Shrewsbury Town @ Hereford United in 500 words ( and a few more!)

Being a devoted Football fan isn’t easy. It will test your loyalty way past the point where normal sane people would just give up. One of those moments is when the team you love is beaten by a ‘lower league’ side in the F.A. Cup.

Last Saturday, Town met Hereford United. Hereford now play in the Blue Square Premier (in reality the fifth tier of English Football). With Town in League One (Tier Three), on paper this should have been a comfortable victory for the Shropshire side.

But the F.A.Cup is never that easy. Hereford have lived off a massive ‘giant killing’ for years. They beat Newcastle United in a Fourth Round replay forty years ago. A match that was featured on ‘Match of the Day’ and launched the career of one John Motson. The publicity helped Hereford gain election to the Football League (no automatic promotion/ relegation then). They quickly moved through the leagues to end up in the second tier. Alas, only to stay there for one season. Since then, the team from our Marches cousins down the A49 has struggled ever since.

Queue in 1996, Shrewsbury Town legend Graham Turner taking over as Manager, and following relegation out of the Football League,  becoming owner. He singled handed saved the club. And not only brought them back to the League, but to ‘third tier’ as well. Leaving two years ago to re-join Shrewsbury as Manager, Hereford has dropped out of the League again. This time though, their financial plight was on the verge of becoming terminal. Major ‘whoops’ could be heard in the vicinity of Edgar Street, when the cup draw produced a re-run of what is known as the ‘A49 derby’. Financially for The Bulls, this was a lifeline.

So it was with confident expectations that I and 900 other Town fans made our way across the Shropshire border for the 1 p.m. kick off. With no thought of this tie being a potential banana skin.

I love the F.A. Cup, and Shrewsbury has an impressive record of giant killing themselves. This season marks 10 years since beating an Everton team fourth in the Premier League with a young Wayne Rooney already shining. The money that cup run made was the basis for Town eventually returning to the League following relegation. Looking at how other former League sides have struggled to bounce back straight away shows just how important the cup run was.

When Turner was first Salop Manager, Town’s cup run to the Quarter Finals was the catalyst for promotion to what was then Division Two. Beating Manchester City on the way, Town lost to Wolves after a replay. The cup can be a great way to change a team’s season.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Town gave an early goal away (something that is becoming very common this season), and before we knew it, it was two. Defensively looking poor, Salop hit the post from Morgan, and went close a few more times. Despite possession and passing the ball from either flank, Hereford seemed the more likely to extend their lead, than Town clawing themselves back into the game.

Luke Summerfield scored a 30 yard free kick, and Town seemed to wake up from their slumber. 2-1 down at half time, and a step up in quality was required.

Town continued to press in the second half, again holding possession, but the ‘final ball’ lacked the quality to unlock a Hereford team who had been told before the match they might not get paid, unless they won. With Salop susceptible to the counter attack, and innocuous challenge in the box, led to a penalty. Hereford went 3-1 up.

Town tried, and Taylor forced a good save from their keeper, but as the clock ticked down Salop fans became resigned to the fact that there would be no cup run this season.

The final whistle brought joy amongst the majority of the 3200 crowd. Some Town fans choose to boo their team as they left the field, in total frustration as continuing poor performances and results.

The day wasn’t over yet, as is now tradition, the Prince of Wales pub up Belle Vue organised their coach to the game followed by a real ale trail in Aston on Clun, and Bishops Castle. This wonderful part of our county has the finest real ale emporiums around. Just the right setting to chew the fat following the game.

The result leaves Town just having to concentrate on League football. However, this will be a battle to survive in League One. Following poor performances and results of late, Town fans are starting to wonder whether this squad is good enough to stay up. On this evidence, the answer to that has to be no.

Town fans everywhere hope this won’t be the case.
Adrian Plimmer
shrewsTRUST

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Shrewstrust is Shrewsbury Towns only democratic supporters group, so has a unique position between supporters and the football club. Initially set up as part of a government initiative called Supporters Direct, supporters trusts are designed as a structure to help if a football club becomes bankrupt. Put simply, supporters trusts are like an insurance policy for football clubs that swings into operation if the worst should happen. Luckily, at Shrewsbury Town we have an excellent club which is well run and will be for the foreseeable future, but things can change quickly in football, so every club needs a supporters trust. For further details please go to www.shrewstrust.co.uk.

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