Salop hold Stoke and safe standing

FA Cup 3rd Round and third tier Salop did OK against second tier Stoke City in the first half having most of the pressure, and playing the ball around their penalty area; but Stoke had the best chances and Salop needed a penalty to take the lead.
Second half was the reverse – Stoke with the pressure and Salop with the best efforts. Too much in the end and Stoke got a deserved equalise.
Problem was for my first trip to the safe standing barriers that the play was at the other end for most of the game.
It’s a shame that safe standing isn’t yet allowed to release the seats.

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Trip to Burton and My Favourite Thai

A highlight of Salop’s away programme, cos it’s nearby and the My Favourite Thai restaurant is there.  

And, yes, Lamb Shank Masalam is great.
The football wasn’t.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  Other than the rainbow was a lie.

Scoreless at Walsall

… but a good game to watch.

Salop coulda won.  Ditto Walsall.
But it’s usually a tricky adventure for us, so pleased with the draw and the entertainment.  Pleased to have gone at all, cos the last 2 years, the fixture clashed with the community events at Notts County F.C.
=
A couple of points on the kits.
Why couldn’t we wear our blue & amber colours?  Instead, ours was dark grey with a primrose high diagonal.  Which despite my photo, made it difficult to pick out the Salop players against the background of the crowd at a range of 130 yards.  No history, no relevance and poor practicability.
Meanwhile, Walsall are sponsored by HomeServe, who I’ve just remembered have a call centre in Nottingham, which I opened.  No, no-one else remembered that either.

Shrewsbury Town transformed by Paul Hurst

… but it’s not clear how much of the achievement is sustainable.

From relegation favourites to top 3 club for a whole season and a play-off final.
To have anything critical to say seems ungrateful.
My football credibility on such matters draws from my season in the eighties with Real Madrid – sorry, Rail Madrid, the works football team – but his success appears to have been based on high player motivation, the high press, and good player selection, most especially in defence.
The results were excellent, but perhaps lacking in scoring goals and perhaps glory – Charlton Athletic away excepted; and if the Wembley matches were anything to go by, an inability to change tactics when it was going wrong.
No doubt that we lost out to the three clubs who were relegated last year, with their higher budgets adds further perspective to the achievement.
_
Complaints about Ipswich Town recruiting him have to be mindful of Grimsby Town’s feelings when we did something similar to them.
As for the future, finding the next Paul Hurst is the challenge that underlines his achievement.

The end of a one-off season

As it became obvious that Salop could not get to grips at Wembley, again, I realised that this is what it would have been like in the second tier.  Often unable to get into the game and create moves, perhaps scoring goals from special moves, and with only some games breaking the mould.  

Met some Americans before the game in the queue for tickets, who enjoyed the Villa v Fulham match and decided to witness a Wembley play-off themselves. Moments of joy and optimism talking to new converts.
Bizarrely, having worked hard to get a centre-line seat, I was upgraded to Club Wembley – padded seats but a slightly distant and off-centre view.  So I had a wide and slightly detached view of Salop trying to make progress by lobbing the ball over the midfield.  Seemed out of character to me and was certainly futile.
Big surprise was finding Beckles struggling. Having been celebrated in the press and I think been nominated for a team of the league, he was overrun and conceded a penalty and might have conceded another.
By contrast, our keeper was on top form and saved the penalty. So poor was the performance, that many Salop fans booed, or maybe moaned, at half-time.
Which made the goal, when it came, such a surprise and such a delight. A free-lick, the bulk of players formed towards the corner of the box waiting for a cross, instead, a short pass across the line and a short stab into space six yards out and Rodham was there having run from behind the wall kinda Paul Maguire like) to lift the ball in.
The Salop manager has since complained about the play-offs deciding between clubs for promotion, on a hot day when they are worn out at the end of the season and may have to play extra time.
Indeed 3 Salop players at least suffered from cramp, 2 of them taken off.
However, as best as I can tell, Salop were still put through an intensive warm-up before the match.
And after all 9 months of toil and struggle, the 3 clubs promoted this year were the 3 clubs relegated last year.

Can I kindly thank those who have wished me good luck since hearing of Salop’s defeat, but point out that since then –
– the doors of our train carriage have broken and the smell of the toilet has been wafting into our carriage;
– the bogie under our carriage has developed a rattle;
– the fork provided by the shop that sold a delicious prawn salad has gone missing and I am using the film lid as a scoop.
Yeah, a bit self-centred given my Sister’s village was flooded in the morning.
(Quite possibly houses built in a flood plain against the council planning committee’s decision.)
It is just possible I am unreachable today.

Cos it was a one-off.  Favourites for relegation.  Unbeaten 13 game start.  Top 3 finish.  Two players in the team of the year.  Manager of the season.  But it all looks to be broken up.

Story of the season

A very pleasant article in the Sporting Life about Shrewsbury Town Football Club.
Echoes of when Salop were voted the third most successful club of the ’80s, after Liverpool and Wimbledon. Cos the club exceeded expectations given its small base.
But this season hasn’t had the glory of those years; e.g. reasonably frequent 4-0 wins and exciting attacks.
And the praise in the article will feel pretty thin if it goes wrong at Wembley.
The outcome of such games are so vulnerable to events – such as a centre-forward taking out our goalkeeper with an elbow, without punishment; or a goalkeeper rolling the ball towards a full-back in front of an opposing forward – and not the season.
Expensive tickets, and I paid more cos the place to watch us from is the midfield; ball-winners all.

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Salop wear new shirts, which thankfully keeps the blue and amber stripes that has become beloved of Salop fans. The amber of the loggerheads on the blue field, drawn from the town’s crest (even if the original reason for the change was different).
The grey and black 3rd shirt is ridiculous, and as ridiculous as the all orange second strip.

Finally on the play-off – at stake, £6 million (check) and trips to 6 Midlands clubs – the Villa, the Blues, the Baggies, Stoke, Derby and Forest.
Can Salop get a grip like they did against Charlton?

Intense and pressing

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However much I resent the play-offs when Salop finished third and so far ahead of the rest, the intensity of play-offs are evident.
The high pressing was again evident in the first half, but this time not so the control.  Missed passes, slipping cos of poor stud choices and poor decisions.
Just into the second half, it all came true and the pressure was non-stop for fifteen minutes, until triangles on the right wing led to an early strike from 8 yards that was driven before the keeper could get down.
As the half progressed, Salop fell back more, but it was under control and Salop progressed.
Not so controlled were the Salop fans who invaded the pitch to provoke Addicks fans, and some of them should have been expelled.
Another excellent photo by Gettys.
So Salop are on their way to Wembley.  If we can employ the pressing again, we shold be OK.