Shrewsbury Town
Gay Meadow

Ground No. 21 (return visit)
Visited - Monday 3rd May 2004
Result - Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Barnet (1-1 aggregate, 5-3 on penalties)
Competition - Nationwide Conference Play-Offs (Semi-Final)
Attendance - 7012

After narrowly losing the first leg of the play-offs 1-0, there was still all to play for in the return game at the Gay Meadow, so an exciting game was expected, and a large crowd to match. As a coincidence it was exactly a year on from when I had first visited the ground to see Shrewsbury's final game of 2002/03 against Scunthorpe, so there was everything to look forward to for this game.

With the trains running as and when it suited them for the bank holiday weekend we’d decided to drive, and so set off for Shrewsbury just after midday, enjoying the short, yet pleasant drive through the Shropshire countryside. We parked up on Safeway’s and hurried to the ground at just after 2pm. At that stage we were slightly worried, as we knew that we would have to get there early because of the club not making it all ticket, and when walking up, hearing the singing, we thought that perhaps we would be too late, but we got there, and saw fans going through the turnstiles, and breathed a sigh of relief. That breath was short lived however, when after making a detour to buy a programme, only to walk back to the turnstiles for the Riverside and see that they were closing it! We would have got in if it hadn't have been for buying the programme. As we were thinking what to do a steward came up to where a small group of people had gathered and said there was still one turnstile open, but that there weren’t many places, so with that a stampede started, and it was a case of sprinting to the other end of the ground! It was actually the away fans turnstile in the Main Stand that was open, but they had decided to let Shrewsbury fans in, and use the area as a non-segregated area of seating. We were actually segregated from the home fans due to the permanent fencing, but it wasn’t too bad, as they had moved the few Barnet fans who had chosen to sit as opposed stand, down to the front, and direct Town fans towards the rear, so we were OK, although the home fans the other side of the fencing were looking slightly puzzled to see everyone in the away section wearing Shrewsbury colours!

It was the first time I'd sat down at the Gay Meadow (and as it’s the only seating in the ground, my first time in the Main Stand) and, despite a few supporting pillars, it offered a good view and certainly one of the most picturesque scenes in English Football, with all 3 sides of the ground full, and surrounded by the trees and River Severn, I really wish that I had got my camera with me to take a few pictures.

The game got started after a while, and from the off both sets of fans were up for it, creating a superb atmosphere. The first half was pretty scrappy, although Shrewsbury were dominating, looking to equalise the aggregate score. The breakthrough came towards half-time when the referee gave a dubious penalty, which Luke Rodgers dispatched with ease. That levelled the scores, and set the second half up to be an interesting affair. Both teams came out, and set about looking to win the tie. Sadly, the quality of football never improved and neither side really took a grip of the game, despite opting to play attacking football. As the game wore on, Barnet looked the most likely to get anything out of it, and it was almost a relief when the referee blew for full time indicating that a silver goal extra time would need to be played.

Both teams were shattered having given it a huge effort, and the first 15 minutes passed off with little incident, both teams looking too scared to go forward in case they conceded a goal on the break, but in the second 15 minutes, Shrewsbury pulled their socks up and after a rant from Jimmy Quinn, started to dig into Barnet. It was to no avail though, and the referee blew the final whistle (again!) with the scores still at 1-1, meaning that penalties were necessary. They were to be taken in front of the Wakeman End, and Town went first. Both teams dispatched their first 3 without any trouble, and after Luke Rodgers took the fourth and scored it, it was down to Barnet to keep the scores level. Scott Howie however pulled off a magnificent save, to give Darren Moss the opportunity to put his team in the final. As soon as he struck it, there was no doubt where it was going. Straight into the back of the net, and there was to be one more game on the calendar for the team from Shropshire.

At that, there were wild celebrations from 3 sides of the ground, and after hugging the bloke in front, me and my mate decided we would join the growing number of fans taking over the Gay Meadow pitch, so it was a quick run down the staircase, through the Barnet fans and over the advertising boards onto the pitch. The celebrations were going on at the end at which the penalties had been taken, and we had to run the length of the pitch to get there, but with the adrenalin pumping from the shoot out victory it only seemed to take a matter of seconds to be joining in, and jumping around!

It was the first time I'd actually ever been on a pitch, and it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed, not just for the occasion, and the joy of the victory, but just standing there on the turf, with the stands surrounding you, stands you had seen on the TV and in numerous pictures, it was certainly an occasion to remember, and a must for any fan, one of those must-dos in a lifetime of being a football supporter. Despite the Barnet players still being on, and the two sets of fans mixing in the stand, there wasn’t any sign of trouble, the opposite in the end, with both sets of fans shaking hands, and consoling, or congratulating others, a rare sight to behold in today's game.

After the excitement had died down, we eventually left and got back to the car, both knowing that we had had one of the best days out we will experience at a football game, and it wasn’t even with our own club!

Looking across the River Severn to the Ground

Rear of the Main Stand

The Main Reception

The Station End

View from the Station End

Looking across the Main Stand

The Station End

The Wakeman End

The Riverside

The Main Stand

The Wakeman End

One of the Turnstiles

Gay Meadow Panoramic

No comments:

Post a Comment