Ready steady go: Shrewsbury (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 March 2010

A bright, still but chill afternoon in Zombieland with around 150 blue biscuiteers fretting in the Osmond Stand. In the lottery of the fourth, little Shrews, it could be you that we do. It seems like forever since we last had anything to hang our hats on.

Town staunched up in a 4-4-2 formation, as follows: Colgan, Bore, Lankyshire, Atkinson, Widdowson, Ak-Ak, Sinclair, Sweeney, Devitt, Peacock and Coulson. The substitutes were Oxley, Wood, Linwood, Leary, Proudlock, Hudson, with added Hegggartivity. Coulson started in the centre, with Ak-Ak promenading down the right. On brisk afternoons you need something to keep your ears warm, but the muttering Mainstanders had their ice-picks ready to make Woodseseseses' ears burn.

The minute's silence for Keith Alexander was impeccably observed. It meant something.

Now for 90 minutes that mean something.

First Half: Every Stranger's Eyes

Shrewsbury kicked off towards the Pontoon with a chip and a chase 'pon the left hand side. I say, chip and a chase 'pon the left hand side. Lankyshire left it, Bore left it, and Town were in a muddle as Hibbert cuddled The Straight One into conceding a throw-in by the corner flag. They chucked it and mucked it up, passing straight to Captain Peacock in the centre circle. Devitt was free and dinkled for the on-rushing Widdowson. Nice. Town got a corner and nothing happened.

Nothing happened again, nicely. Town slapped, slurped and sliced the Shropshire Blues down the right and Peacock cross deeply beyond Ak-Ak, beyond the far post and Devitt leggy-hopped a shanker wide from a few yards out. We just need a bit of pickle to spice up the cheeseboard.

The pitch underneath the Findus was full of divots and the ball bimbled and bombled and occasionally bumbled in ker-razy ways. Bore underhit a tickle to Lankyshire and Cureton zimmered off. Town were lacerated and exposed on the right, Dunfield bedraggled hopelessly from the edge of the area. Are we bovvered?

Bore surged, Bore shot, Bore's shot was blocked. Coulson clattered, Peacock clanged and Bore surged again. Town were ascendant, resplendent in sensible hair and sensible boots, if you ignore Bore's pretty-boy electric blue shufflers. With lime boots and silver boots, beware those kinky Shrewboots who flit from club to club just like a butterfly. Cureton slapped into the side netting after cheeking past Lankyshire with a hump and flick. Some big bloke bonked a header well wide after a free kick.

Note well, dear Shrews: there's a kind of stink about blue velvet trousers.

We shot wide, they shot wider; we shot high, they shot higher. We had the ball, they had it sometimes. Atkinson stooped and scooped a header at the far post after a Sweeney corner. The ball landed on the roof of the net and a boot landed on his nose. Atko ran off down the tunnel and Peacock ran back to centre-half. Hibbert hibbled wide, then hobbled straight at Colgan from a dozen yards after a scrimble-scramble all of Town's own making. Lankyshire crumpled and was led off, Town were down to 9 men for a micro-second - Atkinson returned and The Shrews wastefully wafted wide from way, way, way away, way away, way away.

Lankyshire came back and Ak-Ak stayed in the middle, with Coulson now a flankster.

With eleven men against eleven Shrewsbury managed one more shot. Leslie volleyed 20 yards high and 21 yards wide from forty, forty, forty-five, forty-five yards away, way away, way away.

Town passed and moved, threatening to stir their custard. Ooh, aah, nearly and almost, Coulson slashed wide, Peacock slurped wider, Devitt dribbled and dropped under some heavy breathing and the homesters amused themselves with some player-audience interaction. That was the captain of our ship, Nick Colgan. We've got to let him know that we need him, we've got to let him know that we read him, we've got to let him know that we don't loathe him now. We warmed to him as he genuflected and smiled with every drop kick.

Oi! That's not a foul, he's French.

Town pressed, Town pressured, Shrewsbury Town were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In and out the ball veered left and right. Bore twirled his magic baton as he drum majoretted and the ball squirtled around and about. Bore flicked, Peacock ticked and Coulson swept a low shot towards the left post. Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause please: the second shot of the afternoon to be on target, and the first for mein hosts. Forty two minutes of intrigue but no mystery. No one had been shot yet, Hercule, and the advert break is coming up.

There were three minutes of added time.

Let's dance! Let's sway through the crowded penalty area to an empty space. As the lights went up at the end of the last dance Sweeney dinked, the ball jiggled into the void and Ak-Ak swept majestically forward, past one tackle, and over Langmead's boot. The ball ran on, Coulson was dispossessed and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Ah, the referee - hadn't noticed him before. Nice man.

Benjamin Button walked out and moved the ball as Sinclair waited and waited and waited to take the kick. Benny retreated and Sinclair carefully, calmly stroked the ball centre left as Button jetted the other way. Let's sway, while colour lights up our face.

Peep-peep, peeps. That's that.

Town were in the ascendant, but had individual moments of flakiness in defence. Over-deliberation and over-elaboration resulted in some constipation, but at least it wasn't over. Shrewsbury were clearly capable of doing things, but hadn't got their mojo rising. A decent game to watch and a decent scoreline to boot. Town were trying and succeeding. Could this be it?

The day was ripening nicely for a big peach Melba for tea.

Second Half: The Tide Is Turning

No changes were made by either team at half time, though the Shrewsters came out early to get colder and more miserable.

Eek, within a minute the defining moment had been definitely and definitively defined. Sweeney ponced, McIntyre pooped and swooped upfield unmolested. On he roved, beyond the defence, into the penalty area. On and on, closer and closer. Should Nick stay or should Nick go. If he goes there will be trouble, an' if he stays it will be double. Decisions, decisions...on such moments whole seasons can flip. McIntyre took a final touch and Colgan thrust himself forward, remaining upright as the ball cannoned off his chest.

He may not be here 'til the end of time, but that was a serious save, by a serious man, at a serious moment. You could feel the finger of fate flick the fringe of failure from our eyes. Maybe.

Shrewsbury fizzed about like slightly peeved flies, but these were motions gone through. They were never going to score, not after that moment. After ten minutes of huffling and scuffling, thrusts and throngs, Town started to scrape out little moments of maybes. Coulson received a quick throw to tickle and tease and trifle wide. Coulson scrapey-slid to swish away and play a wall game with Ak-Ak for a cross that nearly went somewhere. Bore bolero'd and crossed, Shropshire lads panicked, and town tightened the tourniquet. Sweeney dinked towards the far post and Ak-Ak, alone, firmly nodded down and across Button. The keeper threw himself left and superbly parried up onto Peacock's head. Town tapped on the pipe as the ball squished back to Ak-Ak, who calmly side footed towards the empty net. Button threw himself across the line to parry again, but Town knocked on the ceiling for a third time, Sinclair finally winking into the empty net.

So this is what happiness is.

Ak-Ak bounded away and fell on some springs, Lancashire was booked and The Shrews took off someone and replaced him with someone else. It won't make a difference. Coulson slurped over and Colgan confidently caught a cross shot. it's all going so well, a blast from a distant past.

It's all going weller over here. Colgan punted straight down the middle and a defender headed up and sideways. Peacock waited and beautifully steered a cushioned a header over a defender in to Ak-Ak's path. The rubberman knocked the ball up with his thigh, jiggled and juggled and gracefully swept a majestic low volley into the bottom left corner from 20 or so yards out. Monsieur Ak-AK had buried the Shrews.

Rapture. We've taken a tour through the sewer, now spineless movement and a wild attack are a thing of the past.

Shrewsbury tired of their Cureton's eggs and off he went, whilst Ak-Ak was booked for being happy in an overly Gallic way and Linwood replaced Atkinson. We've half an hour to coo and tweet, to soak in the old time feeling. They had a few shots, some they should have scored, but they didn't, and none ever thought they would. Colgan caught a cross, Colgan caught a shot. Robinson stooped a free header wide as Widdowson dawdled, Hibbert slanty-headed softly wide. They had other shots, they were even less interesting.

And us. We sang and we danced to the music of Town being sung on the radio. Hegggggarty replaced Devitt, Ak-Ak had a header fumbly-wumbly saved by Button at his near post, tipping away with his nose on to the post for a corner. Proudlock replaced Ak-Ak and Straight Peter Bore rubbed chests with Skarz in a deeply heterosexual way, deep into added time.

And finally the long, long, long longness had ended. After six months drifting in the doldrums landfall had been sighted. A fair breeze from the East could bring us back home after all. We're not dead yet.

Town performed coherently and with commitment on a secretly stodgy pitch. They'd played better recently, but we all know you don't get points for style or artistic merit. With the wrong Wright absent there was a pleasing contrast between spiky Peacock and bouncy Ak-Ak. Guile and pace, skill and steel, they caused problems together. Devitt didn't do much but Coulson, again, was irrepressible. Sweeney was less mouth and more trouser in the centre, and much less of a frilly knicker than when he's prancing on the wings and, again, there was a complimentary balance in the middle. Town were competitive and competent, with a little bit of fortune. And this time they had the mental strength to capitalise upon it.

This cat still has bounce.