Salop are mugged

I’d been looking forward to the Mickey Mouse cup final as a day-out and had been thinking I wasn’t that bothered about the result.
But the weather dampened enthusiasm. And the violence of the Lincoln City centre-forward – a deliberate elbow-first leap into the goalkeeper – took away any sense of significance to the outcome. Officials missed it, and missed a handball from a shot on target.
The half-time entertainment was surreal. A Salop fan against a Lincoln fan playing a football video game with images of the actual players, whereby the Salop fan overturned the 1-0 deficit.
Salop didn’t cope with Lincoln’s closing down, and also made poor decisions with long balls on a wet slippery surface.
Salop’s 4th defeat in 4 visits to Wembley does not bode well. Salop look set for the play-offs – we’ll only get promoted to the second tier by winning at Wembley in May.


Salop fly high

Screenshot (812) ac0852h Salop at West Ham

OK, a bit of a tease about the ground.  Cos there was only just under 40,000 at the game and the Boleyn Ground could not have taken that at the end.
Salop have developed a highly competitive style, based on 3 excellent centre-backs, high pressing and robbing the ball from opponents.
Twist is, with only one forward, they struggle to create chances and are low-scoring.
Not “parking the bus”, but when they finally conceded after 201 minutes against West Ham, they were exhausted and there was no chance of an equalizer.
Joe Hart captained both games and came out with credit.  Salop wasted the 2 opportunities for a direct shot on goal.

Two engrossing games, but not for the outsider.

Cyrille Regis in a Shrewsbury shirt

So many spectacular goals by Cyrille Regis but not many will remember the one he scored wearing a Shrewsbury Town shirt.

Meeting an inswinger from the wing, getting ahead of the last line of defenders and powering in a header from 12 yards.  (“Good morning, ball”.)
Yes, 1981 and West Bromwich Albion wore either the classic navy & white stripes or the iconic green & yellow stripes – both deemed to clash with Salop’s blue & amber.  So when they drew Salop in the League Cup in an era before third strips (and universal TV coverage), the Albion had to wear our all red away kit.

It was a phenomenal match when the second tier side beat the top tier side 3-all at home.  By which I mean, the Albion were 3-0 up at half-time, thanks in part to Cyrille’s header, but we brought the game back to 3-all at full time (a last minute goalmouth dribble by Steve Biggins).

Regis’s death is so emotional for many reasons – the phenomenal footballer he was; Cunningham & Batson; that West Brom team; how he broke barriers for black players; the content of his character; that 59 seems no age for such a former athlete – and cos I witnessed it: vs Salop, vs Man U at The Hawthorns (1979) and the “match of the decade” (that wasn’t) at Anfield (also 1979).

It brings back memories of the racism – especially that gorilla chants were OK and good cos they put black players off (which I felt often was not the case – e.g. Wimbledon at home, Laurie Cunningham scoring at Old Trafford in the 5-3 victory).
You wanted to be on the Three Degrees’ side, cos of the victimization, cos it was right, and yes, because they were the heroes.

See Guardian tribute; and a cartoon tribute.  Look out also for the Youtube videos.

Welcome home

Confident of a scoreless draw, but hopeful of an occasion, it’s taken watching the full match coverage on tv to realise that it wasn’t much of an occasion except for the Salop fans who were there. We were engrossed for the first three-quarters.

Highlights from watching the game –
– pleased as punch to welcome Joe Hart back;
– delighted too that Dean Henderson was allowed to play by Manchester United;
– Salop were strongest in the second quarter and the pressing was excellent;
– our centre-halves Toto and Sadler were brilliant;
– When Sadler went off for five minutes, we actually kept the ball in their half.
WP_20180107_14_11_55_Pro (2) Salop shoot against West Ham
Didn’t appreciate until seeing the tv coverage –
– West Ham had played their strongest available team,
– West Ham only had 4 touches in our box;
– we’d booed a West Ham player who’d had a front tooth kicked out
(our scepticism kinda kicked off with Hernandez kneeling at kick-off and then hamming up a knock).

The Town are staying up

After just 24 games, Salop have 51 points, which was enough for safety last season (18th), and was all they got in 42 games.
Salop end the calendar year second, 3 points clear of third, 12 points clear of 7th (with a game in hand) and 27 points clear of relegation.
Salop have a new manager from late 2016, and new signings but the only explanation I hear given is hard work.
And we often only win by a goal – makes us sound like Revie’s Leeds.
All in all, not so much a celebration as a kinda – I’m confused, and grateful.
I also still think every upcoming League 1 match is a challenge.
And if we are promoted …

** Harry Kane
For the first time, goals scored in a calendar year became a thing.

But it was quite enjoyable to watch in unfurl.  That ability to hit a far part of a goal within a couple of touches.

** England’s prospects

Normally, you’d celebrate a comfortable and straight-forward qualification for an international tournament.
This time less so.  Partly – the 2016 Iceland defeat, partly the mundane nature of the group victories, partly the continued inability to control the ball, partly the lack of confidence in the England manager, partly Joe Hart being pushed out by City and not finding a home at West Ham, partly the nervous exhaustion from all the other media hype campaigns that led to disappointment.
On the other hand, watch out for us in 2026.


Family on TV

Time was when Salop games against Aldershot were a bit tighter.
FA Cup 5th round 1979  – booking a coach for the away game for the sixth form only for the game to be postponed; winning the reply at home with a 30-yard screamer from full back Oswestry-lad Carlton Leonard – who never scored.
The fifth-tier play off in 2004 to get back into the Football League, with penalties, and only because our goalkeeper had studied their penalty taking on video tape over and over.
5-0 seemed straight-forward, but my nephew and sister  are still to  be seen celebrating on the TV news report.

The run had to end

First fifteen league games without defeat.
IMG_8236 (2) Salop failed attack at Posh ab0378h
It had to end.
At Peterborough it did, after a brilliant / fluke volley from 50 yards and what Channel 5 tv called “huff and puff” from Salop.
The game was a bit violent, and the time wasting from Posh so far out was a bit unpleasant.
But Salop didn’t create enough chances cos the crossing was not good enough – see photo – something you fix with coaching.
The last 10 minutes was a spectacle, with Salop often having 8 players in the box for a cross.
Still top of the league and still some bewiderment given we looked set for relegation for most of last season.  My sense is that Salop fans do think we can get promoted.