Lincoln City vs Shrewsbury Town, Football League Trophy (Ridiculous Sponsorship name Trophy), Wembley, 8/4/18
There’s something about a cup final at Wembley that will always bring out the child in every football supporter, especially when your team is involved. It doesn’t matter what competition, when your team gets to Wembley it’s special, or at least it used to be. The Football League Trophy has seen a number of sponsors, and the names seem to be getting more and more ridiculous, but what is ridiculous is the idea that entering Under 21 teams into the competition would help, luckily an Under 21 team has not yet made it to the final and hopefully they never will. If this had been Chelsea Under 21s vs Shrewsbury Town, I would have still gone but it wouldn’t have mattered. Before the game, my dad pointed out that Real Madrid and Barcelona have “B” teams in the Spanish football pyramid, but that wouldn’t work over here. The Spanish league system is regionalised underneath the Second Division, and that is why Castilla (Real’s “B” team) etc are able to play, as the league requires these teams to make up the numbers. If you entered Chelsea Under 21s in League Two then it would make a mockery of the English football pyramid. We don’t need “B” teams in our league system, we need someone in charge to stand up and enforce a rule which states that in every matchday squad there needs to be at least three English (or Welsh for Swansea) academy graduates to ensure that players that are eligible for our national team are given the chance to play!
Anyway, as I said at the start of the blog a Wembley cup final does get people excited, as shown by my dad who finished an eight hour shift at around 6am, got into bed and then got back up after four hours of sleep, although I’m not sure if he actually slept in that time, as he was like a child on Christmas Morning. We left our house in Yiewsley and made our way to the train station where we caught a train into Ealing Broadway. On the train there were a few Lincoln City shirts to remind us that we were going to be outnumbered by the large amount of Imps that would be making the journey. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed by the fact that we only took around 11,000 fans when compared to the 26,000 Imps, or should I be wondering where the extra 5,000 had come from, as our normal home gates stand at around 6,000 and our away fans normally only number 1,000 odd. Then again this is Wembley, we may not have the biggest travelling support, but does that matter? When we want to make noise, we can make noise although this leads me onto something else. For weeks before the game, it was clear for everyone to see that blocks 111 & 112 were being designated as the “singing” blocks, as those that like to sing wanted to congregate together, unfortunately the happy-clapping, day-trippers managed to get in the way of this, as they bought tickets in these blocks and then got upset with anyone that stood up and attempted to make some noise. Since moving from the Gay Meadow the supporters at Shrewsbury have become more and more gentrified, and some of them act like they are at the theatre. Now if you pay your money then you can do what you want, but do not moan at those that are trying to get some atmosphere going, if you want to sit quietly and gently applaud the action then there were plenty of other places to sit.
From Ealing Broadway we jumped on the Central Line to Holborn, as my parents had been raving on about the Princess Louise, and I can see why. Entering the Princess Louise is like stepping back in time, as sitting in the bar I expected the Peaky Blinders to walk in. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that the Princess Louise is my favourite pub in London, and in fact it may be one of my favourites in the UK, so I would definitely recommend that you visit!
With it getting closer and closer to kick off, we left the Princess Louise and headed back to the Underground, on the Jubilee Line we met a fellow Salopian and travelled to the game with him. On Wembley Walk I decided to keep up the tradition of buying a flag and scarf from each time I have seen Shrewsbury at Wembley, and paid £20 for the two. I’ve seen Salop at Wembley three times previously, but have never seen them win. My first Shrewsbury game that I can remember was at the Old Wembley as we lost in the AutoWindscreens Trophy (The Football League Trophy) to Rotherham, and I’ve also seen us lose in the Play-Off finals twice, once to Bristol Rovers and once to Gillingham. The concourses were filled with Salopians, and we headed to the Real Ale stand, where my dad paid £4.95 each for three pints of Ale. The Ale was good but not £4.95 good, but then again the programmes were £7 each! Wembley is not a cheap day out for anyone, unless you’ve got deep pockets, but for the common working man this is the kind of event that you save up for. Now I’m an Old-School football fan, I enjoy standing on terraces in the rain, with a cup of tea, surrounded by blokes all of who are chanting, I still remember peeing into a trough at the old Gay Meadow, but as I’ve said football is getting more and more gentrified, and the whole theatre vibe was exemplified as I noticed there was a popcorn stall. A POPCORN STALL. A POPCORN STALL AT THE HOME OF FOOTBALL. Part of me died inside when I noticed the Krispy Kreme Donut stand…
Sure I’m getting old, but really? I can understand a popcorn stall in the family section, where kids are more likely to be, but in the general concourse? No, just give us hot drinks, beer and pies. But then again looking at the other food options I could see that they had also been “improved”, as there were Fish and Chips on sale. Just give me a burger that has been held at a temperature similar to the inside of a nuclear reactor. (With every word that I write I am becoming more and more convinced that Non-League football is the sole remaining part of the “Beautiful Game”. I don’t want the hooliganism back, I don’t want to be treated like an animal on the terraces, I just want to be able to afford to support the team I love, stop pricing fans out of football.)
The EFL Trophy began in the 1983/84 season as the Associate Member’s Cup, but in 1992, after the lower-division clubs became full members of the Football League, it was renamed the Football League Trophy, although this name is normally replaced by whatever sponsor has thrown the biggest amount of money at the EFL. Between 2000 to 2006 the competition was also open to a number of Football Conference sides, and in 2003/04 Shrewsbury Town were one of the Conference sides that were allowed to compete. The trophy, as I have mentioned, has gone by a few different sponsorship names, starting with Freight Rover, followed by Sherpa Van, Leyland DAF, Autoglass, Auto Windscreens, LDV Vans, Johnstone’s Paint and finally Checkatrade. Bristol City are the most successful team in the competition having won the trophy one three occasions in 1986, 2003 and 2015. Carlisle United are the second most successful, as they have won it twice and have been runners up four times. Shrewsbury have never won the competition and as I have said we were runners-up in 1996.
Lincoln City were formed in 1884, however my usual history source Wikipedia does not have much information before 1980. In 1982 and 1983 the club narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division. Lincoln were to be part of history in 1985, as they were Bradford City’s opponents on the day of the Bradford City fire, and two Lincoln fans lost their lives alongside fifty-four other spectators. In memorial to Bill Stacey and Jim West, who sadly lost their lives, the club has named a stand the Stacey West stand after the pair. Lincoln were relegated on the last day of the following season and the year after that they became the first team to suffer automatic relegation from the Football League, this marked the fourth time the club had been demoted from the Football League, and the dramatic decline has been linked to the trauma arising from the disaster in 1985. Lincoln regained their place in the League at the first time of asking, as they finished as champions in their first season in the Conference. Lincoln entered administration at the end of the 2001/02 season with the financial crisis seeing the club bereft of players. Critics expected Lincoln to be relegated however Keith Alexander performed miracles, and the club reached the Play-Off Final which they lost 5-2 to Bournemouth. In 2003/04, again the critics expected Lincoln to struggle, but Alexander proved them wrong, however he did suffer a cerebral aneurysm halfway through the season, but luckily made a full recovery. Lincoln again reached the play-off finals in 2005, but were beaten 2-0 by Southend. Keith Alexander left in May 2006, with John Schofield taking the reigns, the club again reached the play-offs but lost to Bristol Rovers in the semi-finals, meaning that their failure to succeed in five successive play-off competitions is now a record for any club. (Losing three times previously at Wembley doesn’t look too bad for Shrewsbury!) Chris Sutton took the management role in 2009, following Schofield’s departure in 2007 with Peter Jackson taking the reigns between November 2007 and September 2009. Sutton resigned in September 2010 citing personal reasons, however he later revealed that it was due to disagreements over spending with the board that had seen him leave. Steve Tilson took over in October 2010, but Lincoln City were relegated on the last day of the 2010/11 season. Tilson released all but three members of the squad in preparation for their first season in the Conference, however Tilson departed in October 2011 due to poor results on the field. It would take until the 2016/17 season for the Imps to regain their place in the league, thanks to the genius of the Cowley Brothers. Lincoln would also go on a brilliant run in the FA Cup during the 2016/17 season with them reaching the Quarter Finals, before being beaten by Arsenal.
I’ve covered the history of Shrewsbury Town before, so I’m going to skip doing that again and instead look at the routes the two teams took to the final. Lincoln City started off by beating Mansfield, Everton U21s, Notts County, Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Peterborough United. In the Semi Finals Lincoln City took on Chelsea U21s, and after extra time they booked their place at Wembley. Shrewsbury beat Coventry City, West Brom U21s in the group stage but lost to Walsall, however with the points picked up during the group stage we progressed on to beat Port Vale, Blackpool (4-2 on penalties) and Oldham, before facing Yeovil Town in the Semi Finals, a 1-0 win was enough for us to get to Wembley.
Wembley Stadium was re-opened in 2007, with Shrewsbury Town becoming the first Football League team to score at the new Wembley thanks to Stewart Drummond, we also became the first Football League team to have a player sent off, thanks to Marc Tierney. Obviously Wembley does not need a long write up about the history as it’s hard not to know the history of Wembley. The new stadium has a capacity of 90,000 and in terms of facilities is light years ahead of the Old Wembley. Whilst the Old Wembley held all the memories it was clear that a new ground was needed, and I can’t find much to fault about Wembley, apart from the prices and anything else I’ve ranted about. The views are good in all parts of the stadium, and that’s all that matters.
Let’s get down to the football, Shrewsbury didn’t get started. Its as simple as that, none of the players turned up, apart from Jon Nolan. This was one of the most abject performances I have ever seen and I had a season ticket during the final season of Paul Simpson’s reign. I’ve seen Shrewsbury fans blaming the poor refereeing, and whilst the referee was dire, we were just as bad if not worse.
The worst refereeing decision came in the 10th minute, as Matt Rhead forgot that he was playing football and instead decided to audition for the next WrestleMania by smashing Dean Henderson with his elbow. The referee decided that this warranted a yellow, despite the fact that Deano clearly suffered after this challenge, although the ref was probably afraid that he would be next.
Six minutes after the referee bottling a major decision, Lincoln scored. Henderson could only parry a corner, and Toto had decided to allow his man far too much time, and Elliot Whitehouse reacted quickest to put the ball into the back of the net, although with the time and space that he had he could have casually strolled off, bought a cup of tea, drank the cup of tea, visited the toilet, done his tax returns and cured cancer before putting the ball into the net.
In the 32nd minute, the referee again proved that he was a worthless, waste of space, as Luke Waterfall decided to punch the ball out of play following a shot from James Bolton. Then again if we had been awarded the penalty, we probably would have missed it.
Half Time: Lincoln City 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (Whitehouse 16)
At half time, I decided to go to the toilet, and thank you to the helpful steward who pointed out the empty toilet by the entrance, as if he hadn’t I probably would have missed the start of the second half, due to the queue for the other toilet. I saw a bit of the FIFA 18 game, and hoped that the final result of that match would be the final result of this match. (We won 2-1 at FIFA 18)
We started the second half well, as we launched attack after attack however we couldn’t find a way through the resolute Lincoln defence. Things weren’t helped by the fact that Carlton Morris had decided to leave his studs at home, and looked like a new-born giraffe on ice, blindfolded, with it’s legs tied together. He spent more time on his back than a prostitute, and he contributed less than a hooker would have.
Lincoln made their first change of the game in the 63rd minute as Matt Rhead left the field, probably because someone from the WWE had just called, and he was replaced by Ollie Palmer. Danny Rowe was replaced in the 64th minute by Harry Anderson.
Amazingly Paul Hurst made a change before the 70th minute, as he switched the horribly ineffective Bryn Morris with Alex Rodman in the 67th minute. I honestly hadn’t noticed that Morris was on the pitch. Nathan Thomas left the field in the 75th minute for Stefan Payne, and I can’t understand why, as Thomas had played fair better than Morris. In my opinion Morris should have been taken off, although with his lack of studs he probably would have taken a while to slip and slide off of the field.
With the game nearing its conclusion we began to press forward, however we seemed to be afraid of the goal, instead choosing to fire either side of the posts or just firing the ball over the crossbar.
In a move which stunk of desperation, Shaun Whalley was replaced by Arthur Gnahoua in the 86th minute, although looking at our bench there were no other options. I’m not being harsh on Arthur but he still has a lot to learn about football at this level, and I think we would have been better putting Lennell John-Lewis on.
The referee did make one correct decision as he indicated five minutes of added on time, two and a half minutes for the subs, and two and a half minutes for the time-wasting. (Don’t try and deny it, Lincoln started time-wasting in the 17th minute following the goal. Annoyingly it was effective.) However the referee could have signalled for twenty-four hours of added on time and we still wouldn’t have scored.
Lincoln made their final change in the 95th minute as Matt Green was replaced by Sean Long.
Final Score: Lincoln City 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (Whitehouse 16)
At the final whistle we made our way out of the ground as quickly as possible. One thing that really angered me was that the only Town player that made an effort to come over to the fans was Deano, our on-loan keeper, no-one else made the effort before I left. Now a lot has been made online about the Salop fans leaving before the trophy presentation, but try losing four times at Wembley, honestly you get sick of watching the other team picking up the trophy.
We made our way back to Paddington, where we drowned our sorrows in the Mad Bishop and Bear before catching the train home. We met a number of Lincoln fans who were all very pleasant, and deserved to be happy.
Lincoln out-played us, plain and simply, they deserved to win. Sure Matt Rhead should have been sent off, sure we should have had a penalty, but we were that bad I think Lincoln would have won this even if the referee had gotten everything correct. The Imps were up for this game, and showed it, whilst we showed nothing.
But there has also been talk online from Salop fans about not going to Wembley if we get there in the play-offs, and to them I would just like to say shut up. If Shrewsbury get to Wembley in the play-offs, then I’ll be there, despite the fact that I have never seen us win at Wembley. This is Shrewsbury Town and I’ll follow them through thick and thin, despite being unable to afford to get to as many games as I want to.
Promotion is still achievable, COME ON YOU SHREWS! #LoveThisTeam
Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!
Cost: Too much.