Party in the Meadow: Shrewsbury (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Andrew Lumbard

5 May 2007

Shrewsbury Town 2 Grimsby Town 2

A joyous atmosphere permeated the town of Shrewsbury, with streets and people bedecked in their club colours of blue and gold. It was to be the final league game at Gay Meadow, one of the few remaining football grounds retaining character, and fortitude before the onslaught of out-of-town all seater stadia. Here's hoping that the Meadow that is Gay will retain its use as a recreational site on the banks of the Severn for the good people of Shrewsbury, as it has done since the 1600's.

Hang on a minute, before we get caught up in all this tosh and sentimentality for a footballing relic, we have our own living legend to celebrate, John McDermott's 754th and final game for Grimsby Town. Thank you Sir Macca.

Around 300 Grimsby fans occupied the seats at the end of the Station stand, thus allowing 7500 to occupy the rest of the ground, and to live that one last visit to Gay Meadow.

The achievements of Sir Macca of McMaccadom were relayed to the crowds, not once but twice, and I understand from an observer that he received a token of achievement on the pitch earlier. The appreciation from the assemblage could be heard from as far away as Telford.

It was a blistering day and warm-ups were kept to the minimum of jogging around by both sides, with the Mariners looking resplendent in their red training tops.

First half
The teams came onto the pitch, and Gay Meadow rocked. There was further recognition for Macca, and the Shrews provided a full side of 11 mascots. Town were playing in white shorts, and the referee was Mr G Laws. The Grimsby line up was Barnes; McDermott, Bennett, Fenton, Newey; Toner, Boshell, Bolland, Till; Jones G, Taylor, and adopted the standard 4-4-2.

Grimsby kicked off towards the Wakeman School end, and to be honest, began 30 minutes of 'not very interesting' football. Shrewsbury set up the first attack with Asamoah foolishly daring to invade the space of The Living Legend. Macca shepherded him into his corner and blocked the attempted cross which was comfortably gathered by Barnes. Grimsby made a few attempts at passing through midfield, but most moves were terminating with throw-ins in the Shrews half. The early tactic for Shrewsbury was clearly to get the ball to Asamoah who would run at the town defence, and although he looked lively he's efforts were being thwarted.

A couple of early free kicks for fouls on Jones and Toner were both comfortably dealt with, and the second produced a quick break with Shrewsbury getting the first corner on their left. The cross was met by Langmead in a bit of space and his downward header would have been more of a threat if hadn't been so forceful and ballooned over the bar.

Taylor got a half break but was unable to control the ball.

Asamoah continued to probe and had now realised the lack of chances emanating from the consecrated ground of The Legend's domain, and attacked down the right, turning Newey, and crossing from the line - to no-one.

Ben Davies put a cross in which found Bennett and Fenton flat footed. Cooke reacted the quickest with a scuffed shot which Barnes had no problems with.

Another corner to Shrewsbury in front of the Grimsby fans as Fenton's tackle ricocheted the ball into the face of Leo Fortune-West who was warming up nearby.

After 25 minutes, a Grimsby spectator conspicuously removed his jacket, in a defiant move to motivate his team. It seemed to work. Till began to work the right flank, and Bolland laid the ball off for a Newey long range shot.

After 29 minutes Grimsby again moved forward and a neat series of passes on the central right side of the Shrewsbury area between Bennett, Jones and Boshell released Taylor, who poked the ball past the onrushing keeper toward the open goal. Despite of the close attentions of a Shrewsbury defender who dithered around the ball, and eventually slid into the goal with it, Grimsby took the lead.

Shrewsbury looked stunned but came back with a deep free kick being cleared to safety by Fenton. The game was beginning to come to life: Boshell and Taylor beginning to work together; a period of olé football from Grimsby; and a Bennett long throw which Shrewsbury struggled to clear.

Shrewsbury also had their moments as their whole team livened up: long throws into the box into the safe hands of Barnes; free kicks cleared by Fenton and Bennett; a cross dropped by Barnes but quickly gathered in.

Asamoah had gone back to attacking Macca's flank, and having beaten him, saw his intended cross intercepted by Boshell for yet another corner. This final corner of the half wasn't fully cleared, but the ensuing shot went harmlessly wide. In the final act of attack for Grimsby, Taylor was pulled back and fouled, but no threat came from the free kick.

Half time
The Shrewsbury lottery was drawn by their oldest supporter, a grand old lady by the name of AJ, who was 100 years old, and could conceivably have been to every home fixture at the ground over a period of 97 years. The stadium announcer asked if she was available to come on in the second half as "she wouldn't be any worse than this lot!"

Second half
Shrewsbury were quickly away and Cooke fizzed a shot at Barnes within 15 seconds of the kick off. Two minutes later a Shrewsbury long range volley safely cleared the bar. The pattern was beginning to form as the half time team talk was probably a suggestion for the Shrewsbury team to attack. The one Grimsby period of possession and shape in the opening 20 minutes of the second half amounted to nothing, as Shrewsbury looked to control play within the Mariners half. Long clearances and goal kicks relieved the pressure as the Shrews accumulated corners and throw-ins, Bennett's tackling and Barnes safe hands snuffed out the danger of any real chances in spite of the pressure and possession.

The first effective chance came from a corner on the right which was flicked on from the near post, only to hit the next Shrews player on the shoulder, then off a Town defender for another corner, which was cleared by Fenton.

Asamoah took a quick free kick on the right side which he simply rolled out for a goal kick from 40 yards.

There was a brief respite for a Grimsby corner which was easily cleared, but then it was back to the barricades. Till was hassled off the ball and a decent one two between the Shrewsbury players produced another wide shot.

Grimsby were beginning to look a bit ragged in defence, and a deep ball down the middle from Shrewsbury was again cleared for a corner. The corner was met cleanly by Hope, and another good chance was wasted as the header went a foot wide. Probably not as a result Hope was then substituted by Leo Fortune-West.

A minute later a deep cross from the Shrewsbury left was picked up by Davies on the far side of the box. Toner tried to tackle from behind and as a result of Davies going over, the ref awarded a penalty. Some may say this was generous; in any case Davies dusted himself down and scored from the spot.

Peter Bore came on for Andy Taylor, and Town begin to get back into the game, with Bore and Till immediately working together.

Shrewsbury were awarded a free kick from a shootable distance, and a posse of four players attempted to bamboozle the Grimsby defenders. The wall stood firm and the ball came off it for a corner. This was again met by a free Shrewsbury player who stooped low to force a marvellous save from Barnes at the foot of his right post.

With twenty minutes remaining Town had a corner on the left, which Boshell met and forced the keeper to punch for another corner. This one was met by Fenton on the penalty spot, whose header landed at the feet of Bore standing some two yards from the line, with his back to goal. Remarkably Bores' flick with his right foot managed to put the ball wide.

Shrewsbury came back with a long range dipping volley, and with the ball going back up to the other end, Bore capped off another Town attack with a rather tepid shot.

After 73 minutes Whittle replaced Lord Macca who left the field of play for the final time to a wonderful reception from all the fans.

Within seconds a rather innocuous looking foul was flagged by the linesman halfway in Town's half by the left flank. The ball was floated over and, whilst under pressure, was met by Langmead who headed firmly to the right of Barnes to put Shrewsbury 2-1 up. You, dear reader, need little imagination to picture the crowds' reaction.

Grimsby got straight back into the fight back with Till jinking into the box to force a corner. The corner itself was punched by the keeper from the head of Jones.

A later Newey cross was safely gathered by the keeper who released Asamoah for his final contribution down the Grimsby left.

With 10 minutes left the frustration of Town's inability to create a chance from their possession was beginning to tell. Bore was clattered by Langmead, and from the resulting free kick, Jones looped an unthreatening header from 10 yards out onto the top of the bar. The Bolland and Till partnership seemed to go awry, as Bolland passed it down the Northern line, and Till ran down the Bakerloo.

With a little over five minutes remaining Shrewsbury were beginning to look comfortable with their lead. Bolland hit the advertising hoardings along the top of the stand behind the goal with a twenty yard effort, and Justin Whittle made history as the last player to boot the ball into the Severn, during a football league match...probably anywhere! The ref had also become noticeable as some rather irrelevant free kicks seemed to be going against us, or was my bias becoming unsettled?

One final effort from Shrewsbury came from Whittle's imaginary use of his own feet, as he failed to clear a long throw. A stubbed, feeble clearance was lashed back from twenty five yards and produced another superb save from Barnes going across to his left.

Three minutes of added time was indicated on the old time substitute cards, as the electronic board had expired sometime in the second half, and Grimsby summoned up the last dregs of inspiration from a long season. A long throw into the Shrewsbury area was met by Fenton and a corner was conceded on Shrewsbury's right. Newey went over to take it as Barnes ambled up to stake his claim of footballing history as the last goalkeeper to score at Gay Meadow. Nothing really happened as the ball came over, other than a Shrewsbury player touching it and conceding a further corner to be taken on the other side, in front of the Grimsby fans. Barnes stayed up, and as the ball headed in his direction he attracted two Shrewsbury markers. The ball cleared him, and was met by Jones who nodded it down to the now unmarked Fenton. And it came to pass that the last player to score a league goal at Gay Meadow was Nick Fenton of Grimsby Town, and Phil Barnes was a dummy.

That was it. The final whistle blew as Shrewsbury kicked off. Their obvious disappointment at conceding so late was tempered somewhat with the stadium announcers' news that they had snuck into the play-offs.

Official warning
Mr Laws was rather inconspicuous apart from two crucial decisions. From our vantage point of 800 yards away and the sun in our eyes, they were both dodgy decisions. So I'm sorry Mr Laws, you may have thought it was a flowing game free of cards, and the correct result for the game, but 5.264.

The other lot
Congratulations on achieving a play-off place. You'll need to be better than that. Long periods of dominance weren't capitalised on. Barnes produced two very good saves to deny them goals, but they didn't create enough clear cut chances to force the desired result. Langmead and Cooke are big blokes up front, but were unable to force themselves upon the Grimsby defence.

Unofficial Man of the Match
Not everyone played there best today, and with such a late goal it could be argued that we didn't really deserve the draw, but no harm done to either side. For his composure in defence, his education and guidance to a younger team mate and the scorer of the last goal.....etc, etc......Nick Fenton.

Goodbye Gay Meadow. I've always enjoyed my visits.