Adventures in Football #29: The New Meadow aka Montgomery Waters Meadow (Shrewsbury Town FC)
September 28, 2021
SHREWSBURY TOWN VS. WYCOMBE WANDERERS
I’m a little sad to have not visited Shrewsbury Town at their old town centre ground; Gay Meadow, where they played from 1910 until 2007. On the banks of the river Severn it was bang in the middle of town. It got sold to property developers to fund the new stadium, which is two miles south and out of town, and is now flats overlooking the river. It’s sad that a lot of town centre grounds are going by the wayside. The ground used to be located very near to the train station. Now it’s attached to Meole Brace retail park. It reminds me a lot of the Ricoh Arena in that respect.
Shrewsbury Town have historically been a lower division side. They played in local leagues until the 1950s when they joined the league system and remained in the bottom tier until promotion in 1959. They achieved their greatest success in 1978-79 when they won division three (now L1) and spent most of the 1980s competing in the second tier of English football. After relegation to division three in 1989, they dropped into division four in 1992 and dropped into non-league in 2003. They came straight back up, winning the play-offs, and have enjoyed mixed success in the league since. Currently situated in League 1 again.
During their successful 70s-80s run they twice made the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Losing to Wolves on a replay at home in 1979 and beaten 5-2 by Leicester in 1982. More recently they’ve taken West Ham, Wolves and Liverpool to replays in the last five years. In the League Cup it’s a similar story with their sole QF taking place in 1987 when they were despatched by Southampton. As a borders team they’ve won the Welsh Cup six times, including four during their glory days in the 70s-80s. More recently they bagged their second Checkatrade Trophy in 2018.
I thought Tamworth would be the wettest day we’d see this season…and I was right so far, although this trip to Shrewsbury came close at times. It was hammering it down on the A roads through Kidderminster and Bridgnorth but luckily this cleared before we got into Shrewsbury. We also had ten minutes added to our journey time to account for petrol station queues. It has to be noted this game took place during a national crisis for fuel, born from the stupidity of people and dumb media attention.
I followed parking advice from the club and parked at the Meole Brace park and ride. Which is this weird car park at the end of a road that goes nowhere. It honestly looked as if we could have parked there for free but there were a group of blokes stood by the entrance and charged me £5. We walked down to the attached retail park. My wife wanted to drop into Sainsbury’s and I bought some new trainers from Sports Direct. The ones I was wearing have been my main trainers for at least eight years. I don’t throw out perfectly serviceable footwear.
The ground is just around the corner from the retail park so we left Sports Direct and strolled around the corner. You cross a train track and the ground is behind a Lidl. It’s a bit weird having the ground hidden away behind a Lidl but this is the curse of building an out of town ground. We posed for photos by Smithy’s Post, which details distances to divisional rivals. 137 miles from the beloved AFC Wimbledon.
We get into the ground, having been turned away from the away end that we accidentally walk towards. “You don’t want to come in here” laughs one of the stewards. With the Wycombe fans? No thanks. I still remember the Martin O’Neill era, cheers. The concourse has a lot of Carlsberg and little else. Sadly I’m already beered up when we spot a Woods bar just past the other food places. The concourse is heavily decorated with what looks like graffitti. It’s really well done.
We get some food and I score myself a chicken balti pie for the second game in a month. As you can see it wasn’t busy. I assume it was harder to get to at half time but I’ve seen more crowded concourses at almost every other club. It probably shows what a good new build it is for planning. The pie itself was a little dry but flavourful. I was certainly content with it.
We were sat in the West Stand, which is the biggest of the four stands but they were all very similar in size. Off to our right, and pictured above, is the Salop Leisure, or South, Stand. This features safe standing along the top and seemed to be where a huge crop of ultras had taken up residence. There was flag waving and a drummer. I thought we’d hear a lot of noise from that end but I was surprised to discover another section of loudness behind us in the West Stand. Over in section 19 (we were in 16 on the half way line) there was another section of fans making a lot of noise.
Off to the left is the away end in the DM Recruitment Stand. Wycombe didn’t bring a lot of fans but they were fairly vocal. They had a drummer too. That makes three, seeing as there’s one in block 19 too. Here’s me thinking Cheltenham were giving it loud with a drummer. Here it was 2-1 to the home side. I neglected to photograph the Roland Wycherley stand opposite us but it was basically the same style as the others but with an added executive area.
Come game time the temperature had dropped to around 10-11 degrees C and for the first time this season I felt a little chilly. You could see your breath! The crowd won me over almost immediately with a sense of passion and the knee was respected on all four sides. I can confirm that both Shrewsbury and Wycombe are decent lads. The atmosphere was really good and this is with a crowd of only 4,510 for a damp Tuesday evening game. I imagine it’s really rocking on a Saturday afternoon.
The rambunctious home support featured a lot of flag waving and noise. You can see the banner behind them marked “Turn it up to 11” in a tip of the hat to spoof rockers Spinal Tap. The one to the right reads “Standing Tall Among Giants”. Shrewsbury acquit themselves really well in the game. They play some delightful football. Shaun Whalley in particular has a good game. However there’s no end product. They create a dozen half chances but never really bother the keeper.
At the other end of the pitch Wycombe score from their first half chance, a Joe Jacobson rocket from his cultured left foot five minutes into the second half. Things get worse for Shrewsbury, who continue to boss the game, when picky referee Ross Joyce awards a free kick and Ryan Tafazolli heads it in for 2-0. Shrewsbury look like they’ll never score and one of the fans on the way out was overheard saying “at least we scored”. They grabbed a consolation through Matthew Pennington, although I missed it as my wife chose that moment to show me something on her phone.
The last five minutes the heavens opened, and promptly closed again, and Ade Akinfenwa came off the bench so I can add him to my list of legendary players seen live. We also got a pitch invader who ran on presumably so he had an excuse to leave early. I feel bad for Shrewsbury Town FC. They look to be a good club with strong support but it’s not quite clicking on the pitch. I thought they played really well for huge chunks of the game but the luck just isn’t there at the moment.