Luke of Arabia
It’s not performances that matter now it’s results. Shrewsbury Town won the three points at Lincoln City with a performance that lacked any composure on the ball and abandoned the pass and move football that the team has excelled in this season. The tension and nervousness in the performance was palpable. There were predictable changes to the starting line-up, Thompson for Moss and Guinan for Aiston:
Thompson Heathcote Redmile Rioch
Lowe Tolley Atkins Woan
Mickey Heathcote lined-up without a sponsor’s badge on his shirt, after it had got torn in the Torquay game. Mrs Heathcote probably had to wash his strip on Sunday too.
Conditions were blustery and the thick layer of dry sand blew up in Dunbavin’s face during the pre-match warm-up.
Shrewsbury Town started brightly as against Torquay, with Guinan working intelligently on the left, and Tolley and Atkins having early shots on goal. When in doubt welly it up field for Luke Rodgers. Dunbavin found Rodgers, who made it into the box to score from a tight angle with a beautifully struck shot. This was a moment of sheer class. There wasn’t another player on the park who could have scored that goal. Right in front of the away support, who went ballistic, and then followed up with the Dambusters’ March.
Town didn’t sit back: a corner caused problems for Lincoln. A terrific shot from Atkins came off Marriott and fell to Heathcote whose shot was more of a danger to the away fans than the Lincoln goal. There was some light relief when the ball went out and a grey-haired steward shoved a young lad out of the way so that he could throw the ball back.
But it wasn’t all Shrewsbury and Lincoln equalised through the ever-dangerous Thorpe after Matt Redmile lifted his foot over the ball instead of trapping it. Dunbavin had no chance. Despair in the away end.
The rest of the half was scrappy third division fare, with the ball spending too much time in the air, but one good move saw Woan four yards out with the goal gaping and …. he sat on the ball. A bit like Luke’s one on one against Torquay it was the sort of moment that made you think we were not going to score.
The first twenty minutes of the second half picked-up where the first half left off. The quality of Shrewsbury Town’s play was terrible. The high balls weren’t so much hopeful as hopeless. The back four all looked as though they would be useful additions to any bunker-prone golfer’s armoury. The away fans were baying for changes and it came on 65 minutes with Guinan being replaced by Aiston.
The game proceeded with a cup-tie flavour to it: this was it, shit or bust. Shrewsbury Town committed more players forward, and in this closing period Redmile and, to a lesser extent Heathcote, put in some excellent defensive work. The Shrewsbury Town fans, galvanised by the substitution, put in a sustained period of vocal work, the full repertoire being sung without pause.
Woan had a looping header headed away from under the bar. Rodgers chased another long ball in the inside left channel. This time it wasn’t a lost cause. Pressured by defenders he hit a venomous shot with the outside of his right foot that was well saved by Marriott in the Lincoln goal. It was a moment that shined like a diamond up a chimney sweep’s arse.
In the dying minutes Atkins was withdrawn in favour of Murray. Murray’s more combative style now better suited the desperate scrap for a goal that the game had become. Atkins’ forlorn trudge off the field was greeted with the John Gayle cheer.
Dying moments of normal time, what will the referee add on?
Woan crosses from the left. Tolley hits a shot that is saved by a combination of Marriott and a defender on the line. But the ball comes out to Tolley again who smashes it into the back of the net. Pandemonium on the pitch and in the away end. Tolley sprints back into the Shrewsbury Town half, his teammates cannot catch him, his face a picture of ecstasy as he punches the air. The scenes in the stand are reminiscent of Exeter 2000.
Was the goal really scored in the ninetieth minute? It seemed longer. But some less than desperate defending and an Aiston inspired move played out time.
Man of the Match was Luke Rodgers for the two moments of class. Redmile was the pick of the rest, he was like Dean Peer in the first half and Baresi in the second. A better performance will be needed from the team in the following three games. Let’s hope all eleven remember that they are good players on Saturday.