Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Taming of the Shrews

The standing Salopian faithful

Hopperational details
Saturday 9 October 2010 at the Globe Arena, Morecambe 1 Shrewsbury Town 0 in League Two.  I specially chose this fixture to restore my “92”, for reasons which will become clear below.

This match in one sentence
Morecambe grew in confidence after a shaky start, had a penalty saved by Chris Neal, but then grabbed an 83rd minute winner to leave Shrewsbury and their fans frustrated. 

So what?
Morecambe have their first league victory at their new stadium and Shrewsbury Town slip to 5th in the table after their fourth league game without a win.

Who caught the eye on the pitch?

Pre-match: being groped by the club mascot
Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper Chris Neal is a former pupil from my time in St Albans as a headteacher, and I was very much looking forward to seeing him for the first time as a professional.  He has the Town #1 shirt after moving from Preston, where he spent almost a full season on the bench at Championship level in 2009-10.  It has been a real pleasure to follow his developing career, especially as Shrewsbury have started the season well.

In-match (1): shouting at your defenders

Chris had very little to do for half an hour other than watch one glanced header from Paul Mullin go wide.  At that point, Shrewsbury had dominated early possession without creating a really clear chance.  Then Chris was called into action with an excellent close range double save, and the first half ended goalless, but with Morecambe gaining parity of threat and possession.  0-0 at the break seemed fair enough from where I was sitting.

In-match (2): keeping your side in the game with a penalty save
After 57 minutes, Chris saved a penalty from Mark Duffy and it really looked as though it would be his day.  However, Town were becoming too reliant on playing longer balls to their target man Matt Harrald, and Morecambe began to get the ball back to attack more frequently.  After the 83rd minute close range headed goal from Craig Stanley, Shrewsbury threw bodies up front (including centre-back Ian Sharps) and had several more half-chances as the ball squirmed agonisingly across the Morecambe six-yard box.  A final free-kick in a good position was so off-target it went out of the ground.

The sponsors made Morecambe’s wide-man Mark Duffy the man of the match, and I’m not going to argue with that from the home point of view, as he provided the crucial cross.  Chris has a strong case for being Shrewsbury’s best on the day, alongside Harrald and Sharps.  Shrewsbury boss Graham Turner singled him out in his post-match interview too, but young Chris will know as well as anyone that an individual performance counts for not so much in a team defeat.

Post-match: explaining to the media that the season is a marathon not a sprint (or something like that)
There was an unexpected altercation between the managers just before the goal, when Morecambe’s Sammy McIlroy touched the ball before it had gone out of play.  It was unintentional but clearly wrong.  His opposite number Graham Turner was unimpressed to say the least.  A few minutes later, the fourth official called the referee over and McIlroy was sent from the dug-out.  All part of the cut-and-thrust, I suppose.

This match had the same effect on my pulse rate as … 
… finding a box of Higgs Bosons down the back of the settee.

A snippet from the programme

Today was the official opening ceremony for the Arena, and Morecambe chairman Peter McGuigan writes, “From a personal point of view, I am absolutely delighted that my dad has been invited to perform the official opening of the Arena.  When I think of everything he has done for me during my life it will make me feel exceptionally proud to walk together with him, shoulder to shoulder, to officially open the new home of the football club I love and cherish.”

What I learned today
Again from the programme, that chairman Peter McGuigan had trials as a 15-yo with West Brom but manager Jimmy Hagan “thought he was too small a player and so that was it really”.

Modus Hopper Random Talking Point
Two things about ground organisation were noticed today.  The Globe Arena has both standing and seated areas for both home and away supporters.  Everyone seems happy about this!  Club secretary Neil Marsden also makes a programme point about the fact that fan segregation is not an issue in Rugby League, even at the recent grand final at Old Trafford.  It seems that Morecambe v Barnet last month was not segregated, and the club are minded to repeat the arrangements in certain fixtures in the future.  Of course almost all of the non-league games I attend are organised on those same lines, albeit with smaller crowds.  The exceptions that I can think of are Stevenage Borough’s games in the Conference, and a televised FA Cup tie between Lincoln United and Cambridge United.

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