BARRY PIKESLEY: The Taming of the Shrew

The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" of 1 August 2014.


I have a startling confession to make: my wife is a Shrewsbury Town fan.

Indeed, she spent her formative years in the village of Bayston Hill on the outskirts of Shropshire’s county town and undertook her secondary education at The Wakeman Grammar School, which was located adjacent to the old Gay Meadow ground where Shrewsbury Town played their home games until that stadium’s closure in June 2007.

However, at this point I do feel compelled to dispel the myth that my wife was ever seen in a coracle on the River Severn retrieving stray footballs.

This evening should constitute only the third occasion on which the first Mrs Pikesley has deigned to set foot inside Moss Lane/the J Davidson Stadium in order to witness an Alty match.

As a special Valentine’s Day treat, the little woman was granted permission to make her debut at Moss Lane back on Saturday, 14th February 2004 for an FA Trophy Fifth Round tie which represented the first competitive fixture between Altrincham and Shrewsbury Town.

At that particular juncture, the Robins were members of the Unibond League Premier Division, whereas the Shrews were experiencing their, to date, sole season in the (then Nationwide) Conference and were under the management of the one-time Northern Ireland International Jimmy Quinn.

Graham Heathcote’s Altrincham team lined up as follows: (1) Stuart Coburn (2) Steve Aspinall (3) Chris Adams (4) Peter Band (5) Gary Talbot (6) Stephen Rose (7) Gary Scott (8) Ian Craney (captain) (9) Marcus Hallows (10) Niell Hardy (11) Stuart Wright. Subs: (12) Rod Thornley (13) Richard Acton (14) Mark Maddox (15) David Holt (16) Barry Shuttleworth.

The Shrews’ starting XI on that afternoon contained three players who would go on to play for the Robins: Jake Sedgemore; Kevin Street and their captain Darren Tinson. Residing on the bench as the visitors’ substitute goalkeeper was a certain 16-year-old by the name of Joe Hart, whose profile in the Robins Review described him as being “a great prospect for the future.”

I recollect a very even contest, which seemed destined to be heading for a replay until Sam Aiston’s cross from the left was driven home at the far post by unmarked substitute Ryan Lowe in the 84th minute to give the Shropshire club a somewhat unmerited 1-0 lead and duly secure an eventual victory in front of 1,758 spectators.

Meanwhile, up in the higher echelons of the main stand, a solitary figure in the guise of my darling wife even had the temerity to leap up from her seat next to me and noisily celebrate this winning goal from her Shrewsbury Town idols. Honestly, you simply cannot take her anywhere. v Prior to that encounter, Shrewsbury Town’s only other visit to Moss Lane had transpired by means of a pre-season friendly staged on Saturday, 29th July 1972.

Approaching their fifth campaign in the Northern Premier League, the Robins were under the guidance of a recently-appointed management team consisting of Roy Rees and Tony Sanders, who selected the following line-up: (1) Wyn Dicken (2) Stan Allan (3) Dave Mobley (4) Alan Wolfe (5) Doug Coutts (6) Brian Taylor (7) Tony Broadhead (8) Andy Windsor (9) Eric Shreeve (10) Bobby Todd (11) Billy Morrey. Sub: (12) John Unsworth (for Coutts, 28 minutes).

Shrewsbury Town were then members of the old Football League Division Three and their manager was the erstwhile Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg. The visitors‘ team comprised: (1) Ken Mulhearn (2) Paul Bevan (3) Ian Roberts (4) John Moore (5) Jim Holton (6) Gerry Bridgwood (7) Dave Roberts (8) Nigel O‘Loughlin (9) George Andrews (10) Jimmy McLaughlin (11) Alan Groves. Sub: (12) Terry Matthias.

Probably the most notable character from that Shrewsbury Town side remains the formidable figure of Jim Holton, a truly rugged ’take no prisoners’ type of centre-half. In January 1973, Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty signed Holton for a fee of £80,000 and the 21-year old Scot would proceed to become a cult figure amongst the Old Trafford faithful, who immortalised him in that famous terrace anthem: “Six foot two, eyes of blue, big Jim Holton’s after you” (even though only the latter part of that chant was factually accurate).

Holton went on to record a total of 69 appearances for United and his 15 International caps for Scotland included all three of his country’s games in the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany (against Zaire; Brazil and Yugoslavia respectively).

In front of a crowd of 755, the Robins dominated the first half and they took the lead after only five minutes when Tony Broadhead stabbed the ball over the line after the Shrews’ defence had been thrown into confusion by a swift Alty raid down the right flank.

As the half progressed, the contest became distinctly more combative and the ’friendly’ tag rather evaporated. Ian Roberts had his name taken when he felled the lively Broadhead for the umpteenth time and winger Alan Groves was booked after an off-the-ball incident with the ever-abrasive Stan Allan.

The visitors’ 77th-minute equaliser was both somewhat fortunate and controversial and it arrived against the run of play. A long clearance provided relief from further Alty pressure and duly landed at the feet of Nigel O’Loughlin, who appeared to be well offside. Everyone, including the Shrewsbury Town players, stopped for an instant, however, neither the linesman nor the referee made a move and O’Loughlin went on to score, grinning widely in the process!

Whilst the aggrieved Robins endeavoured to recover their composure, George Andrews turned quickly just outside the penalty area and promptly scored the winning goal via a dipping shot that eluded Wyn Dicken (ex-Stalybridge Celtic; Ellesmere Port Town and Sandbach Ramblers), who had advanced a yard too far.

During the remaining ten minutes, the former Stockport County and Manchester City goalkeeper Ken Mulhearn had to draw on all of his agility and experience to repel shots from Tony Broadhead (twice), Eric Shreeve and Andy Windsor.

Should this evening’s pre-season friendly end in anything other than a draw, I feel obliged to warn you that the current Mrs Pikesley and I will be easily identifiable near the bar in the Noel White Suite after the game. We shall be the unseasonably unfriendly couple engaged in tempestuous scenes reminiscent of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor having a tumultuous row in a penthouse suite at The Dorchester circa 1972.