Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Shrews swept aside - the Mighty vs Shrewsbury Town

Straight away, I like the team. It's not always about the individuals, it's about the balance and it just feels right. The product of thought, not of a roulette wheel. We're playing Shrewsbury. There's nothing to learn from pretending we're playing Real Madrid and trying to grind it out. Go for it. Treat yourself. Kick the autumn leaves into the air and spin around in giddy delight. Live a little.

I'm surprised. Critch doing this seems a bit like him getting involved in a touchline bust up or slagging off the board in a post match interview. He's released the handbrake. The car is rolling free. The top is down and the wind is ruffling his side parting. Neil 'carefree' Critchley unbuttons the polo shirt, puts on his aviator shades and gets ready to enjoy the ride. Hell, he's even going to overtake that caravan ahead without triple checking his mirrors first. Caution to the wind Critch. YOLO Critch. Critch and Mike, like Thelma and Louise, driving the car off the cliff... 


I'm slightly panicked at kick off. What if this is an illusion. What if he's *actually* playing Dembele as an extra centre half? What if Sonny's job is to kick people? What if CJ's been told under no circumstances to cross the halfway line? 

The first few minutes are slightly wobbly. Shrewsbury give the false impression of being up for it and being anything other than haplessly bad. Mainly though, they foul Dembele. Again and again and then... ref for fucks sake... again...

The ref isn't bothered until he is. Carey with a quick thinking header to not only block a clearance but to also cleverly direct the ball to Rhodes who in turn plays a deviously intelligent, beautifully executed pass to the little wizard who is instantly clipped. The ref is blowing before he hit the ground. To be honest, it looked less like a foul than the ones the ref didn't give, but if your game plan is essentially 'kick the other team's best player and nothing else', then you reap what you sow.

Rhodes looks so cool as he waits. We chant his name. He's calm. He's calmer than a meditation tape voiceover artist on his annual relaxation retreat. Calmer than instant karma Then, one step, two step and bang. Never. In. Doubt.

Jimmy is causing havoc. He's clipping little fizzing balls into a channel, just where they don't want to defend them and they're completely overwhelmed by this approach. He's whipping a cross and we're somehow not quite turning it home.

Dembele is just pure delight. Cushioned touches, twisting turns and graceful,gliding meandering that becomes a sharp sprint in a split second. We're good with the ball and when we lose it, we just win it back, pressing and harrying and forcing Shrewsbury into all manner of panicked, ugly touches.

There's a cross to the far post, it's Dale or it's Sonny, (I don't remember, both of them playing nicely, carrying the ball, working with purpose, moving and taking it in and moving it on) and it takes the merest of deflections and goes just over Rhodes' head.

CJ, a deft moment as he seems to step through his man and reappear with the ball, a feint that takes him away from a challenge and he's away, he's in and will he shoot? No, he squares it to Beesley who can't miss and despite seeming to do everything in his power not to score, the ball is over the line and Jake is running away. That's a lovely moment. CJ is all redemption and rebirth of late. Maybe, just maybe, as unlikely as it seemed last week, Jake could be too.

There's 9 minutes injury time because someone in the Kop needed treatment early, Grimmy running out as fast as I've ever seen him move to alert the ref. I think and hope it ended up ok. The half certainly has. We've been virtually untroubled.


Please don't sit on this. Please. It never fucking works.


Will Shrewsbury come out with fire in their bellies? They emerge and look more like a damp box of spent matches than a raging inferno of stung pride. Nothing happens at all for a bit. We move it around in leisurely manner, entirely unhurried by anything they do. Marvin is having a lovely afternoon, again, far more himself than the jumpy early season Marv. Dougall is just purring away in midfield, ratting with a biting purpose, swaying his hips and turning away from anyone who tries to nick the ball off him and prompting from the heart of the pitch. Only Pennington really looks less than totally comfortable, slicing a couple of straightforward touches, maybe a little discombobulated by playing against the team that finally gave him a home after a peripatetic loan career up till signing for them. Even then, he doesn't really do too much wrong and nothing comes from his couple of shaky moments.

Through the middle we go. It's touched off and Carey has it, a little step inside, I'm on my feet, I love a Sonny goal, but his low shot is well saved and then Beesley's sharp follow up is brilliantly stopped by an arm thrown out almost impossibly quickly to claw the goal bound football out of the air and push it away. Bees has done well today, winning his fair share, linking nicely and running the channels with purpose. Maybe it's the effect of Rhodes - other strikers seem to suddenly understand their own game just by standing next to him.

Shrewsbury fans do the Poznan. They do some weird dance. They then pretend they've scored and go mental. They sing about losing and going on the piss anyway. They briefly chant for their sacking of their manager. Then they sing about being on the piss again. I like them. They're not taking it all too seriously.

We're treading water ever so slightly. I don't like it when we do that. Albie Morgan comes on to be a bit of an enigma as he always is. Kyle Joseph replaces Rhodes who hasn't had his best performance but has still looked class. That's the level he is. It's a privilege to watch him play really. I like the subs. It's just a bit of fresh energy, a couple of players with something to prove and no reason to cruise the last 20 minutes. I like that he's left Dembele on.

Critch plays a bit of football when the ball goes out of play. He kind of toe pokes the ball a few times back to the player waiting for a throw. He looks a bit like a dad who doesn't really like football on a park wearing his work shoes. I wonder if he ever joins in when they're training.

Then Dembele receives it from the right. He drifts, he's like a moon walking sand dancer, a fluid liquid joy of a thing. A little diagonal, Joseph, a little touch to find space and then SMASH! The net is lifted up by a rocket of an effort that might have reached orbit had it not been caught by the goal. It's a moment to cherish and what slight gathering tension their was at our failure to put them to the sword dissipates. It's over.

Joseph isn't done though. A sublime little bit of control, taking Morgan's hard won ball forward in, swivelling and chipping a perfect little sand wedge pass to Beesley. Jake is bearing down on goal, Jake is feinting to go one way then dragging the ball the other, the keeper staggers and goes to ground, Beesley is an acre of space now, the goal at his mercy, the keeper erased like an errant pencil mark by his skill and there he is, tucking the ball home and trotting away to acknowledge the roars like he's always just doing this, it's no big deal and we're home and dry, with the fire on and our slippered feet up, drinking a warming mug of 3 point brew.

Lovely stuff. 


We played well today. Shrewsbury were rank bad, that is without question, but we never gave them a sniff of getting into the game and sometimes, in fact, quite often, we struggle against bad teams. We didn't so much blow them away as just power past them with cruise control on. This wasn't the kind of manic 20 minutes where we got back into the game against Fleetwood, or tried in vain to claw back Peterborough. This was probably our first really controlled and convincing 90 minute performance of the season. They tried to bully us and couldn't. That's a good omen. We'll play more sides like this. 

We probably can't play exactly the same next Saturday. That's fine. You can do be justified in being more balanced and thinking about the other team when you're playing a decent side and Portsmouth aren't bad. Now we've risked it against an average side though, there's no reason to not repeat this sort of performance at home against pretty much anyone. We played the best team we could and we let it attack. It wasn't ever close. Shrewsbury's fans were great. Their team were really poor. We were fairly subdued, lulled into a kind of contented appreciation of us finally properly showing up for an entire game and looking like we all hoped we would when we told ourselves 'we should be good this season' in August.

Well done Critch. A lot better.


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