The good old days: Shrewsbury (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

13 December 2008

Grimsby Town 1 Shrewsbury Town 0

Weather woeful, situation vacant. Is this the end of days?

With the wind slicing stinking, sleety rain diagonally from open corner to open corner, the hordes did drive past on their way to Woollies' closing down sale. 'Tis a seasonal tale of woe where all around there is misery. Who shall rise above the gloop, who shall be our belle of the ball?

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Stockdale, Bennett, Blond Bob Atkinson, Hope, Clarke, Trotter, Kalalalala, Hegggarty, Proudlock, Akpa Akpro. The substitutes were Monty, Jarman, Straight Peter Bore, Christopher Llewellyn and the boy with Grimsby stamped on his swimming trunks, Bradley Wood. Hope was again at left-back, causing many of the few to droop back into their seats in disappointment and expectation. If Bradley Wood is on the bench, where's Sidney Park? These cracker jokes are getting worse.

It's very dark, perhaps they should consider putting the lights on. Or is there nobody home?

Akpa Akpro warmed up in gloves and a little woolly hat. Akpa Akpro is far too long, and the GET will need some kind of tortured metaphor. We've sent for the AA as the Town car won't start? Err, Town's lack of firepower means we've bought an Ak-Ak gun? Good grief, where's that hair come from? Off came the hat and out bounced a pom-pom. Think Jim Hendrix. This wild thing will make our hearts sing, but will he make everything... grooooovy?

Shrewsbury are quite tall.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon, lamping it straight out of play for a throw-in next to the corner flag. Without Newey we're flummoxed. One, two, three, they nearly scored. Davies was freed behind Hope and crossed, and Holt hooked a shot from behind his left ear from a dozen yards out. Barnes slithered wildly as he made his way across his universe to clutch to his left.

Now we've got their 'stuff' out of the way, let's talk Town. Come back in half an hour if you're interested in them.

Proudlock harried, Town got a corner, then a throw-in. Then bedlam was recreated inside their penalty area for a full ten minutes. A low cross schnitzeling between legs, back-heeled by Atkinson and edged to first slip. Gilks jived as Hope and Atkinson bundled, the ball fell, everyone fell, the ball was hacked away. The ball was hacked back. The ball was hacked away. The ball was hacked back.

Clarke schmoozed a cross and Atkinson poked. A leg here, a knee there, a nose of frog, an eye of newt and the shivering Shrews magicked the ball away from goal with their evil potions and wicked spells. Shrews stretching, retching, kvetching as a frenetic frundle of futilitarian fury erupted hither and thither. Over, under, over and through. Under, over, under and who knew there was so much fun to be had watching a giant game of British bulldog.

The rain rained as Town reigned supreme. Kalala imperious, Proudlock devious and Bennett hurlerious with his long throw routine. And the punchline is? Probably "Excuse me, is that your sandwich?" It usually is. Clarke curled corners in and in and in. More jiggering and pokering inside the penalty area. The ball fell to Kalala, who prodded goalwards as Langmead lurched and stood on the ball. Momentary madness, momentary hope, a momentary lapse of reason, this is Town. We Do Not Score. Gilks picked the ball up three yards out as boots waggled.

The Purple Haze hasn't touched the ball yet. Perhaps we've signed a decoy, a double bluff, a triple agent: his use is in not being used?

Swoon at Town! Two touches and Trotter surged into the area. Alone. Gilks waited; Langmead and Coughlin converged to form a Shrewsbury snowplough and Trotter carefully swiped a shot straight at Gilks, who raised a fist and punched the ball over the Pontoon stand and it was never seen again.

And still Town indulged in some Salopian slapping. Mix all you've read before, add some nuts and bake for ten minutes at gas mark 4 (180 degrees for electric oven, reduce for fan oven. This attack is not suitable for microwaving or freezing). Clarke fiddled a corner from the right, way over the far post; the ball was returned, crossed, and grazed out to Clarke, near the left corner of their penalty area. He steadied, readied, rocked and rolled a dipping, swerving volley across the face of goal. Gilks a mere observer, the Pontoon ready to go berserker, the ball plopped an inch or two wide of the right post.

In a rare moment of indulgence Town let so-called Shrewsbury have the ball. Proudlock chased along the halfway line and slid across Moss as he punted. Moss fell, though he was not touched, and Proudlock was booked for being in possession of white boots between the hours of 7am and 7pm. Or something. But that was just an exception that proved the rule that Town were dominant, dominating and doctrinally pure.

We still haven't seen the Voodoo Chile. We have now! Woooooooooooh! Did you see that? A "where were you when?" zen-moment. From 0 to 60 on 0.34 seconds. Ak-Ak suddenly sparked into life with a swing under the Police Box, surging on to a hopeful punt giving his marker three yards and beating him by five to win a corner. Clarke clipped the corner, Hope headed down towards the right post and a defender swiped clear. Clarke clipped a corner, Hope headed down and a foot wide of the right post.

Here we go again. Jarman was on permanent duty below the Police Box, wiping the ball dry for Bennett to hurtle chuckers towards the quivering oaks. Ooh, and aah. Aah and ooh. Oh. A corner was cleared to the edge of their penalty area and a little Shrew dived to earth when surrounded by our men of iron. The ref gave a free kick: they tapped it immediately from yards away and off they raced, with Benny Hill in the lead. Der-der-der-di-di-diddy. Der der diddy di-di, der der diddy, di-di-di. Stockdale was the chief Hill's Angel, magnificently sliding and gliding danger away with a saucy grin.

And then things changed. Town hardly got out of their own penalty area for five minutes as the referee decided to give the aptly named Shrews free kicks whenever they asked. And I do mean whenever and I do mean asked. Holt, in particular, kept shrugging and turning to the pusillanimous pipsqueak who always answered the call of the mild. Bennett was furious as straying blue forearms and tapping toes were ignored. Davies curled the free kick just over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Shreweys broke again, Holt cleared when clear. Nice. The Shreweys curdled Town's milk with some cheesy noodling on their right. Three quick and smooth touches released Holt, who swaggered and swept a volley to Barnes' right. The shot was parried and Atkinson calmly stroked the ball away. That was them done as an attacking force. Sure, sure, kid, the ref gave them another free kick when a shot was charged down, allegedly using an arm, but Davies sadly, sweetly swept a shanking shot nicely wide.

In between before and after it was all the same: Town. Everything you want was there. Except a goal. Hegggarty was doing nothing much, but adequately filling a space on the left. That's all we ask, and he did it perfectly, and it allowed everyone else to stand and do what they are supposed to do. Ah, balance. Trotter was a constant menace to them with his Grovesian trundling, while all the while Kalala ate every inch of mud like he was defending his homeland from these alien invaders. This Is His Land.

Proudlock and Ak-Ak grew together into a beautiful little shrubbery of anticipation. They started to flick and trick, with one-touch knowing winks to each other. One moment encapsulated this day: Ak-Ak, in one movement, burst between two defenders in the middle of the Shrewsbury half, spun and surged forward. He shimmied and shammied, and flew through two more challengers before his ankles were tapped on the very edge of the area. The referee allowed play to continue.

Yeah, more things happened, but nothing much occurred. Town were all over them, slicing and dicing these country boy carrots into a casserole of calamitous caterwauling. We flippin' stuffed them 0-0.

This Newellian stew is simmering nicely, no need for any seasoning. It's smellin' good.

Second half
Neither team made a change at half time.

Proudlock pestered, Langmead festered and Stockydale dinked daintily down the right. Akpro, watching on digital TV, pressed his little red button and caught the pigeon, flambéing a first-time dripping volley safely wide. It was that hard, if it had gone in it would have been a goal. Town pressed again, with Kalala mugging the ball to Hegggarty, who curled a pass down the centre. Ding-ding-ding, the Shrews called the fire brigade as Roadrunner burned the soles of their feet. Langmead stretched and legged Ak-Ak up as the penalty area approached. Finally Cyril, the yellow card was flashed at these old-style professional cynics, whose hearts were barely in it. Nine little steps later Clarke curled a shot into the leaping wall of a thousand blue arms. No penalty. Play resumed.

And Town resumed their cruel prodding of the porky pig, just prior to some hog roasting. Yeah, spin on this, moany old doughboys. Hope clumped a pass down the left touchline and with the ball drifting towards a throw-in, Ak-Ak rose up and rotated trapping the ball on his chest and swivelling in mid-air, before breakdancing past a couple of startled little birdies. Hegggarty was flicked down the wing and his cross deflected up in to Ak-Ak's path, a dozen yards out. A fabtastically disguised miskick plopped to Proudlock near the penalty spot with his back to goal. The ugly duckling turned into a swan with a spin and grin off the underside of the crossbar. Proudlock had scored, and we few were happy. Quack quack: stay in this Town.

How are we going to mess this one up? They've hardly touched the ball, barely been on nodding terms with Barnes. Which cruel and unusual failing will we come up with this week?

With nothing happening anywhere, the ball looped down the centre of the pitch and little White fizzled away betwixt Bennett and Atkinson. Barnes advanced and stopped. The ball bounced and Barnes stuttered and stumbled forward. White tapped the ball on; Barnes turned and ran back. White carried in down the middle, into the area and carefully rolled the ball four inches wide of Barnes' right post. Was this the moment when fortune finally turned our way?

At some point Grant Holt headed wide after being Macca-ed by Atkinson, that defending without tackling gentle rolling as striker leaps. It happened sometime, it was technically a chance, it was the only thing they did for the next half an hour, so let's be magnanimous in our superiority.

There then followed 20 minutes of head tennis down in front of the dug-outs, during which Mr Re-Newell was admonished by the referee for congratulating him on getting a decision right. Occasionally Town broke with nearlyness by Trotter, and almostness from Proudlock. Ak-Ak flowered from gawky teenager to the prom queen with some magnificent chest-spinning lay-offs and swishing between flailing defenders. You know, Town appeared to be enjoying themselves even more than the crowd.

Kalala threw some pickle on some Shropshire Blue cheeseboy and hustled across the face of the penalty area. Espying Stockdale rumbling up from right-back, he duly rolled a perfectly weighted pass in to the flight of the bumblebee. Thaboom! Sticky Robdale cranked a first-time shot towards the bottom left corner of goal. Gilks wiled, wobbled and plunged low to parry spectacularly aside for a corner, which Ak-Ak glanced wide of the other post. We passed, we flicked, we sang and they danced as a Heggggarty shot was deflected for another corner. Everything was Town, everything was beautiful in its own way. What, more corners? Oh yes, more corners.

Excuse me while I dry my eyes. Ak-Ak salsa-ed through a hundred Shrews, scattered in the wind, dazzled by his fast fingered fretwork. Ah, the equivalent of playing a solo with your teeth behind your back. From a narrow angle he smickled a shot in to the side netting as Proudlock awaited in the centre, waving his arms, legs and hair extensions in a bid to attract some attention.

Shrewsbury had flung on two substitutes, and tried the old 'bang it long, bang it often' trick. But this week's Town is different, as the defence held firm beyond the penalty area, refusing to sink towards Barnes. Ah, until White had a cross-shot which bumbled, bombled, bumbled and missed the sliding Hibbert at the far post by micro-moments. On such small things worlds change. On such small things do the more desperate one-eyed Salopians cling. Two shots don't amount to pressure. A bunch of free kicks lobbed vaguely towards the Pontoon don't either.

Hope was a towering figure in the last ten minutes, heading everything, goading and guiding with his sheer presence. No Shrew troubled Barnes. Why should we concern ourselves with what Shrewsbury didn't do? Let's get back to Ak-Ak. Swoon at his sliding, hooking Poutonian sweep to snickle the ball off Coughlan. This mighty man has everything: he's in control of his whole body.

Oh yeah, and Hegggarty volleyed into Gilks' midriff after sublime banter between Proudlock and Ak-Ak. And all the while Kalala bestrode the centre of the pitch, refusing entry to these scruffy clubbers. He has standards, you know.

There were three minutes of added time, during which the whole ground was on its feet roaring, never fretting, never allowing anxiety to flood down from the stands. Any minor mistake resulted in a surge of support, a clapping, stamping, shouting wall of sound to help get them through the night. The Shrews lumped high balls; the Town defence simply headed clear or scuttled the ball away from goal. There was no doubt, this was the day the earth started to move again.

Finally, finally a performance is matched by points. Town were a team, with some excellent individuals within it. The two strikers look frightening to the opposition rather than the Town fans, with everything we've lacked for years and years. Not one, but two strikers; not forward players, but strikers. A false dawn? Who knows what tomorrow brings. Now let's see how many of these borrowed bustlers we can keep.

It wasn't just good to win: it was fantastic to watch from front to back. It was tinglingly, lip-smackingly exciting. Ak-Ak, the silver dude, just got better and better. Can we keep it our little secret?