from Pantperthog to Knockando

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The romance of the cup

When the mighty Shrews were drawn away against Newport County in the 1st round of the FA Cup, I was pleased. Talk about a quick trip to see them play. Short of a possible draw against Cardiff I don't think they will be any closer to my house this year.

However, compared to my last away trip (the Emirates!), Newport Stadium was a bit of a rude return to life on the road as a Town fan. It's basically an athletics stadium and we were in the 'away end' - banks of temporary seating on the running track, next to a netting construction I think was a hammer-throwing cage.

The opposite end to us was a similar uncovered stand - so this is what our end presumably looked like from a distance.

We were very close to the pitch, though. I took this picture as the teams observed a minute's Remembrance silence.

The match kicked off at 12.30 - moved because ESPN decided it was the pick of the first round ties to televise. That should have been a warning to me. I have seen Shrewsbury play in three games that have been televised live and they have all been dire. Many moons ago I saw Shrewsbury's first ever live match on Sky - a grafted 1-0 win at Cheltenham. Then, eight years ago I was at the Gay Meadow when we were drubbed 4-0 by Chelsea. (Although, admittedly, Gianfranco Zola's goal is still talked about reverently by Town fans.)

The plus side though was getting close to the ESPN broadcast demountable and seeing the FA Cup in all it's pomp, perched within range of an errant clearance. You can just about make it out in this picture - on reflection, I could have taken one close up. But the guy behind me confidently told me that it was only a replica anyway. Still, I would have dearly loved to see a shanked ball go crashing into it, iconoclast that I am.

Today's TV outing will do nothing to raise people's expectations of the team if they had the misfortune to tune in. It was a Godawful performance on an oily pitch playing hit and hoof. When Town scored we couldn't see initially because it was up the other end, but that was about the only thing to shout about.

It really seemed that the Town players' touch had deserted them. In fact, for the first time ever at a football match I was a bit worried about the safety of my dependable VW Golf, because our defenders seemed determined to launch as many clearances into the car park as possible.

John Barnes and Martin Keown were summing up for the telly. Goodness knows what they made of it - the comments in the stand were pretty negative! Barnesy got asked to rap for us and got a short chant of World in Motion, but didn't oblige. We didn't ask Martin Keown to perform.

The results will show that Shrewsbury scraped a win, and in the long run that's all that matters, I guess. But to do it in such an artless style, doesn't fill me with confidence. There wasn't a gulf in class and Newport can consider themselves unlucky - only a fab save by Town 'keeper Chris Neal kept them out in the second half.

It's strange, but I think County fans will be happier with their team's performance in defeat than I was with our team's win.

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