Oldham Athletic vs Shrewsbury Town, League One, Boundary Park, 16/9/17
For a Shrewsbury Town fan I don’t get to many Shrewsbury games, in fact I haven’t been to a home match in the seasons I have been groundhopping, and that isn’t due to a lack of commitment from myself. It’s more to do with the fact that I am a father of two children, and I simply can’t afford to attend many Football League matches, due to the price of tickets. When you consider the cost of petrol, parking and tickets it adds up to a large amount, which I can’t always afford to justify. I would love to get to more Salop matches, but it’s simply not affordable. At the start of the season I sit down with the fixture list and plan out the closest away games, as these are the ones that I can afford to get to. Happily for today’s match I was going to be joined by my parents, and with my dad driving, it meant that I wouldn’t need to worry about petrol, and I could afford to pay the £24 that Oldham were asking for. Now to me £24 is a lot of money, to be fair it’s a good portion of the weekly shop, now that isn’t a shot at Oldham, it is now the going rate in the Football League for tickets to be £20 plus, and in all fairness there are teams in the National Leagues that cost near enough £20 for entrance, which is the reason why I tend not to groundhop in the National Leagues. It just seems to be the case that I am being priced out of football, which has me thinking. If teams were a bit more sensible with prices, if they slashed ticket prices in half would they attract more fans? Oldham have a big ground, but there were large portions of empty seats, so if they cut their prices in half, would they attract more fans? Probably, but it’ll take a very brave side to be the first to experiment.
My parents arrived in Chorley at around 10.30am, and we left for Oldham at 12pm. Traffic was light, and we soon arrived in Oldham, after driving around for a bit we found parking near the hospital at a cost of £3. After parking the car, we asked the amazingly friendly steward for directions to a good pub, and after being shown where the first ‘test tube’ baby was born, we set off to find a pub. The steward had directed us to a chain pub, however my dad decided that he wanted to explore, and we ended up heading towards Chadderton, I had hoped that Chadderton were at home and that their social club would be open, but they were away at Atherton Laburnum Rovers, a game which Chadderton won, and we had to find somewhere else to drink. We ended up in the North Chadderton Conservative Club, although I’m going to leave my political views out of this, although I will say that I’m a staunch Labour supporter, and the thought of going into a Tory club was only made tolerable by the fact that I was thirsty and wanted a beer!
With our drinks consumed, we headed back to Boundary Park, I’m not going to call it by its sponsored name, as Oldham Athletic play at Boundary Park and nothing else. Boundary Park is a proper old school ground, full of charm and character, and I hope that they never leave! I was also overjoyed to find that they were selling teamsheets for 50p at the ground, are Oldham the only league club to do this? At the turnstiles I prepared myself to pay the £24, but my dad beat me to it, which I’m very grateful for, as it meant that I could put the £24 towards other things, so thanks dad! My mum on the other hand got in for £12 as she is technically an OAP.
As I’ve said Boundary Park is an old school ground, and I was impressed by the set-up, although there are a number of supporting pillars at the front of the away stand, which is a bit of a pain, but we managed to find seats where the view wasn’t obstructed too badly. Shrewsbury had bought a good number of fans with us, and before the game the fans were in good voice reminding everyone that we are top of the league. To the right of the Away End, also known as the Rochdale Road End, is the Main Stand, which is a small two-tiered stand, and it is this stand that gives the ground its charm, either side of the Main Stand, is now unused terracing, which would probably be a good place for some safe standing, interestingly the dugouts are situated halfway up the Main Stand. To the left of the Away End is a new stand, known as the North Stand, this stand was completed in 2015, and has seating at the front, with commercial facilities at the back. Opposite the Away End is the Chadderton Road End, which seemed to be where the more hardcore Oldham fans were housed.
I’ve covered Shrewsbury’s history before, but recent results have seen us sit in 1st place in the league, even if we had lost today then we would have remained top of the league. I’m still trying to get used to Salop being top of the league, as we struggled last season, however Paul Hurst has assembled a great squad and has us playing good football.
Oldham Athletic began life as Pine Villa FC in 1895, and played in the Manchester and Lancashire Leagues. When rivals Oldham County folded in 1899, Pine Villa moved into their stadium, and changed their name to Oldham Athletic. Athletic were accepted into the Football League in 1907, and after three years in the Second Division, they were promoted to the First Division. After the First World War, the club were relegated to the Second Division on 1923, and wouldn’t play top division football for another 68 years. Athletic were relegated again in 1935, and dropped down to the Third Division North, they were close to promotion back to the Second Division but the outbreak of the Second World War bought an end to League Football. Oldham regained their place in the Second Division in 1953, as the won the Third Division North, but after only winning eight games all season, they soon returned back to the Third Division North. With a 15th place finish in 1959, Oldham became founder members of the Fourth Division, and in the following season were forced to apply for re-election after finishing in 23rd position. Ken Bates entered the picture at Athletic in the early 1960’s and the club’s fortunes changed for the better, in 1963 the club again were promoted to the Third Division, but struggled for consistency, and in 1969 they were relegated again. 1971 saw Oldham regain their placed in the Third Division, and in 1974 they won the league and were promoted to the Second Division, for the first time in 21 years. After narrowly missing out on promotion on a number of occasions, Oldham finally rejoined the top flight in 1991, as they won the Second Division and joined the First Division. In their first season back at the top, Oldham finished 17th and became a founder member of the Premier League. After reaching the FA Cup Semi Final in 1994, Oldham found themselves a minute away from winning 1-0 in extra time, when a Mark Hughes equaliser saw the game end in a 1-1 draw, in the replay Oldham were beaten 4-1 and many Oldham fans have described this as the start of their decline, as in 1995 Oldham were relegated from the Premier League. Oldham sank further in 1997, as they were relegated to Division Two, and were tipped for an immediate return, which unfortunately didn’t materialise. After Chris Moore almost bankrupted Athletic, the club struggled for a number of years and have remained in League One ever since.
With the game underway, I decided to take advantage of a slow start to the game, and headed down to the Refreshment Hut for a bit of food, I had heard a lot of good things about the pies at Oldham, and I’m sure you can understand my disappointment when I was told that they had sold out of nearly everything before the game. Shrewsbury had bought just over 600 fans, and all that was left was a burger and a meat & potato pie. My dad had asked for a pie, and as he had paid for my entrance I decided to do the right thing, and gave him the pie and I settled for the burger, in total it cost me £6.50, and the burger was very good.
I still had my burger in my hand when Stefan Payne opened the scoring in the 19th minute, as Jack Ruddy in the Oldham goal, failed to deal with Joe Riley’s low cross, and Stefan Payne was on hand to force the ball home. Unfortunately Payne injured himself in the process, after taking a knock to the face, and he was replaced by Carlton Morris.
Oldham played well, and managed to get themselves back into the game in the 33rd minute, as Craig Davies powered home a header from six yards, following a cross from Gevaro Nepomuceno’s left wing cross, I wonder how much it would cost to get Nepomuceno’s name on the back of a shirt!
Half Time: Oldham Athletic 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (Davies 33 – Payne 19)
At the half time break, I decided to go and see if I could get a drink and a bit more food, however the queue stretched halfway down the concourse, and I decided against waiting, just in case I missed anymore of the action.
Oldham had a golden chance to get themselves in front, as Eoin Doyle rounded Dean Henderson, however Doyle’s strike could only find the post instead of the empty net, and every Shrewsbury fan in the ground breathed a sigh of relief.
Salop managed to regain the lead in the 65th minute, as Alex Rodman set up Jon Nolan for a brilliant 10 yard strike inside the far corner. Chants of “We are top of the league” and “The Town are going up” rang out from the away fans.
Oldham made their first change of the game in the 75th minute as an injury to Dan Gardner forced them to replace Gardner with Ousmane Fane. Oldham made a second change in the 77th minute with George Edmunson leaving the field to be replaced by Queensy Menig. Oldham’s final change came in the 85th minute, as former Shrewsbury loanee Tope Obadeyi replaced Kean Bryan.
Oldham were pushing for an equaliser, and were getting too close for comfort on occasion, however Dean Henderson was having yet another fantastic game, and I honestly hope Manchester United let him go, as I would love to see Henderson sign permanently for Salop, as his passion and talent is bloody brilliant!
Oldham’s hopes of getting back into the game was killed off in the 93rd minute as Eoin Doyle picked up his second yellow card for a poorly timed challenge. Following this sending off, Shrewsbury made their second change, with Alex Rodman making way for Ebou Adams.
Final Score: Oldham Athletic 1-2 Shrewsbury Town (Davies 33 – Payne 19, Nolan 65)
At the final whistle, I didn’t want to leave the ground, as I’d just witnessed Shrewsbury go five points clear at the top of the league. The Salop players and officials received a heroes’ welcome from the fans, as they made their way across to us, with Henderson again showing why he is fast becoming a fans’ favourite as he led the celebrations.
Finally, with the players off of the pitch, we left Boundary Park, and headed back to the car, unfortunately there was a large queue to leave the car-park and we sat in the car listening to the final scores, before eventually making our way back to Chorley.
Boundary Park is possibly one of my favourite league grounds, as it is a charming, characterful ground, and I honestly hope that Oldham don’t change the ground too much. Sure it would be nice for the supporting pillars to be removed from the Away End, but the Main Stand is a fantastic looking stand, inside and out, and I hope the Oldham board never decide to knock it down.
Victory for Shrewsbury sees them remain at the top of League One, with a five point cushion over 2nd place. No-one is expecting us to stay up here, and whilst it would be nice to dream that we may reach the Championship, I would much rather just see us remain away from the relegation zone. Getting up to the Championship would be a dream come true, but it is only September and we can’t get too carried away.
Unfortunately defeat for Oldham, sees them drop to the bottom of the table, and I think Oldham have got the quality to recover and move away from the bottom, as I have said it is only September and I would be absolutely amazed to see Oldham be relegated.
Next week will see me return to the more affordable Non-League scene, and I’m beginning to feel that it may be a while before I can afford to follow Shrewsbury home and away, as I would love to do.
Cost: £7 (Would have been an extra £24 for entrance and £3 for the programme)
Hat-tricks seen so far: 1