Can there possibly be a bright side to this alarming scoreline?
Well, until deep into first-half injury time, when Shrewsbury
scored their second goal, we were distinctly the better side, and
had played reasonably well. However, the second half was truly
wretched and ultimately we took a ghastly hammering.
Wright Greaves Hocking
Brien Joyce Rioch
And we started well enough, attacking Bunkers. A splendid piece
of Hodges trickery, down near the by-line, created space for a
low cross, which Ellington reached with a straining toe-end, but
the ball flew just over the bar. We looked to be putting together
our attacks with some conviction … whereupon they scored.
Steele had disturbing amounts of time and space to run at and
across our defence before firing a left-foot shot low past the
blameless Wilson’s right hand into our net.
But we kept going in the right vein. Joyce chip; Hocking flick;
Greaves arriving in the box .. just over the bar. And offside
too, but it was a fluid, promising move. Then Wright glanced a
header from a floated Joyce free-kick narrowly beyond the far
post with visiting keeper Benny the Gall well beaten. The Duke
displayed heartening determination in the box to wrench
possession from a Shrew, then turn sharply and shoot towards the
corner of the net, only for the keeper to produce a fine diving
save. We were by no means dominant, but we were the better side.
But injury time in the first half dragged on, for no apparent
reason. On about 48 minutes, a cross to the back post was met by
Devon White, largely unmarked for no apparent reason, and his
header was despatched into the back of our net.
A short while into the second half, a free-kick close to the
corner flag was hoisted to the back post, where White lurked once
again ready, willing and able to head the ball home. Well, I say
he “lurked”; a man of the vast dimensions of Devon White is
physically incapable of lurking. He performed his celebrated
version of a large, talentless lump of lard, but it was enough
for our defence to leave him wholly unmarked and for White to
bless the day he came across Hull City. For, to add to his score
for Notts County in August, this was three already this season
against us. Miserable defending.
The rest of the match was just dreadful. The players had more or
less given it up, and performed with minimal effort. Lowthorpe
came on for Brien, and went to right-back with Peacock switching
to midfield, but it made little difference at this stage. Moments
of skill and joy? There were none, I’m afraid, other than from
the Shrews’ superb number nine, Lee Steele, a pacy and strong
front runner acquired from non-League. If we do re-direct our
transfer policy towards buying players who’ve proved their worth
at 4th Division level, then Steele should be snapped up
The crowd (of about 4,800) was largely quiet, save only the small
bunch of boo-boys on the West side of Bunkers, with their “get
your cheque book out”s and their “What a load of rubbish”s. They
have short memories and are fools, but the match was undeniably
Shrewsbury made it four with a 20-yard shot which took a wicked
deflection off someone’s heel to leave Willo with no chance at
all. The only question was whether the bobbling ball would spin
just inside or just outside the post; it was the sort of day
where you felt the grim inevitability that it would enter the
net, and it did. We scored after a decent build-up down the right
saw the ball laid square into the path of Gregor Rioch who
thumped home a meaty left-foot shot from the edge of the box. A
well-taken goal, but even Gregor hardly bothered to celebrate it,
so obvious was its irrelevance to the outcome of the match.
Brien, of course, was a disaster yet again in the holding
midfield role and exerted no discernible influence on the pattern
of play. He must go. I find it hard to see that Peacock will ever
make a wing-back; and Hodges is not capable of doing a job up
front. Not mobile enough. But, yet again, my main anxiety
concerns the three centre-backs. They leave too much to each
other. Opposition forwards seem to have so much time and space
against us. The system just doesn’t seem to work.
A bad day. And our mood got gloomier again as we banged on the
car radio to discover that Hednesford had scored 5 away from
home. I started this piece trying to find a bright side and the
only one I can dream up to finish on is that City are frequently
at their best when underdogs. And that is quite feasibly
precisely our status for next Saturday’s very tough match.