EFL Trophy Winners: Imps 1-0 Shrewsbury Town

At the centre of it all, the whirlwind of PR, media and hype, there’s a game of football. It is the same every week, whatever the angle, whatever the spin or the setting, it is all about 90 minutes of good, honest action.

I put honest in italics because if we’re being truthful with ourselves, it is never like that. Football isn’t an honest game, just ask the Carlisle player who handled in our area then screamed vehemently for a penalty the other week. it is a game of deception, lies and more lies. Even referees can’t get it entirely right, Ollie Palmer’s great goal against Exeter ruled out for a reason we’ll never know. That is football.

They say these things level themselves out through a season and yesterday, that was the case.

It would be remiss to focus on two key points that could have swung the game in Shrewsbury’s favour though, because that would imply that on the balance of play, they deserved the win. Don’t be fooled by the BBC’s rather one-sided narrative, this wasn’t a case of plucky Lincoln putting up a wall and kicking the ball long all the time, it was a clever and well-managed assault on the opposition’s game plan, whilst also auctioning our own indomitable style on them.

Remember, Shrewsbury are in the top three of League One, we’ve not been able to establish ourselves in the top three of the league below. There’s a huge difference between the two sides, more places in fact than lay between ourselves and Oldham when we met in the FA Cup. That was a giant killing, perhaps the same could be said for yesterday, only the giants are a club similar in size to us that have done incredibly well. They’re us in a year’s time, hopefully.

For the first ten minutes they looked good. They played the ball about, particularly in front of our 18 yard box, looking for the quick give and go. We seemed content to allow them to do that, it may be a result of the 4-3-3 we use now, although we saw a similar tactic backfire against Swindon earlier in the season. Our favourite worst enemy, Jon Nolan, looked to have some real class although he is terribly one-footed which dictates quite often the direction of his play. As you know, they hit the bar early on with a rasping effort which was perhaps the result of us not closing down quick enough. That didn’t happen much after that.

Thanks to Graham Burrell for all today’s pictures

What did happen was one of the game’s major incidents, billed by some as an early Wrestlemania move in which Matt Rhead pole-axed Dean Henderson, the Shrews on-loan Manchester United keeper. At the time I cried cheat, especially when the keeper got up early. I couldn’t believe he’d been given a yellow card for an accidental collision. When you look back in slow motion, it does seem as though a red would be more justified. As a Lincoln fan I could argue he was nudged and that it looks worse slowed down, but if I were a Shrews fan he’d be public enemy number one from now until we finally win a Wembley game. Remember, it was our first appearance, but the Shrews had lost three there on the spin. They wanted this too and to see their keeper floored with what amounted to a forearm smash must have been quite tough to take.

Then came a spell of play for us, followed by Elliott’s goal. We soaked up their early pressure and went on the offensive ourselves, with Whitehouse winning the corner from which he scored. It was fitting captain Luke Waterfall was also involved, his scuffed effort being saved by Henderson for Elliott to slam home. It seems players I’ve doubted in August and September are coming good at the right time, because the goal was just one aspect of a committed and dogged display by Mr Whitehouse. Also, he scored our first ever goal at Wembley which is enough to ensure he never has to pay for a Nando’s again, at least not if I’m in Nando’s at the same time.

The goal knocked them quite a bit and we looked likely to get another, although there was nothing clear-cut to speak of. If the first fifteen was theirs and the second fifteen our, on 32 minutes came another of those turning points. This time the Shrews corner was headed toward goal by Beckles, with Ryan Allsop producing a truly astounding save, clawing the ball clear. Only half cleared, it came back again and the Shrews effort was turned around the post by Luke Waterfall’s arm. It was, even through red and white glasses and face paint, a stone wall penalty. To their credit, only one or two of their players appealed, half heartedly too. If it had been us, I would have cried with anger, instead I choked down tears of joy.

Paul Hurst rather magnanimously shied away from blaming the two incidents for his side’s defeat, but at 1-1 with ten against eleven for the final hour, Shrewsbury surely go on to win the game. Instead it remained 1-0 to us and level in number, just the slice of luck we needed to complete the job.

Continued on page 2

10 Comments

  1. When it happened I thought Matt Rhead would be walking.Unlike you,when I saw the slo mo l thought a Shrews defender had his arm across M.R’s back helping him overrun the ball and accelerate into their keeper.
    ‘re.their pen. yes should have been given but a pen for us when one of their defenders tried to exchange shirts with Matt Green in their box way before the end of the game.
    OK only my views with my red tinted glasses on but for all our thoughts WE WON at Wembley.

  2. Thanks< Gary….top stuff as always. Even the rain and rail delays and cancellations could not take the edge from a day I will cherish forever.Do not think Rhead acted maliciously but, even so, lucky to stay on. As for the handball….yes, we got away with one. Rewind to the FA Trophy semi last season….Waterfall penalty?….Really? These things even themselves out.
    This was atop drawer performance against a very good team. Canny stuff from Danny from start to finish!

  3. Most football reports bore the crap out of me nowadays, including those by journalists that are paid a small fortune, but yours are always a really good read. Nice work.

  4. Excellent read as always, Gary, so many happy memories of a fantastic weekend . Even on the Saturday everywhere you went it was red and white , spoke to so many people I don’t know , yeah it brought so many people together.my one big regret is for Ready, if only his shot just before he was subbed had gone in, that would have been truly magic not just for us as a club but also for him as a player. He must be devastated. A huge thank you to management, players, backroom staff, media,other fans and people like yourself for making the weekend so memorable .

  5. Great report Gary as usual. I had the BBC Spott report read out on our way home ( Me glasses were in the boot ) from my phone. Whoever wrote it clearly wasn’t at the same game as we all were. Shrews keeper floored for 6 minutes
    There was 3 added time. Penalty yeh no doubt . But what goes around comes around . City deserved to win without any doubt. They weren’t overawed and came to win. Shrewsbury looked totally overawed by Wembley, yes they had there moments but City had there’s and took it. Roll on Port Vale and look forward to visiting Sincil Bank South in May
    UTI

  6. Great series of articles Gary.
    I thought I saw you in Weatherspoons after the game, wasn’t sure so didn’t say hi.

    As for the game, it was what I expected having watched the FA cup games last year, measured and controlled.

    We all have our own memories and opinions from Sunday but I would just like to point out how well and how tirelessly Luke and Lee worked to destroy their game in midfield before they could get anything going.

    Great day, lets now push in because we need to keep our players and to do that we need to go up.

  7. Magical Day . Right result even if we rode our luck at times but always nice to get it at such an important match . Felt for Rheady having seen the slow mo replay not malicious but he certainly is footie villain No 1 according to many feeds , if only that cutback from Elliot to him had gone in .
    To a man they were awesome , great game management and tactical nous by the brothers and the players on the pitch . Bostwick and Whitehouse the standouts .
    A great social occasion with Imps arriving from all over the UK and beyond, great to have a catch up.
    On a final Note saw Gareth Ainsworth ( Legend ) post match and had a brief word with him don’t think they will be relishing coming to the Bank . Looking forward to the battle of the League two heavyweights In the red corner Rheady in the Blue corner Akinafenwa . Third place still up for Grabs .
    Need as many as possible at Vale Park on Saturday to get Them over the Line on that one .

  8. A great read as ever but unusually there’s one part I disagree with. We started off far stronger and had 65% possession on first 20 mins!

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