Deflected glory: Shrewsbury (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

9 December 2006

What's in that shed?

Grimsby Town 2 Shrewsbury Town 1

Another bright summer's day in this Brave New Old World with around 100 Shrews perched on a washing line in the Osmond. Two flags, they only had two flags. They just aren't trying, are they. Oh dear, and neither are we - what shall we do to fill the empty spaces? Mmm, winning games, beautiful lullaby football, passing, movement and goals: are the locals bored by Buckleyball already?

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Pulis, Rrrrroland Ratatouillehill, Hegggarty, Lump and Paterson. The substitutes were Murray, Rankin, North, Boshell and Harkins. Nothing else to say: same team as Tuesday, same formation, same everything. Same again please?

Shrewsbury stood around, narrowing their eyes and trying to look menacing in a 3-5-2 formation. They'd left Marco Adaggio at home with his strings, practising his nocturnes, no doubt, but brought along little Asamoah as a good luck charm. If you pull his hair he talks, apparently.

First half
Who turned off the volume?

Shrewsbury kicked off towards the Pontoon with a hoof and hope down the left. A throw-in. Then another. And another. And another. And another.

And another. And another. And another.

And another. And another.

Perhaps Michael Reddy's bed is in the shed?

Shrewsbury kicked the ball over the Frozen Beer Stand and out of the ground. A minute later they kicked it over the Main Stand.

Ooh, look: a corner. And another. A-ha, their much-vaunted corner routine: four men stood in the middle of the area and ran away; three stood at the back and ran in. The Lump stood in the middle of the area and headed the ball out. Repeat ad infinitum. Like a human kaleidoscope, it ended up black and white. Don't worry about a thing, cos every little thing is a gonna be all right.

Maybe the shed is the Fentydome?

Shrewsbury kicked the ball out of the ground again. Then again. They're going to bankrupt us before half time: balls aren't cheap, you know. I hope Fenty has brought his cheque book.

My, this is miserable stuff. Shrews whacking, thwacking and hacking their way towards their idea of happiness. Town just unable to pass, with no time or space, no movement, and simply stuck. Shrewsbury take the biscuit for dreary spoiling, negativity; the game rolled in dough with a handful of dried fruit thrown in. They'd been watching Alan's Greatest Hits DVD, hadn't they? They stood on Till's toes, they smothered Paterson in a garish polycotton blanket, they allowed Newey to have the ball and Town ended up chipping and fishing for sprats. No time, no space, just a chase.

Does the shed contain all our balls? They've kicked it out of Lincolnshire again.

Care for a game of Boggle? I can get an eight-letter word out of this, and many four-letter ones too.

At last something happened. Paterson curly-wurly-ed his way down the left, twizzled, twisted and tweezered a cross from the bye-line to the near post. A big, brutish defender stooped and grazed the ball across goal for a corner. Heggggarty hung it high and the ball dropped to Whittle ten yards out at the far post, whose half-volley battered a big, brutish backside. If you want to know the time ask a policeman.

For all their smothering dominance Shrewsbury hadn't created a chance: hardly any incursions into the Town area; just big boots and occasional hoots as they got corners. Mind-numbing, but effective. Finally, Cyril, something to tell you. Asamoah fiddled and widdled on their right, crossing to the near post where Fenton ker-kneed it aside. Thirty minutes of life wasted.

Congratulations and jubilations I want the world to know I'm happy as can be: a shot from Shrewsbury. Hope, 32 yards out in the 3Second minute, looping a soft volley 32 inches wide of the right post. Barnes decided to wait until his 3Second birthday before worrying about it. That shot was brought to you by Sesame Street and the letter 'r'.

A-ha, got it - it's not a shed, it's Fenty's grotto!

It's dull, it's dreary, it's suddenly magnificent. A clearance cleared to Paterson, inside the Town half on the right. Facing the Pontoon, going nowhere and doing nothing, your time has come to shine, all our dreams are on their way. Sail on Paterson, sail on by the blue and yellow remembered hills. He twisted and flicked the ball through his legs, racing forward, pursued by the Shropshire lads. Hope lay still, but Paterson's a rover, rampaging on down the middle. One Lump or two? No, just a flick and trick with Jones, and on the smiling assassin roamed. Heggggarty cut in from the wing and the ball was played in to his feet. Paterson ran on into the empty space on the left and Little Nick turned and rolled the ball back. The full-back stretched and missed and Paterson, unmarked on the corner of the area, advanced, waited for the keeper and curled a careful shot low towards the bottom-left corner. The ball hit a blue bottom and skidded slowly, slowly in off the post.

One shot, one goal: football 1 Greco-Roman wrestling 0.

Ah, that's better, someone has turned the mute button off. 'Tis the season to be jolly, la-la-la-la-la la la-la-laaaaaaaaaaaagh. Whoops. You can have your apocalypse now, or have your apocalypse later. A Shrews' clearance za-zoomed straight down the centre-left. Asamoah strapped on his jet pack and hoovered up the crisp packets on his way towards Barnes. Whittle turned and was a couple of yards behind within a microsecond. O-oh, chango. Turf burned behind Asamoah as he bounced away like a roadrunner on heat: beep-beep and beep-beep, yeah. Whittle hauled six tonnes of coal into his firebox and the pistons rotated at breakneck speed. He cannae hold it much longer! Steam poured from his ears, clanging and crashing; sparks and thick black smoke spilled from his shorts. What's the time? It's Justin time as the Captain Scarlet nicked the ball away when Asamoah's right boot was about to strike. Absolutely brilliant defending by the indestructible Whittle.

That was their chance. It went; let's just get on with life. Town started to flash the ball across the park a little quicker, even Ravenhill swiping passes to the flanks. Croft and Newey, for the first time, began to sneak forward and Town's shrub started to flower. Paterson flicked over his shoulder and sped away. Newey and Hegggarty flicked themselves free, with Newey raiding and ramping a huge cross in the centre; Jones nodded down and Paterson peeled away from his marker. Shearer threw himself at Paterson and the shot ba-bumbled away for a corner. Whaddayamean it's half time? We've only just begun with black and white lace and promises.

Well, what? A half? Half a minute's football is all we got, but all we needed. The Shrews' guard dropped for a fleeting nanosecond and Paterson pounced. It was awful viewing, but they were extremely thorough and diligent in stopping Town do those Town things they do. Their keeper was alert to tipples over the top and their wing-backs were permanently mugging Till and Heggggarty. Overwhelmed in midfield, Town stuttered and spluttered like an old moped. Time for Buckley to get out his spanner and sprockets.

Calm down, we're winning.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time and Buckley's Town, as usual, made the opposition stand around for ages.

From the off Town tore into them. For two minutes anyway. The passing crisp and even, the movement we needed was on the last defender's shoulder. Jones swayed past his marker in the centre, tickling Paterson free. The crowd stood up and the Shrews stood back as Paterson swerved around two defenders and surged towards goal. He looked up and stroked the ball to the unmarked Till. Paterson ran along the edge of the penalty area and Till kissed a perfectly weighted ball between three defenders, about a dozen yards out on the right. Paterson stepped over the ball and cracked a low shot goalwards; it bounced off a defender's studs and into Shearer's midriff. Thirty seconds later Town swept forward again with quick interchanges between Jones and Paterson. The ball squirtled across the edge of the penalty area and Hegggarty, in the centre, shinned a first-time, right-footed shot very wide.

Come back in 20 minutes and I may have a little treat for you. Have a cuppa in the shed.

It was all going so nicely. Normal service had been resumed. Lovely, smashing, groovy and super. A long punt down field by a big, blue boy bounced, bounced and Asamoah pounced. Hello defenders? Newey was having his nails scrubbed ready for next week's family affair and Fenton was busy arranging his costume for the Christmas party. He's going as a dolphin. Or is it a dauphin? While Fenton pondered the mysteries of the Grimsby accent Asamoah crackled a tremendous low volley from 30 yards. Dipping, skipping, swerving and un-nerving the congregation of the Unification Church of St Alan, the ball swished across Barnes, slapped against the inside of the right post, along the goal-line and... out for a goal kick. All hail the groundsman's special loam.

Seven minutes in and Jones was nudged near the manager's box; not a euphemism, but a foul. The referee ignored it and allowed Shrewsbury to break. In a trice the ball flew to Asamoah on the left. Whither Tom Newey? Isn't that an old Lincolnshire folk song? If it isn't, why not? Newey was absent, Fenton stood off and Asamoah, on the left corner of the Town area, teased old Nick with a syncopated version of 'Dreadlock Holiday' played entirely on the beads in his hair. Asamoah hit the bye-line and crashed a low cross to the near post, where eight legs tolled. The ball hit something and skidded across goal straight to Symes, unmarked a couple of yards out with an open goal. He failed to miss.

Shrewsbury upped their intensity further, banging, barging, haranguing and twanging anything that passed close. Edwards, their midfield Boris Johnson, kept trying to get Pulis booked, and finally succeeded. A free kick, then another; all just what they wanted. Up they all ran, into the centre. The penalty area was a thick gloop of blue and yellow and Town were squeezed back into their toothpaste tube. Barnes caught a cross, caught a cross; Barnes punched a cross, punched a cross. Fenton headed, Whittle threaded, Jones clobbered, Hegggarty bothered and Town had a tourniquet placed around their neck, courtesy of Mr Kettle - a right mug.

Edwards flew free down their left and swerved towards Fenton on the edge of the area. Big Nick stood still and Edwards swayed past him, lost his footing and swiped a shot high and wide. The referee booked Fenton and gave a free kick. Davies curled it over and around the wall. Barnes fell to his left and parry-punched the ball aside. Pressure mounting, chickens counting.

At last Town awoke. Croft threw the ball infield to Ravenhill, 35 yards out, who chested down and lobbed a volley goalwards in one movement. The ball slowly plopped wide. Nice idea.

Drat, drat and triple drat Newey. Stop that pigeon Asamoah now. Ah, Buckley's invented a thingamabob, replacing Hegggarty with Harkins. Town sneaked to a 4-3-3 formation, seeking to squeeze off the juice to deadly Derek. The referee immediately punished Harkins for winning the ball in a tackle. Another free kick, another chance to flood the box with the Shrewsbury pox. Dr Buckley has given us our injections, we're fine, just a slight sniffle, nothing serious.

About 20 minutes into the half Rankin replaced Till, with Town going to a fluid 4-3-2-1 formation, with Jones the star at the top of the Christmas tree. Town were beefier, more resistant to their musclemania.

Woah, Asamoah, hang on to your novelty Santa hat with strobe effect lighting. Five minutes of fun-filled frolicking inside the Town area. A shot, a cross, another shot, a block, a corner and a throw-in, hurled, curled and swirled ever closer to Barnes. He came, he saw, he conquered his early-season demons with a clutching pluck from a Langmead swipe.

Wahey! Drummond kicked the ball over the Osmond stand.

With 20 minutes left the siege of Harrington Street was ended. Town broke quickly and Paterson, lurking on the left, began to rub some itching powder into their shorts. Off he raced as two defenders raced to face him. He waited, swayed his pants and flew towards the bye-line. Two defenders desperately hacked at this passing blur and one managed to temporarily prune our hedge. A booking, a free kick which Harkins wasted, and it was cleared away to Newey, who lobbed the ball back down the left. Paterson retrieved, spun, tempted a blue boy with some boiled sweets, cut infield and smacked a low shot goalwards. Langmead stretched to intercept and managed to deflect the ball by about 12 degrees, enough to send it to Shearer's right, as he leaned left.

The camel's straw was broken.

Shrewsbury piled forwards, leaving gaps, leaving time and space for our little loan star on the left. Drifting past two the smiling assassin crossed to the near post, cleared by Langmead. Repeat action two minutes later. Such wonder, such beauty, such a sight never before seen by humankind. Town were rampant, ripping at their ramparts on the break. Paterson sneezing infield, drawing all the little Shrews to his table, dropping crumbs to distract. Jones free on the right, released inside the area and taking an age to shoot. The shot deflected to the edge of the area where Paterson sneaked across a defender and slapped a first-time shot just over the angle of post and bar.

A couple of minutes later el Lumpaldinho returned: bring on those dancing feet! Juggling the ball from right to left, to right again, he passed his audition for Swan Lake with a rolling stepover round and through two defenders. The ball rolled on to Rankin, in the centre, who hoiked a swirling mis-hitty shot not quite over Shearer.

Stay in your seats, this ain't over yet. Shrewsbury hurtled forward, furiously throwing everything at Town. A break on their left with a man free and the cross swiped clear at the near post by a conglomeration of Grimsbyness. Asamoah surging, Newey retreating and a cross splashing through the centre. Whenever Town challenged they fell, pleading for retribution: barging, arguing, shoving, shouting, thrusting and throwing their limbs around. Mr Kettle, this game has boiled over - have you no thermostat?

Ravenhill was booked after Edwards shoved him over. Perhaps it was something he said: "You're nearly Welsh," perhaps? How rude, if geographically correct. The free kick was dinked into the centre where all of Shrewsbury converged on the same spot. Barnes never flinched, punching the ball away for temporary relief. They returned with added vigour, added falling and added failing.

There were four minutes of added time. Four! Where did that come from?

More free kicks, more corners, more crosses, more pressure, but just more opportunity for Town to show the difference. What a difference a month makes. Their keeper ran up for a corner, and stayed for the next. A final corner flew to the far post, where Drummond and Langmead collided. They ran back to the halfway line, arguing, pushing and shoving each other, and being pulled apart by team-mates. But these are mere details, the colour on a black and white canvas that says: "Three points to us."

This was not about beauty, but about balls. We had to use six of them as Shrewsbury boomed and bullied their way through the game. It was an ugly match with isolated moments of culture. We won because of Paterson; we didn't lose because of the defence, especially the magnificent centre. It was less enjoyable than Accrington, but more pleasing - to win Town needed heart, not art.

We never did find out what was in the shed.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Whittle was supreme, and for that Asamoah chase alone he deserves the freedom of Freshney Place: he ensured Town didn't crash to the ground. But for a second virtuoso display it is the unforgettable fire, Martin Paterson. Without him we'd be a sneezing and wheezing calliope.

Official Warning
Mr T Kettle was not my cup of tea. Spent the first half avoiding bookings and wouldn't stop in the second, until he should have sent someone off. Another erratic fusspot who seemed unable to see fouls on smaller men, especially those wearing a monochrome kit. In homage to his lazy erraticness I'm pressing the same key several times with a blindfold. 4.444: lucky boy.

The Others
Miserably effective. They were big, strong, organised and fast, simply designed to destroy in open play. They are the sort of team you have to beat to be promoted and will be elbowing their way around the play-off fringes all season. Essentially they had Asamoah and nine nightclub bouncers. They had us in a vice-like grip and only Paterson's pace and perception, plus some deflections, foiled their fiendish plans. They'd have got away with it too, if it wasn't for our pesky kid.

Not enjoyable to watch but professional in every respect. They were a bit like us last year, but without the flair. Or do I mean hair?