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Matches of Yesteryear - Shrews v U's 3/12/05
Written by wessex_exile on Monday, 21st Oct 2019 20:30

Periodically, my Matches of Yesteryear random match generator throws out something that seems somehow appropriate, and given the 2019/20 FA Cup 1st Round draw has just been made, this is no exception.

Shrewsbury Town v Colchester United

Saturday 3rd December 2005

FA Cup (Second Round)

Attendance 3,695

Match #20 of the series, and we’re back in the FA for my one and only trip to Gay Meadow – and during a cup run that we’ll all remember very well. This was the 2nd Round match, following the U’s thrashing of Leamington Spa 9-1 at Layer Rd in the 1st Round, albeit the Brakes probably scored the goal of the match. I wasn’t at the Leamington game, so this was my first FA Cup match of the 2005/06 season. Incidentally, Shrewsbury had faced Braintree Town in the 1st Round, comfortably dispatching the Iron 4-1 at Gay Meadow.

The immediate build-up to the match was dominated by two things – one of which for the U’s was the weather. It had poured down in the days running up to the match, and more rain was expected on the Saturday. As a result, there were two pitch inspections, the first on the Friday afternoon, which was just about passed, with a second scheduled for Saturday late morning/ midday (I can’t remember the exact time). This was a bit of a challenge for me, because to have any chance of getting there on the train in time, I had to set off before I knew if the game was on or not. Worse still, without the benefit of a smart phone those days, if the match was abandoned I wouldn’t know until arrival, instead of having the chance to bail out of the journey early and head home.

Fortunately, Webmaster Daniel to the rescue, who kindly sent me a text confirming it was game on whilst I was en route, and so I rolled into Shrewsbury ready for the match, albeit a bit bleary following a works do the night before. Ready for a hair of the dog, I popped into a couple of ale houses on the short walk from the station to the ground – I can’t remember what they were called, but pretty sure both were on Abbey Foregate, and definitely remember there were plenty of U’s fans in both.

The other thing? In the wider world of the global football family, we had also lost George Best the week before this game, and the match programme contained a very fitting obituary to George, which was nice to see.

Gay Meadow was everything I was expecting, a proper old-fashioned ramshackled lower league ground, described seven years earlier in the excellent Football Fans Guide as nearing its sell-by date, and fast (Williams et al 1998, 226) – I loved it! The main throng of U’s fans were housed on the Station End terrace, which was partly roofed, with more in allocated seating in the main stand to the left. All in all I reckon there must have been 350-400 there that day, not bad considering the distance (and the weather), and we were in excellent voice too. I took the opportunity before kick-off to wander to the end of the terrace and enjoy the view out over the Severn, but sadly didn’t spot a chap in a coracle on the river ready to gather wayward footballs.

The U’s lined up:

1….Aidan Davison

25..Sam Stockley

5….Wayne Brown

18..Liam Chilvers

17..John White

2….Greg Halford

4….Neil Danns (Kem Izzet 83’)

6….Kevin Watson

14..Mark Yeates (Karl Duguid 67’)

11..Chris Iwelumo

24..Jamie Cureton (Richard Garcia 85’)

There weren’t many in the Shrewsbury set-up that day that resonated with me, other than Assistant Manager Mick Wadsworth obviously, and perhaps Mark Stallard, a proper journeyman striker who always seemed to score goals wherever he went (Wycombe and Notts County particularly). The U’s were in the middle of a bit of a purple patch at the time, winning six out of six coming into this game. It wasn’t a coincidence that this run of success coincided with Jamie Cureton arriving in October on loan from his bench-warming exploits at Swindon Town, and forming a potent partnership with Big Chris when he arrived. It therefore also wasn’t a coincidence that many of the U’s faithful that day were sporting makeshift home-made “Sign him up!” posters, though I don’t think Parky needed much persuading on that front. Not surprisingly given the weather, the pitch was what would be somewhat generously described as ‘heavy’. Not quite 1970s Baseball Ground heavy, but certainly not a pitch designed for the beautiful game, rather roll your sleeves up and get ready to battle.

Shrewsbury were having a decent mid-table season in Coca-Cola League 2, and with home advantage as well, were not be taken lightly by a U’s side riding high in Coca-Cola League 1. It was therefore no surprise that Shrewsbury started stronger, putting the U’s under considerable early pressure. Ben Smith in particular was putting himself about a bit, blasting over the bar early on when he should really have tested Davison (who was already showing an alarmingly tendency to stay on his line a bit too often). Gradually, however, the U’s started to do exactly what was needed, roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, and in the 23rd minute Cureton fired home to give the U’s a 1-0 lead. I wouldn’t say it was against the run of play, but it was certainly an even game at the time, and Shrewsbury would have felt aggrieved about falling behind.

With more rain falling and the pitch cutting up badly, the battle continued, with the U’s clearly hoping to hold on to their slender lead through to half-time. However, David Edwards had other plans, and on the stroke of half-time scored an equaliser for Shrewsbury. Still, it had been a combative and entertaining performance from the U’s, and I remember thinking that we were just as likely to win the game second half. Time for a half-time comfort break – very (ahem) Layer Rd if you get my drift. There’s not too much detail I can remember from the second half, apart from Iwelumo powering a trademark 50th minute header into the net to restore the lead in front of the celebrating U’s faithful.

With the game more and more becoming a dour battle in the mud, Parky replaced Yeates with Doogie halfway through the second half, countered shortly after by a double substitution from Shrewsbury manager Gary Peters. However, the U’s were now keeping Shrewsbury at arms-reach, and also happy to practice the dark art of game-management (aka time-wasting) whenever the opportunity presented itself. This went largely unpunished by a woefully poor referee in Steve Tanner, who at times appeared to lose all control of what was quite a feisty match, with players squaring up on and off the pitch at times.

Parky shored things up with Izzet and Garcia coming on as defensive substitutes with less than ten minutes to go, and the U’s held on to go through to the 3rd Round.

Shrewsbury Town 1 (Edwards 45’) Colchester United 2 (Cureton 23’, Iwelumo 50’)

After the match, Parkinson said “If you want to be a good team you have to adapt and play the game for the situation that is presented. Last week we showed our attacking flair [beating Gillingham 5-0], this time round we had to roll up our sleeves and battle it out. We had to weather a bit of a storm for the first ten minutes, but in the end that extra bit of quality we had was evident.”.

We all know how this FA Cup run progressed, and as there are matches to come that may well feature later in the Matches of Yesteryear series, I’ll leave it at that for now. Shrewsbury were to get their revenge in 2007, when we returned (to the New Meadow) in the League Cup as a Championship side, only to lose 1-0 after extra-time.

In January, and despite our appeals to “Sign him up!”, Cureton’s loan spell came to an end and he sadly returned to Swindon – mainly because Swindon wouldn’t let him go. They were struggling at the bottom of our division that season, and much of the online chat amongst the Robins was along the lines of “we don’t want him, but don’t let him go to a league rival”. Hilariously, Swindon were still relegated, so activating a relegation clause in his contract Cureton left Swindon and joined us anyway – and for free too!

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