AKA …….. Two postponements in one day.
Taking in two United matches and having a spare Saturday afternoon in the North-West of England, that could only have meant one thing ……. to go and see in another local game while I was there, ideally at a ground i’ve never been to before.
I had a look at the fixture lists and one game stood out, Oldham v Peterborough. It was mainly due to both clubs having a Northern Ireland connnection.
Both managers (Steven Robinson and Grant McCann) are former Northern Ireland players, with Robinson being part of the coaching staff at Euro 2016.
On the playing staff, there were Northern Ireland players who began their careers with Irish League clubs, Oldham boasting Cameron Dummigan (Cliftonville), Ryan McLaughlin (Glenavon), Carl Winchester (Linfield) as well as Billy McKay (never played for an Irish League club).
Peterborough count boast Michael Smith (Ballyclare Comrades and Ballymena United) but not Joe Gormley (Cliftonville) who is out on loan to St Johnstone.
And as a bonus, tickets were being offered at a discount. I think we have a winner here folks.
I headed to Boundary Park around lunchtime, the plan being to get some lunch near the ground, I had a check on my phone to see if the game was still on.
Manchester was frosty on the Saturday morning, so a postponement was a possibility. The game was on when I boarded the tram at Victoria, but off when I checked Twitter upon getting off in Oldham.
So a change of plan then.
As a side note, the game has been rearranged for Tuesday 24th January 2017. Frustratingly, i’m in Manchester for the Hull City game (League match, not the League Cup Semi-Final) the following week.
When getting the tram, there were a couple of FC United fans who got on and disembarked at Moston/Newton Heath.
I knew their ground is in Moston, having visited it when it was still a work in progress when I was over for a match in November 2014.
FC United were at home in the FA Trophy, and it’s on the Metrolink route back to the City Centre. Well, I might as well head to Broadhurst Park.
Broadhurst Park is a ground I have noted that I want to visit, so I might as well make the most of this opportunity.
I arrived and checked and followed the directions on the club’s website, and checked Twitter to see if the game was still on. It was, but only just, as there was a pitch inspection pending.
So, I waited outside the ground for confirmation that the game was on before entering. Just after 2pm, I saw supporters leaving the ground and steward shouting “MATCH OFF!! MATCH OFF!!”, confirming what I was already suspecting.
There wasn’t a lot of football in the North West that day.
By this point, I was determined to see some football. So, I decided to brave negotiating the Metrolink to get to Bury for their match against Millwall, getting a taxi from the station to the ground for a fiver (you can barely get down the street for a fiver in Belfast) and only missing the first five minutes.
In the early months of the season, this looked like it would be a top of the table clash, but a run of nine successive defeats (fourteen without a win in all competitions, two draws and twelve defeats) saw Bury hover just above the relegation zone and manager David Flitcroft leave the club, while Millwall were in a traffic jam of clubs outside the play-offs.
And despite not getting to Boundary Park, there would be some Northern Ireland interest in the game in the shape of Shane Ferguson, who was involved in most of Millwall’s attacks in the first-half.
One of those attacks saw a mid air collision result in what looked like a Bury free-kick. As the game was stopped, I decided to check Irish League scores on my phone. I was surprised to hear howls of derision from the crowd as the referee awarded a penalty to Millwall.
Not quite, as the referee consulted with the linesman, and he reversed the decision to applause from the Bury fans. Football fans can be so fickle.
Neither side were on top in the first-half with no real attacking threat. Bury’s cause wasn’t helped by poor decision making when on the attack.
Just after the hour, Bury took the lead when a James Vaughan header hit the bar and went in off the keeper after hitting the bar. Finally, a break for Bury.
Bury were now on the up, and soon made it 2-0 when Vaughan was played through, and showed the type of finish that saw him playing in the Premier League at 16.
It was all going well Bury, too well, and they were brought back down to earth when Niall Maher handled a goalbound shot on the line, with the double whammy of a penalty and a red card.
The penalty was converted by Shaun Williams, prompting an inevitable melee in the goalmouth as Milwall players tried to grab the ball to restart the game, the referee booking a player from each side at the end of it.
The game had now changed and the impetus was with Millwall, who were applying all the pressure while Bury were defending.
The inevitable equaliser came when Callum Butcher headed home from a corner on 85 minutes. Bury were dead on their feet. Supporters around me had seen enough and headed for the exits.
There was still time for a winner, and Millwall knew it. They got it in injury time when Aiden O’Brien got on the end of a cross. Like the equaliser a few minutes earlier, there was an exodus around me, but greater in numbers this time.
A rather entertaining game that made it worthwhile making the dash from not one, but two postponed matches.