A Tough Start For The Stripes New Sept 2022 Season

A new season for the Stripes awaited in Heywood. A scratch team was scrambled together, that included the super utility over 70s player in Goal, Bob Cat and the Parkinson’s England team centre forward, Keith B. When I arrived, they were warming up, by performing a “piggy in the middle” type approach, with Mark T running around like a crazy, drunken fly, trying to get the ball as it was passed around a ring of Bury team members. I have to assume the other players had a turn before I arrived.  For a change, today had good playing conditions, and after the usual obligatory league speech preceding all league fixtures, Bury Relics got their season underway against Wakefield. As the team marched onto the pitch, the management were giving encouragement and geeing the Bury troops up, with added instruction. One Relics player replied, “will give it a go”; a good sentiment, always try your best. So here we go…

Bury Relics vs. Wakefield
Keith H gets the game underway and Bury try to get into a passing rhythm. However, the move breaks down, for Wakefield to set free their #6, who weaves in and out between a couple of Bury players, only to shoot wide. Bob Cat was not needed this time but their Messi #6 is a danger. Bury again pass the ball around but by now, Wakefield are pressing hard. Despite the pressing, Keith H, receives the ball from a ricochet, who turns well and shoots just wide. That was a good chance. Then it’s Keith H again, profiting from a Wakefield mistake that gives him possession. He’s not one on one as a defender is between him and the goal, but he has the opportunity to shoot, but the defender just gets a toe to the shot to block it. This is good attacking play by Keith, shooting early when the chance arises. Wakefield now go on the attack, which produces some good defending by both Wayne and Pete, who stand firm against the Wakefield offence. This first involved Pete, doggedly tracking their Messi like #6, who is pushed back, but he hits a good pass to a player further forward, that Wayne tackles well. Then it’s a bit of delicious play by Bury.  John H is coming out of the Bury defence and he plays the ball up to Keith H, who has a marker behind him; Keith then spots the movement of Wayne, who has joined the attack, and lays a perfect ball into his path, for Wayne to strike hard. It’s on target, to the keepers left, and the keeper has to get down quickly to make a good save and prevent 1-0 to Bury. Great move, shot and save. It’s a corner to the Relics but Wakefield breakaway and get it to their Messi, #6. He tries to take on Pete S using his guile, speed and skill but Pete was equal to it, and makes a good tackle with one of his telescopic legs; excellent defending. Bury go down the other end and Mark T takes a powerful shot and wins a corner via a deflection. The corner comes to nothing and Wakefield attack and get a shot away. Bob stands firmly behind the ball to make the save. In the subsequent Bury attack, Mark T, or should I say Cantona, superbly sets up a chance for the Relics. The ball is played up to Mark, who facing away from goal. In the corner of his eye, he sees Keith H make a move to be free of his marker. Mark T reacts and plays a delicate ball right into Keith H’s path, a perfect pass to give Keith a clear shotting chance. His shot is just wide but the move was awesome. Well done Mark T and Keith, a great move, which had the Bury management and supporters purring. Then the phantom attacker takes Mark T out; he seemed happy jogging around, but suddenly, out of nowhere, he’s flies onto the floor. To be fair, I did not see exactly what happened, and maybe he was tripped off the ball. In any case, good news, he was OK to continue, and could rest as it was half time. One funny moment at half time, was the comment made one of the staff; he said that before his last holiday, one player was fit and like a highly tuned athlete, but on his return from vacation, now looked like Michelin man 😊. The second half gets underway and it becomes apparent that the game has become a bit scrappy, with neither team making shooting opportunities, well, not without running anyway. Eventually, a good attempt by the Relics. The ball is played forward, and the attacker sees Wayne advancing forward and lays off an inviting pass for Wayne to shoot. It’s a great effort, low and powerful, but unfortunately, it just speeds wide of the left-hand post. If on target, that’s a goal. Then Wakefield nearly score; a player advances quickly down the right-hand side, and toe bungs a low and direct shot to Bob’s left-hand side. It’s very close as the ball seems to trap against both post and against Bob’s hand. The result is a corner to Wakefield but that was close, and it’s close again from the corner, and again, it’s Bob who makes the save. Great resilience from Bob Cat the keeper. Keith B gets in on the act, as he receives the ball up front and lays off a perfect ball to Mark T, who shoots well but just wide. A good chance to snatch a victory for the Relics but the Ref blows the whistle for full time.
Bury Relics 0 – 0 Wakefield

Bury Relics vs. Bolton
Both teams have a blue kit, so Bury put on Orange Bibs, to visually differentiate the teams. I made the very funny joke that a Bib was very appropriate for Keith B 😊. Not to be outdone by the superb whit and humour, Nikon Nev then announced this should be called a “Lancashire Hot Pot” of a derby. OK, so it was. The Relics get the game underway, with a good number of passes, until Bolton tackle the ball out of play. Keith B plays a nice kick-in, finds Mark T and he plays in Wayne for a shot, who hits it low and hard, but the keeper makes the save. Then disaster strikes, as their #7 scores a quality goal, the finish that is. From a Relics perspective, it was poor as possession was lost in midfield and their #7 had enough space, about 5 yards outside the area, to be unchallenged in the shot. However, at this distance, only a quality hit would beat Bob, and it was a great strike, low and across the goal, just out of reach of Bob’s agile dive and into the far corner. A great goal for Bolton, who were now ahead 1-0. Then a chance for the Relics, Keith B moves into space by side-stepping his marker and takes a snap shot that just goes wide. A nice effort. Then it’s the Relics knocking on the door again; this time Keith B receives the ball from a smart Pete S pass, and he crosses to Keith H, who makes half a yard of space, to hit a shot that just goes wide of the left-hand post. Another good Relics effort. Now a trench warfare develops between both teams, and they both try and deny either team time and space, with quick closing down, with a couple of free-kicks won by ricochets that when overhead. Bolton were beginning to dominate this battle, and were making some long-range powerful shots. These were potentially dangerous shots, but luckily not on target. Relics players were putting their bodies on the line, by blocking Bolton shots. One excellent block was executed by Pete S, who swiftly closed down the striker, who was set up to shoot from a Bolton free-kick. Then there came the second disaster of the game. At first, I thought Bob had played superbly, by denying two shots on goal by Bolton. Bob bravely put his body in the way of a howitzer of a shot, that rebounded out for the striker to follow up. He did so, but all of a sudden, the Ref blew his whistle as he had spotted a Relics foot had strayed into the area; it was a penalty to Bolton. The #7 striker stepped up and hit the penalty pretty centrally, to see the ball ripple the net as Bob had gambled and dived to his right. There was good power on the penalty, so Bob had little chance and it was 2-0 to Bolton. From the centre, Relics win a kick-in, which Mark T takes to perfection, playing the ball over to Keith B, who takes a pace forward and hits it firs time. Unfortunately, the connection is not clean and the ball spins up and harmlessly away. On another day, that could have been a great goal, and the set up by Mark was quick and incisive, and Keith had moved and gained a bit of space to smartly finish. Unlucky, and concluded the first half. Bolton try and catch the Relics out, with a shot from the second half start, but it’s well blocked. Then from the resulting play, Bob makes a good save from their striker, who hits a hard shot that Bob gets behind. Then a good bit of play by Keith H, who gets the ball and cleverly bamboozles and turns away from the defender to get a shot away but it is saved and out for a corner. Keith B then does a good bit of play, by anticipating a Bolton pass out of defence and intercepting it. There appears a chance to shoot but he elects to pass and the opportunity fizzles out. However, it was an alert interception. Then it’s a hard shot from Bolton in midfield, that Bob nearly breaks his wrist on, and the save takes it out for a corner to Bolton. The attack breaks down when Mark T makes a tackle that normally is not allowed, by poking the ball from between an opponents legs. This gives Mark a chance to shoot, which he does and wins a corner off the keepers save. From then on, Bolton manage the game by passing around and by minimizing any Bury possession. The games finishes in a 2-0 loss.
Bury Relics 0 – 2 Bolton

Bury Relics vs. Ribble Valley
Bury kick off and manage a seven or eight pass move before Ribble intercept, they move forward and create a chance to shoot; Bob is alert and makes the save by getting his body behind it, a good save. Then, what is becoming a signature Relics move for the day, the ball is played up-front by John H, who finds Keith H. He bides his time and waits for Wayne to move forward into space. Keith plays the pass and Wayne whacks it first time, that the Ribble goalie has to save down to his left-hand post. Then comes an impressive goal by Ribble. From an interception by their #10, the ball is crossed to their #7 striker, who has his back to goal and is marked by a Relics defender. As the ball comes to him, he flicks the ball up, does 3 keepie uppies, and moves the ball wide of his defender, then to volley, low passed a diving Bob. What an exquisite goal that was! If that was in the premier league, it will be a contender for goal of the season. Mark T is in the wars again, as he’s pushed into the Relics area; there was no question of it being a penalty but fans were wondering if that was a foul count against the Ribble. Nice play by the Relics, keeping possession whilst being harassed by the Ribble players. This ends with a good shot from a long way out by Pete S, but it’s just too high. Then out of nothing, the ball is quickly played forward to the edge of the Relics area, with plenty of pace on it. It looks like their #7 can’t reach it, but he puts his afterburners on with big strides and manages to reach the ball. He toe-pokes a shot passed an on-rushing Bob into the net, to make it 2-0 to the Ribble. The second half gets underway as in the Bolton game, with the opposition trying to catch Bury asleep, by taking a shot straight from the kick-off. Bob makes the save but the shot was overhead in any case. Then, its superb battling by Mark T as the game resumes, he wins the ball in midfield and feeds Wayne for a shot, who shoots but it’s saved. Then it’s sensational play by the Relics; Mark T takes a precision corner, perfectly finding Keith B in a bit of space. He takes a step forwards, adjusts his sights and lets fly with a hard and low shot to the keepers right. The keeper gets a hand on it, but the shot is powerful and accurate enough to score; the Relics are back in it at 2-1. An awesome goal for Keith B and the Relics. Nikon Nev was so amazed, he had stopped taking photographs so that he could take in the small moment of history. However, back to reality as we were still tailing. More good Relics passing finds Mark T up front, and he decides to start to playing chess with the Ribble defence. He holds onto the ball for about thirty seconds but without moving more than a foot in any direction, waiting for a defender to commit.  Eventually, Mark T elects to turn and shoot, but it’s a hair’s breadth wide. That was close, and the best chance Relics had to score in the final moments of the game.
Bury Relics 1 – 2 Ribble Valley

From three games, the Relics earned a point but in my small opinion, that did not reflect the moments of good play the Relics produced. The Relics did have shots but aside from Keith B’s goal, many of them were either off target or not powerful enough to put the opponent’s keeper in trouble. All the games were pretty even, with the critical difference being the finishing by other teams. I have heard people say, it’s not easy to score in the Heywood league, and I agree with that. On another day, with better shots, Bury Relics could easily have gained more than a point. As a fan and spectator, I enjoyed the games, a positive and competitive spirit from the team and staff. Well done, Relics.

Thanks, and well done to all the players: Bob Cat (gk), Keith H, John H, Peter S, Mark T, Keith B and Wayne G. And to the manager and all the staff: Ken and Keith S. Thanks to Nikon Nev for his photos. Report by Dr. John.