular and brought on two attacking substitutes (one of whom was former Shaker David Worrall) they looked more and more dangerous.
In the 74th minute, a messy foul gave Southend a free kick 25 yards from our goal and it was Worrall who stepped up and curled a quite exquisite free kick into Pope's top corner to send the travelling fans wild and ended all realistic hopes of Bury getting automatic promotion.
David Worrall, I've just learned, was making his first team return after a number of weeks out of action grieving for his son who died hours after being born earlier in the year. After the game he dedicated the goal to his boy and I personally hope he goes on to win promotion with Southend so he can dedicate that to the lad aswell and hopefully bring him some peace after what must have been an unfathomably difficult time for him and his family.
At the final whistle there was just stunned disbelief. No boos, very little applause, just mostly silence. It was all a bit weird. I stayed behind for a bit to watch the ground empty and to take a few piccies because I like doing that from time to time and also I knew it would be a bloody nightmare getting out.
So here's the situation. Wycombe are third on 81 points and Southend are fourth also on 81 points with an inferior goal difference. Bury are fifth on 79 so we're only two points behind Wycombe and Southend but we need to beat Wimbledon (which we should) and Tranmere (which we probably won't) and we also need both Wycombe and Southend to drop points. Wycombe have Morecambe at home this Saturday and then are away at Northampton, Southend are at home to Luton and then finish away at Morecambe.
Its all a little bit depressing in the cold light of day and in a reflective mood I'm wondering how we can have won seven on the bounce away from home, and yet we've lost three out of the last five at home. What is it about playing at home that brings out this edgy, nervous side to our game?
We can see what is going to happen next - it will be similar to our last playoffs experience. Paired with either Plymouth, Stevenage, Luton or possibly Newport in the playoffs, we'll win away and lose at home although this time I have every confidence that our current players and goalkeeper have the nerve and the ability to get us though a penalty shoot-out. In a Wembley final I'd much rather come up against Wycombe than Southend, but right now I'm fed up. I don't want the playoffs and I don't want to go to Wembley and I don't for a minute believe that we'll be in league one next season. We don't have the bottle for the big game when its a big game for both sides.