Focus back on Rochdale v Bury derby with old pals act now 'old hat'

David Flitcroft and Keith Hill (Empics)

BEST mates Keith Hill and David Flitcroft expect a pulsating derby atmosphere as they send their ROCHDALE and BURY sides out at the Crown Oil Arena on Saturday.

Flitcroft was Hill’s assistant at Dale and Barnsley before going it alone and being handed the Bury job. The pair remain close, speaking to each other virtually every day and Flitcroft says Hill is “like a brother”.

There has been much talk about their friendship when they’ve previously gone head-to-head, so much so that Hill described it as a “side-show”. He now feels it is “old hat”, with this being the fifth time they’ll be in opposing dug-outs, and the Dale boss is instead relishing another bumper crowd at the Crown Oil Arena after 6,011 saw his side beat Bolton 1-0 there at the end of last month.

Last Saturday’s 3-0 victory at home to Southend saw Dale stretch their winning run to six games, which has propelled them from bottom of League One to seventh.

“We love the atmosphere of these games,” said Hill. “For the Bolton match the atmosphere was incredible and it’s going to be very similar so we’re looking forward to that aspect.

“The lads supported each other in the first seven games of the season, which were difficult times for the players. But we’ve grown in strength, mentally and physically, and we’ll continue to grow.”

Hill fielded a homegrown midfield three last Saturday, with 16-year-old Aaron Morley handed his league debut while 20-year-old Callum Camps has been captain for the last two games as Jamie Allen, another youth product, is currently out. Fellow midfielder Matty Lund is back from international duty with Northern Ireland while forward Ian Henderson could return after recovering from concussion.

Bury also enjoyed a six-match winning run before losing their last three, leaving them two points  above Dale in third. The local rivals met three times last term, with a first-half brace by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing setting Dale on course for a 3-0 home win last time out, although the Shakers won 1-0 in their FA Cup clash last December. Flitcroft hailed the “wall of noise” that the Bury fans created that day as they packed out the away stand, which runs along the side of the pitch opposite the tunnel.

“The way Rochdale’s stadium is set up, it’s the first thing you see as you come out,” said the Bury boss. “Our fans have been fantastic at Rochdale and it does hit you straight away. The players have got to feel that, take it on board, and stay on the game-plan we’re going to set out.”

Midfield pair Tom Soares and Jacob Mellis are available to come back after suspension while striker Tom Pope is recovering from the punctured lung he suffered in last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Peterborough.

The game is no longer all-ticket so home and away fans can pay on the day. Entry is £22 for adults, £16 concessions and £5 for under-16s.