The second installment in the series sees Swindon Town fan ROB FRANCIS pop in the TrustSTFC.tv time machine to revisit games past.
Ahead of the clash with Bury his weekend, it’s the Shakers who fall under Rob’s microscope…
Bury 6-1 Swindon Town, Division Two, August 22nd 1964
As far as opening games go, Swindon’s trip to Gigg Lane on the first day of the 1964/65 season has to be one of the Town’s most disastrous; a 6-1 defeat that signposted the unsuccessful campaign to come.
Any pre-season optimism wouldn’t have made it far beyond the sixth minute here. Swindon took the lead through Bill Atkins with a minute gone, but sixty seconds later Tony Bartley had equalised for the Shakers, firing home after Town goalkeeper Norman Oakley couldn’t hold onto the ball following a free kick. Oakley was injured during the build-up to Bury’s goal with a suspected fracture to his collar-bone, and after trying to play on for a few minutes, was forced to leave the field. Substitutions would not be permitted until the following season, so Swindon right-back Owen Dawson took over in goal.
Playing against a team with only ten men and a defender in between the posts, Bury took full advantage. A header from Brian Griffin put the home side in front after seventeen minutes, before a young Colin Bell scored twice to give Bury a 4-1 half-time lead.
Despite conceding three goals, Dawson was making a decent fist of his makeshift keeper role, and was applauded off at the interval.
The second half saw two further goals; Roger Smart turning the ball into his own net before Bell completed his hat-trick with six minutes left.
Norman Oakley wouldn’t feature again for over a month, and although Swindon responded well by winning their next two games, further injuries hampered their battle for survival, and the Town were relegated to Division Three.
Sometimes, you just know it’s not going to be your year.
Swindon Town 8-0 Bury, Division Three, December 8th 1979
December 1979 was an extraordinary month for Swindon. On the 4th, Town went to Highbury for a League Cup quarter-final against the mighty Arsenal, a side containing Pat Jennings, Alan Sunderland, David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton and Graham Rix. A Billy Tucker goal with six minutes remaining earned the away side a 1-1 draw. The replay was held one week later, and Swindon caused a huge upset by beating the Gunners 4-3 in extra-time, in one of the most famous nights in the club’s history.
In between the two games, Bury pitched up at the County Ground, presumably imagining that it might be a good time to play a Swindon side who may just have their minds elsewhere ahead of the replay. If that was the case, it certainly didn’t show.
Midfielders Ray McHale and Chris Kamara put Swindon two ahead before Alan Mayes and Andy Rowland grabbed a goal each to make the score 4-0 at the break. Mayes and Rowland formed a lethal striking partnership in the 1979/80 season – each scoring twenty-eight goals.
Any thoughts that Town might take their foot off the gas in the second half to save energy for the midweek cup-tie were soon dispelled, as Swindon carried on where they left off. McHale (from the penalty spot), Tucker, Mayes and Rowland added another four to the tally, to give Swindon their biggest win in forty-one years.
To add insult to injury for the Shakers, Town’s manager Bobby Smith was previously in charge at Bury, and four of the Swindon team had previously played for the Gigg Lane side, including goalscorers Rowland and Tucker.
The result lifted Town into the top three, but after defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup semi-final, Swindon’s league form fell away, and they were to finish tenth. Bury were relegated to Division Four, with Blackpool winning at Rotherham on the final day to condemn the Shakers to the drop.
Bury 2-1 Swindon Town, Division Four, May 12th 1984
The glory days of 1979 were well behind Swindon by the time they made the trip to Greater Manchester for both sides’ final game of the 1983/84 season. Two seasons previously, Town had fallen into the fourth tier for the first time in their history. The club were beset by financial problems, and after missing out on promotion in 1983, were forced to sell Paul Rideout, who had contributed twenty goals to the campaign.
Bury’s 1982/83 season had also ended in disappointment. They topped the table at Christmas, two points clear of second-placed Swindon, but were unable to stay there. However, despite losing top spot, with one game left to play, Bury were in the final promotion place.
Their final fixture was at Gigg Lane against champions Wimbledon, and to go up, Bury merely had to match Scunthorpe United’s result, who were away at mid-table Chester. Bury were beaten 3-1, but the Shakers’ manager Jim Iley somehow got the impression that Scunthorpe were also losing, and danced on the touchline in delight. Unfortunately for Iley, his source was wrong. The Iron won, and condemned Chester to another season in the fourth tier.
The 1983/84 season, by contrast, was one to forget for both clubs. The sides met on the last day of the campaign in front of a crowd of only 1,214, and goals from Craig Madden and Eric Potts either side of an Alan Mayes equaliser gave Bury a 2-1 win.
This meant that the Shakers leapfrogged Swindon in the final standings; Bury finishing in 15th place, Town in 17th. For both sides, this was a nadir; neither club had ever finished in such a lowly position before.
Fortunately, better times were around the corner. The following season saw Bury win promotion; an extraordinary achievement by the Shakers, who only used fifteen players throughout the entire season. Swindon would end the 1984/85 season in 8th place, under the guidance of Lou Macari.
Bury 3-0 Swindon Town, Division One, August 31st 1998
The start of the 1998/99 season was not a happy time to be a Swindon Town fan. Pressure had been building on the manager Steve McMahon for some time, after bright openings to the previous two seasons had capitulated into a series of humiliating defeats.
A total of three wins in the final twenty-six games of the 1997/98 season and the embarrassment of being knocked out of the FA Cup at home to non-league Stevenage Borough had raised the temperature to boiling point, yet McMahon vowed to fight on, and chairman Rikki Hunt gave the manager his backing.
Bury were having a better time of it. Stan Ternent had led the Shakers to two successive promotions and then a 17th place in Division One the previous year before leaving for Burnley. Under Ternent’s replacement Neil Warnock, Bury had started the season well, winning two and drawing two of their opening four games, all without conceding a goal.
The home side were to keep another clean sheet here, and three strikes in the space of thirteen second-half minutes right in front of the travelling Town fans lifted Bury to third in the table. The result left Swindon in 20th, with just two points from their opening five matches.
The pressure on the manager continued to grow, and home wins against local rivals Bristol City and Oxford provided only temporary respite. On-pitch protests followed a 4-1 home defeat by Watford in September, and Steve McMahon finally resigned two days later. Former player Jimmy Quinn took over and steadied the ship, securing a 17th place finish.
After their bright start, Bury’s form deserted them, and they were relegated on the final day of the season. Despite finishing level on points with Port Vale, and having a better goal difference, Bury went down due to scoring fewer goals.
The following season, the Football League would revert back to using goal difference to separate teams level on points, a change which would have sent Vale down instead had it been introduced a year earlier.
One year later, Swindon also dropped out of the second tier. To date, neither club has returned.
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