Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Shrewsbury Report Part 2
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time, though O'Connor came out with a numberless and nameless shirt. You can change, but you can't hide. We know who you are.
Town started the second half quite brightly. A pass, a shimmy, and Sestanovich hit a superb crossfield ball to the right. Macca reached the ball before the diving full-back and raced on down the wing, beat a defender, hit the bye-line, and looked up. He saw another win bonus in the shape of Parky or Reddy, both at the near post. McD dinked a soft chip towards Parkinson, five yards out, who ducked; Reddy had stopped and the ball sailed gaily between the two of them into the middle of the box.
A flimble of failings later and the ball ended up with Crowe, who dribbled to the bye-line on the left and crossed. McDermott ran around the back and steered a first-time shot comfortably over the bar from a dozen yards out.
A few minutes after that Macca was at it again, haring on to a flick inside the penalty area and smacking a low shot towards the near post. Howie parried aside, Parkinson pounced, but the goalkeeper got up and flipped the ball further away from goal and along the bye-line. Parky retrieved, like the good little gundog he is, turned and passed into the middle of the area, straight to a defender.
The rest of the game was a badly maintained cesspit as far as Town were concerned. The Shrews gave it a real go, running head first into the Town defence. At first Gordon and Forbes demanded a little shrubbery, but after that they seemed to run out of ideas. They both made dreadful errors, allowing the ball to bounce over them and little Shrews to bound free. Town spluttered to deceive, the occasional breakaway keeping the growling Grimbarians happy. Another Macca raid, Reddy turning and crossing on the right, Howie stranded, Moss flapping. Setsanovich trotting behind the dithering defender. You wouldn't see "the boy Linacre" do that.
With around 20 minutes left Sestanovich was replaced by Cramb. Transit Stan slowly shook his head and even more slowly made his way across the pitch. By 23:27 he'd reached the managers' dug out. Cramb? A decent holding game for Shrewsbury, breaking up Town attacks and doing one nice little flick back to his old mate Howie.
Town got even worse once Sestan, a man, went off. Who's passing now? Surely you don't expect Coldicott and Fleming to tap out a beat on their tambourine? Town did have one more decent attack; again Parkinson was heavily involved, being tippled free by McDermott down the right. Parky put his head down, twiddled about, beat a defender, and from a very narrow angle decided to shoot across goal, ballzooning just past the far post. Close? No. He should have looked up, or opened his ears, and passed to the unmarked McDermott.
I don't seem to have described any homeboy efforts in the second half. There weren't that many, but it was all blood and thunder, up-and-at-'em pressure. The sort of thing that you'd expect from a struggling fourth division team. Crosses, crosses, more crosses, shots blocked, passes half intercepted, limbs flying everywhere, clearances hoofed. Panic station Arizona.
Town looked dreadful. They couldn't string one pass together. Shrewsbury won throw after throw, the ball looping into the area every few seconds. Off the line! A corner from their left was hung up to the far post. A big bloke headed down firmly, Fleming chested the ball off the line and humped it clear. The ball came back and another scramble and scruffle. A block, a fall, a penalty claim. Handball! Foul! LBW! BMW! BMX! BMI Baby! Anything, everything, nothing. C'mon, they should have realised by now that every third penalty appeal would be given.
There was probably another header somewhere in this melee of madness. They certainly had a couple of shots deflected just wide and just over. The game was 100 yards away, with bluemen everywhere. The first commandment: wherever the ball shall drop there shall be two Shrews and no Mariner. Town had not cured their first-half narrowness; if anything the players had huddled together in a circle in the middle as the injuns rode around whooping and a hollerin', throwing occasional arrows inside the wagons.
A Town attack? Surely not, sir. Aye, 'tis a rare flightless bird that wobbles towards to me. A Parkinson cross from the right and Crowe arrived late and side-footed wide from the penalty spot. A minute later Parkinson volleyed wide under pressure as he tried to poke a Crowe cross in the vague vicinity of Howie.
We're waiting for the end. The worse Town play the less likely they are to lose, eh? Town are playing so badly they'll win? Of course. Shrewsbury, for all their sturm und drang, hadn't created any clear chances in the second half.
With 10-ish minutes left Shrewsbury powered forward for the umpteenth time, charging down the valley into the cannon fire. Coldicott dived in, a Shrew fell, a free kick 25 yards out near the right corner of the Town area. Sedgemore wombled over and curled a low cross towards the near post. The ball skipped off the grass towards Williams, who was waiting calmly by the post. Williams put his arms by his sides and allowed the ball to slap off his shoulder and flick in to the right hand corner of the net. Absolute silence among the Townites; embarrassment and expectations fulfilled.
Shrewsbury were clearly energised further by this faux pas and dive-bombed Williams. They abandoned prissy passing and simply hoofed high hanging crosses into the six-yard box. More scrambles and desperation, more angry flounces towards the referee. Williams dropped a cross when Rodgers attempted to strangle him in mid-air. Play on. A rare respite saw Town knock the ball over the top down the left. Reddy leapt on the back of the defender and wrestled the croc to the ground. How could that be anything but a Town free kick?
With a couple of minutes left Crowe pulled up on the halfway line, holding his thigh. Off he limped, replaced by Bull. I don't think Bull touched the ball, so he put in a faultless performance. His best yet.
There were four minutes of added time, a minute for each hour it took Sestanovich and Crowe to get off the pitch, during which Town contrived to waste time in the corner, attack from the resulting free kick and then get caught on the break from said attack. How was the breakaway stopped? Forbes had to get booked.
A right shocker from the Town perspective, for Shrewsbury tore strips out of Town, especially down the wings. The middle was a mess, the attack was a short dress on a windy day. There were no redeeming features, and an embarrassingly conceded goal. Shrewsbury were a better version of Leyton Orient and caused Town more problems than any team I've seen so far this season. That doesn't make them any good though. Any team that can regularly pass the ball out of play as often as them doesn't have an intrinsic level of competence. But they worked, they tried, they never gave up. Basic qualities that were almost too much for a complacent Town. We were lucky to draw, but had enough chances to have won comfortably.
Markie's un-man of the match
There were a few candidates, including the disappearing world of the midfield, but Andy Parkinson picks up his dead crown of thorns. He ran around a lot, he had shots, but he just wasted so many opportunities with Mersey tunnel vision.
Nicko's man of the match
If one really had to be selected then Justin Whittle for not making any clear mistakes. Macca was great going forward but had a torrid time against Aiston; so Big J for heading it a lot
Mr J Jones was absolutely useless. He pandered to the crowd with his penalty decision and spent the entire game giving free kicks on the basis of whose turn it was next. They got the odds, we got the evens. Whenever the whistle blew the crowd fell silent, the players stopped and stared, there was always a sense of foreboding. He favoured neither team, and did himself no favours by being rubbish. He gets 2.222, because that's where my fingers landed on the keyboard.
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