League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Tony Butcher
TONY Butcher's report from the Shrewsbury game, brought to you later than normal due to technical problems.
A warm, still evening by the Severn with around 120 Town fans skipping along the terrace behind a goal, swapping stories of badly signposted roundabouts near Tamworth and lorries full of straw. We've finally gotten to Shrewsbury - que sera, sera.
Town warmed up, on the pitch, doing things. I'm sorry I haven't a clue: the service in the pizza parlour was not conducive to pre-match meanderings, but even a mile away in the Town one could hear the gasps of the Town supporters when they realised that Pingu had been dropped.
Gasp again. Town lined up in a nominal 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Gordon, McDermott, Coldicott, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Bull, Pinault, Cramb, Jones and... and... the one everyone forgets about. Ah yes, that's right Clint Marcelle. No Pinault! No Pinault! Yes, we have no Pinaultnas, we have no Pinaultnas today. Some good old British stodge on the menu, none of this nouvelle cuisine, three Michelin-star-rated midfielding. Oh, and Sestanovich seemed to be given licence to roam, a la Donovan, between midfield and attack.
Shrewsbury had a few bullet-headed SMSs in their line up, with Darby and Joan up front, sorry, I mean Rodgers and Hammerhead. No, no, no - Rodgers and Darby. There is nothing else to say.
Town kicked off towards the home end, with Gordon raking a riveting pass from left to McDermott's right boot. Lovely, football, nice. The first few minutes were relatively open, with the passes relatively accurate. That's my theory. The reality? A couple of surges, a couple of blocked shots. Reddy rumbled down the right, hit the bye-line and rolled the ball back to Crowe, deep inside the penalty area and all alone. Crowe mis-controlled and passed the ball to a statuesque Salopian.
Shrewsbury hustled and harried, flying in to tackles and breaking away quickly. Bit worrying, especially as their number 11, Aiston, seemed to have the beating of McDermott. Twisting, turning, wrapping McD into little parcels of pot pourri, Aiston dribbled down their left, cut infield and flapped a fizzer straight at Williams.
A minute or so later Town were ripped apart again down the right, with Rodgers suddenly free inside the area, about eight yards wide of goal. He drew back his boot and we prepared for unhappiness, but Forbes slid across the turf and made a magnificent block.
Town did attack, were producing a few moments of panic for the Shrews' defences. A corner, a cross, half cleared, Crowe on the left flashed the ball back low. The ball was controlled by Parkinson at the near post and something wonderful happened: he looked up. He passed across the penalty area to the unmarked Fleming, about a dozen yards out, who took a touch, turned and smelled a shot high into the centre of the net. A goal, some contentment amongst the yelling yellowbellies.
Shrewsbury didn't do what they should have done. They didn't go home crying to their mums. If they could get stuffed by dire old Orient then surely they'd see the sense in letting the almost sophisticated Mariners play the glockenspiel on their exposed ribcage, perhaps with a monocle and silver soup spoon for added style. A raid down their left ended with a tumble in the area. Hopeful claims were waved away by Jones the steaming referee.
Gordon was overrun by their full-back, Moss, near the bye-line just outside the penalty area. Moss nicked the ball and ran around Deano. Oh, Dean. A lunge, no contact with the ball and a blur of blue a-falling. Penalty, claimed all Shrews. The players stopped and looked, the referee waved play on. Gulp, three falls and we're out? If Moss hadn't been so intent on falling then a penalty would have been given; he didn't have to be a tragic Shakespearean heroine in local rep. "Woe is me, woe is me, I feel faint, my Lord Lardbucket".
Town were poor, lumping high balls forward, little co-ordination, no cohesion, the defence exposed by opponents running towards them. The problem? Quite simple really: Town conceded the flanks, just as they had done against Northampton, relying on poor crossing or poor finishing for salvation. When Town did have the ball only Sestanovich could pass it, so possession was frequently handed to Shrewsbury. Urgh.
Ah! Sestanovich raiding, roaming, rifling down the left. Step over left, step over right, and a low cross to the near post. Howie flew to his left, exposing the whole of the goal as the unmarked Parkinson slid in about six yards out at the near post. A certain goal? It's Parky - what do you think? He missed by two yards. Awful.
Shrewsbury stepped up the pressure, starting to dimple passes down the channels, behind the Town centre-backs. Rodgers barrelled along, barging Townites away, free kicks arbitrarily awarded. And again, he's off again. The ball was passed down their centre right and Rodgers shuffled after it. Gordon and Forbes blocked his route to goal; Crowe became the top layer in the sandwich. Crowe's arm came out. The force was weak, Luke, feel the Force and you shall succeed. Whoopsee, down he went. Out went the ref's arm towards the penalty spot.
Being the nearest supporter to the incident it was a pretty obvious dive, but Crowe was daft enough to extend his left arm and allow Rodgers the opportunity to be distracted by a gust of wind. Rodgers got up and recovered from this terrible battering and placed the penalty low to Williams' right. Yes, vengeance is ours. Williams blocked and Crowe scrumbled the ball away.
Were they crushed by this miss, bemoaning their ill-fortune? No, darn it. Back they came again, a Gordon slip, Rodgers free about a dozen yards out wide of goal on their right. Williams advanced, Rodgers clapped a low shot straight at his legs. And again, more wild wandering down the flanks, crosses not dealt with, desperate blocks, rebounds, ricochets. Tolley, with his back to goal, six yards out, tried an overhead kick which arced safely over. Ignore that hand he used to control it, ref, why don't you.
Tolley again squirming a shot a couple of feet wide; Lowe a dunkin' donut nodding over from eight yards out. Pressure, all self-induced, with sloppy, slovenly passing. Where was that midfield bite? Where was that midfield control?
Town had isolated moments of football. Oh look: a Town attack, a Town player fouled. Sestanovich lazily curled the free kick over the bar. A few minutes later Fleming snacked a clearance from a corner firmly, but safely, over the bar.
Anything else? Not really. The game became very fruity, with the referee an occasional interloper in a neighbourly squabble. Boots were left hanging, elbows akimbo and out came the yellow card. Macca booked for mistiming a tackle, booked because the crowd bayed. Aiston booked for a sliding lunge which missed Macca. Booked because Macca had been booked. Tolley cynically hacked Sestanovich, no booking. There were two minutes of added time and a big barney when the half ended. Much pushage, shovage and finger jabbage ended with Fleming being booked.
It wasn't very good at all. Shrewsbury were vigorous and direct, Town were on the pitch in the requisite numbers. Still, Cramb hadn't wasted his time, for he spent the entire half giving a masterclass in stretching to the Shrewsbury substitutes, who seemed starstruck in his presence. Tolley was wearing Cramb's hair though.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I should have stayed for a pudding."
"Has Parkinson controlled the ball yet?"
"Today or this season?"
"I once had to dress as a squirrel and dribble with an acorn."
The report continues in Part Two.
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