Monday, 15 March 2010

A Grand Day Out.

Rola Cola Sponsored English League Two
Shrewsbury Town FC 0 - 1 Rochdale AFC

Journey

It's 09:45.  I'm standing under the dreaming spire of the Town Hall clock tower with Mr. Keane.  We are waiting for the coach to arrive.

In the chaotic aftermath of the Dagenham game, I handed a bloke I had never met £10 on the understanding that I would have a seat on the 'unofficial' coach to Shrewsbury.  When you put it like that - it seems pretty risky.  It was a bit of a relief when the coach rolled up.

Such is the demand to see Dale these days that the official coaches simply aren't enough.  So, a couple of enterprising fans had organised this one.  Pretty impressive.  Cheers lads.

As we waited, a trickle of fans arrived - Mr. Booth and Mr. Murray from my trip to Cheltenham amongst them - and before long the coach was full.  After a brief delay while cans and bottles were grudgingly surrendered to our lady driver, we were heading south to a enthusiastic chorus of 'Away the Dale'.

I have been to Shrewsbury a few times - I went last season.  I have never been to Shrewsbury the way we went today.  It took quite a while.  Well over two hours in fact.  On a coach with a toilet which seemed to be permanently engaged, this was not a welcome development for some.  When we made landfall at the Brooklands Hotel - those charging to he toilet almost outnumbered those charging to the bar.  

In the warm spring sunshine Mr. Keane, Coat Dave, John, Lee and I stood on the lawn (yeah, I know - a lawn! fancy) outside the Brooklands, with a pint of Shropshire Gold in hand we discussed the demise of Chester and Farsley, the shocking record of Durham City (played 27, lost 27, scored 16, conceded 137), watched a bizarre tribute to Michael Jackson (at least that is what I hope it was) - and prepared ourselves for the imminent prospect of helicopters.     

A grand day out - and we hadn't even seen the game yet.

Weather  

Warm and sunny, punctuated by freezing cold when cloud got in the road.

Food  

Here's the thing.  I'm on a diet.  So a beef and horseradish roll would be bang out of order - even at the bargain price of £2.  A second beef and horseradish roll - well that would be just outrageous.  Add in a chicken and mushroom pie - I'd be taking the mick.  Don't tell the missus.

Ground

It's new!  It's shiny!  It's the Prostar Stadium! 

The opinion of the fans on the coach seemed to be that the Gay Meadow - Shrewsbury's old ground - won out in one key respect.  It had soul.  Maybe the Prostar will 'wear in' in time - but for the moment at least, it has all the charm of a shopping centre.

There was one rather quaint feature though.  A sign in the back of one of the stands which read - 'BREATH ON 'EM SALOP!'  I don't know what this means.  I found it a little troubling.

Weird signage aside, over 700 Dale fans had made the trip - nicely filling the away stand.  They were just getting the singing going - when a helicopter turned up.

News
Masked hero?  After his unscheduled trip to the ground last week, Awesome Dawson has been despatched to 'that' London to have a protective face mask fitted.  Apparently he's bust summat in his fizog.  Can I be first to suggest a Spiderman design?

Silverware already?  Mr. Flitcroft, amongst others, will be heading to 'that' London for the Football League awards dinner.  My advice?  Take a big bag - awards can go in the bag - but so can the dessert trolley.

Action

Your team for today:

GK: Fielding
Def: Wiseman, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy (T)
Mid: Taylor, Jones, Kennedy (J)
For: Higginbotham, Dagnall, O'Grady

Good news - Wiseman fit again.  Bad news - Dawson (in spite of Spiderman mask) isn't.  Good news - McArdle slots back in at centre half. 

If I might just spare a moment to reflect on the surreal events prior to kick off.    Out of the spring sky, an RAF helicopter appeared, landed in the centre circle, a be-helmeted chap got out and handed the match ball to Shrewsbury's club mascot, the helicopter lifted off, piroueted - bowing to each stand in turn and spiraled off into the sky.  Probably not something I am likely to see again anytime soon.  With barely a moment to digest what we had just seen - Mr. Culshaw and I were live on air.  I narrowly managed to avoid blurting 'HELICOPTER!' to the listening public.  Always remain proffesional - that's my moto.

Mr. D'Urso blew his whistle - which Shrewsbury striker, Jamie Cureton, must have taken as a signal to hide - and we were underway. 

After the Lincoln experience, Dale seemed in no mood to be stifled out of the game.  In the opening minutes a speculative Tom Kennedy effort from range found the Shrew's defence dozing and their 'keeper, sometime Dale loanee David Button, calmly watching the ball in flight.  Kennedy's effort bent freakishly, almost sneaking past the onlooking Button - but it didn't bend quite enough - the post came to the rescue.

Dale continued to press - but the next serious effort came from the home side.  Benjamin Van Der Broek profitted from slack Rochdale passing and ran most of the length of the field before unleashing a fizzing shot which had Fielding at full stretch to tip it over the bar.  It would be Shewsbury's only significant effort of the half.

Higginbotham, Dagnall and O'Grady went up a gear in response.  Shrewsbury seemed curiously disinterested in anything other than blocking Dale out.  The balance of the half was played at or around the edge of the Shrewsbury area.  Jones, Dagnall and Taylor all had chances to open the scoring for Rochdale - but each time Button was equal to the challenge.  The half ended with Tom Kennedy rapping the home side's cross bar with a free kick.

A massively dominant Dale could be excused for feeling slightly frustrated as Mr. D'Urso indicated half time.  Jamie Cureton re-emerged from where ever he had been lurking to trot down the tunnel.

As the various media folks dispersed in search of coffee or whatever - a local radio guy quipped to his commentary partner, 'the helicopter is coming back to deliver another ball for the second half - so that our lads can have a go.'

I also made a startling discovery.  I am still basically twelve years old.  When the tannoy man announced that the half time draw had been won by Mr. B. Elland - I sniggered until the second half started.  Oh come on!  B. Elland!         

Mr. D'Urso got things going again, Jamie Cureton promptly vanished and Shewsbury found a toehold in the game.  It was fairly untidy stuff - but amidst the scruffy play, the Shrews forced a handful of corners.  One of which saw former Dale loanee Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (sometime favourite of the club shop's lettering lady) head the ball against the post and then almost capitalise on the rebound - fortunately for Dale no more than the side netting was troubled.

With Shrewsbury clawing their way back into the game Dale needed a little something extra to make their early dominance count.  Around the hour mark Joe Thompson trotted on.  Minutes later he was most alert to a tempting delivery from a Tom Kennedy free kick - Button dithered - Thompson didn't.  1-0 Dale!

Thompson and Jason Kennedy both had chances to extend the lead but wayward finishing spared Button serious bother.  With Dale firmly back in their stride, the home side found themselves down to ten men - Dagnall had turned Cansdell-Sherriff and was haring towards the homeside's goal when the big Aussie pulled off a text book Aussie rules tackle.  Mr. D'Urso had little to think about - straight red.

Jones and Dagnall both had chances to extend the lead as the clock wound down - but Button was equal to the challenge.  Jamie Cureton briefly reappeared - whilst being subbed for Mr. Simpson's little boy.  Shrewsbury won a late corner - Button charged up field to make his presence felt.  All for nought.  1-0 it stayed.

Speak Your Brains 

Your cast for today: Mr. Keane, Coat Dave, John, Lee, Me and a coach full of ecstatic Dale fans.
  • Bournemouth didn't play today - Dale move nine points clear at the top.
  • Shrewsbury barely played today - and dropped out of the play-off zone.  A very odd performance from an undeniably good side.
  • Chant of the day: Keith Hill's Barbour jacket - to the tune of Keith Hill's barmy army.
  • If you have any idea where Jamie Cureton was between 3 and 5pm - please contact the management of Shrewsbury Town FC.
  • Mr. Keane made a confession.  He had been 'bolting' again.  He has been doing this for years.  If you wish to see a man of middling years charge gazelle-like to the touchline to greet a triumphant goal scorer - I suspect you can catch the evidence on the Football League Show.  If you are of a nervous disposition - maybe you should leave it.
  • B. Elland. Phnarrrr.
  • Durham City recorded their first win of the season against FC United this afternoon.
  • Amid a seemingly endless chorus of 'Blue Army!' and yet more Michael Jackson impersonations we headed north.  Truly a grand day out.

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