Another near-capacity crowd turned out for the meeting of Chesterfield and Bury at the B2Net Stadium this afternoon. The last few tickets for the home areas were sold early in the morning and the away fans' ticket cabin had to deal with the longest queues I'd seen so far. That second point was not related to the first, for Bury brought their share.
Much was at stake, of course. A win would deservedly confirm Chesterfield as League Two champions, while a Bury win would leave take The Shakers to a deserved promotion, if other results went their way. The best home record in the division took on the best away one. By five o'clock, something would have to give!
Chesterfield brought Jack Lester and Dean Holden back into the starting line-up, with Ian Breckin and Derek Niven returning to the bench. As usual, this meant a move back to left midfield for Dean Morgan, and a shuffle inside for Danny Whitaker. Phil Picken did not make it back into a Bury line-up that was also deprived of the suspended Sodje and Mozika.
Chesterfield kicked off attacking the Printability end, amid the most indescribable din. With 90 seconds on the clock Schumacher was booked for a late challenge on Lester, just inside the Bury half.
Sweeney and Worrall were paired up in front of Bury's centre-halves. Lees took Lester, and Futcher was able to track across to look after Davies. The defender did this rather too effectively on 5, being penalised for a clumsy body-check on Davies after the Spireite frontman sold him a neat dummy.
A neat 1-2 between Davies and Lester almost presented a chance for the former on 10, but the return was slightly over-hit.
Bury won the game's first corner on 11 but Lowe will reflect that me might have done better before being pushed wide by Lee. From the corner, Futcher headed back across goal and Lees found space at the post to head into the net to give Bury the lead. Lowe's powerful drive on 13 was parried by Lee and it took Smalley to block the ball out for a corner that was cleared. A run by the tricky Ajose resulted in another Shakers corner on 14 that the towering Futcher put a yard wide of Lee's right-hand post.
The Spireites began to repair their game by keeping possession, laying off neat passes to try to stretch the Shakers' defence. Bury's pace on the break was a constant danger and their players worked impressively hard to support eachother. From a poor Whitaker free kick that danger on the break was apparent, and Whitaker himself raced back to get just enough of a head onto a through ball to make Ajose's shooting angle too tight.
As Bury continued to press Bennett picked up the ball around 25 yards out on 34 and wrong-footed Mattis well, but was wasteful in the execution of his shot, and Lee watched it flash wide.
Lester went into the book for a foul on Worrall after 37 minutes.
Chesterfield put a decent move together on 39; a Whitaker dummy over an Allott pass allowed the ball through to Lester; he turned, but was stopped, and the ball was cleared to Davies, whose cross was turned out for a corner.
That was probably the closest that The Spireites came in a first half that concluded with a booking for Griffiths after a foul on Lowe on 41.
HT Spireites 0, Bury 1. Att 9,614 ( 1,949 from Bury)
Chesterfield brought Niven on for Morgan at half-time. Whitaker went wide right. Within seconds a typical Niven tackle left Bennett on his backside and showed a little of what the Spireites had missed in the first half. This set the home side up for a spell of pressure that resulted in CRAIG DAVIES latching on to a loose ball andfiring into the right-hand corner of Belford's net on 49, after good build-up work from Smalley and Lester.
Lees appealed in vain for offside when Lester won a corner on 53. Bury broke and Talbot worked hard to get back and intercept Lowe's shot but the ball broke kindly for Worrall to steer in the rebound and restore Bury's lead. A pitch invasion followed and Lee was unfortunately jostled by a visiting supporter.
Chesterfield continued to struggle to find the means of sustaining pressure on the visitors' goal. Quick thinking by Lester on 59 opened the door for Smalley but the pass had a little too much on it. Three minutes later the sides were level again; a sumptuous Davies dummy allowed JACK LESTER to rtun into the box and steer the ball beyond Belford. Sadly, the invasion scenes were repeated at the home end and a goalkeeper was again the subject of unwanted attention from a moron. There's an excellent photo of him on the BBC website!
Despite twice losing a lead, Bury looked most likely to claim the next one. Lowe was wasteful, heading over from a Bennett cross on 65. Allott was robbed in midfield and Bury broke again, but a brilliant Whitaker tackle on Lowe on the penalty spot prevented a certain goal.
Davies danced along the touchline before seeing a shot parried out by Belford on 68. Niven's clumsy foul on Bennett earned a yellow card on 71 but there was no malice in Derek's challenge - he was simply stitched up by the winger's trickery. Lee came out strongly to punch the free kick clear.
The crowd reacted with astonishment to Davies being given offside after picking up ball 5 yards inside own half, but he had come from an offside position in Bury's half to get it, so the free kick was correctly awarded. Bury continued to look for the winner and Talbot head to head away from a yard or so out as Lowe closed in after a 72nd-minute corner. Holden stooped to head a ball that wasn't high enough and Ajose broke onto the loose ball, but Holden recovered excellently to crowd out the Bury man before he could exploit the danger.
Whitaker was booked for a clumsy foul on Bennett on 76. Smalley and Lester combined well to set up Whitaker on 78 but his shot was blocked for a corner. The same player pulled out a cracking tackle in his own box minutes later to deny Bennett, after Niven had been given the slip.
Bury made the game's first substitution on 79, replacing Jones with Haworth. Griffiths did well to stick with Bennett as he went forward but conceded a corner; the ball came over and through to Lowe. He was probably as surprised as anyone to find the room he had so close to goal, but he controlled and shot powerfully from around 12 yards through a crowd of defenders that gathered too late to stop The Shakers from raking a match-winning lead.
Bury replaced Bennett with John-Lewis after 86 minutes. The officials added five minutes and a Bury defender looked as though he'd sliced a Lee clearance into his own net, but Belford made a finger-tip save. Bowery came on for Griffiths and won a corner but the game ended with Lee making a save after Allott had been booked for a break-preventing foul.
In the end Bury were worthy winners of the game, and the promotion it brought. Chesterfield still hold a two-point lead at the top of the table but there may be a few wary Spireites prepared to test the odds on Bury winning it now, even though the 8-1 on offer before the game will no doubt have shortened.
With The Spireites promoted, and likely to entertain a number of big away followings next season, the question of security will need to be addressed. A good-natured pitch invasion is one thing, but when that leads to both goalkeepers being subject to some form of assault, the question of crowd management forces its way to the top of the agenda. Both sets of fans were on the pitch at the end with a line of police between them, and that worked well enough, but the away fans probably did as much damage to advertising hoardings as Rotherham's did, although the crossbar survived several unchecked attempts to break it. Quite what you do to stop this in a modern, post-Hillsborough stadium built to trust in the fans is quite a question.