The Second Division may not be the prettiest league in the world, but the race for promotion promises to be the tightest of them all. On Saturday, Bury stole a march on one of their closest rivals and opened a three- point gap at the top. With a home game against Wycombe to look forward to this afternoon, Easter could turn out to be a time of thanksgiving for Stan Ternent and his team.
Appointed at the start of last season, Ternent took Bury up from the Third Division at the first attempt, and now the club that gave us Colin Bell and Neville Southall looks set to go higher than they have been for more than 25 years.
Southall, of course, is by no means the only Neville connected with Bury - Gary and Philip of Manchester United were born there, their mum is the club secretary and father Neville Neville is the commercial manager. Neville the less, it is a Bury-born stockbroker by the name of Hugh Eaves who is the financial muscle behind the club, and survival in a higher division will depend as much on his resources as Ternent's resourcefulness.
Against Brentford they did just enough, having taken the lead against the run of play after Nicky Dawes had beaten the off-side trap. Six minutes later, when the promising David Johnson was brought down in the penalty area, Mark Carter's spot-kick temporarily knocked the stuffing out of David Webb's side.
To their credit, the erstwhile leaders of the division responded well in the second half and only a string of fine saves from Dean Kiely kept them at bay. The left foot of Kevin Dennis, a former Arsenal apprentice, looked a particularly useful addition to a promotion campaign that is in danger of coming off the rails again. Today they visit Gillingham, which is no way to spend a bank holiday.
Bury, though, are in the box seat, despite having two players sent off in the 1-0 win at Notts County last Tuesday. "If somebody had said to us at the start of the season, you'll get promoted and you'll be top of the League at Easter, I'd be telling you a lie if I said I wouldn't have been surprised," Ternent said. From Neville Neville land to wonderland. Whatever next? Chesterfield in an FA Cup semi-final?
Goals: Dawes (34) 0-1; Carter (Pen, 40) 0-2.
Brentford (4-4-2): Dearden; Hutchings, Statham, Bates, Anderson; Bent (Omigie, h/t), Smith, McGhee, Dennis; Taylor, Asaba. Substitutes not used: Goddard, Fernandes (gk).
Bury (5-3-2): Kiely; West, Luketti, Woodward, Butler, Armstrong; Dawes, Randall (Hughes, 90), Johnrose (Scott, 77); Johnson, Gepson (Carter, 21).
Referee: R Furnandiz (Doncaster).
Man of the Match: Kiely.
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