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The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 11


Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton

Third Round: Saturday January 4th 2003

Attendance: 7,800

Scorers: Nigel Jemson {37} Niclas Alexandersson {60} Nigel Jemson {88}

Ranked at the time: 11

Serial criminal, Ian Carr was charged with killing 6 year old Rebecca Sawyer while behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle on New Year’s Eve. An Eastenders ‘spin off’ episode told Dot Cotton’s story of being an evacuee in Wales in World War Two. Elijah Wood and Ian McKellan reprised their roles as Frodo Baggins and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Girls Aloud topped the charts with “Sound of The Underground”.

What state were Shrewsbury in?

The Shrews had spent the previous decade moving between the third and fourth tier and were facing relegation out of the Football League after half a century as members in 2001 when they appointed former Everton and Wales legend, Kevin Ratcliffe as manager. As a player, Ratcliffe was the only man to captain the Merseysiders to two League titles. Now he successfully kept Shrewsbury in the fourth tier and then built a side that just missed out on the promotional play-offs in 2002.

Hopes of promotion were high at the start of the season but quickly faded by Christmas with the side languishing ten points adrift of the play-off places. Fortunately they also held a solid eight point cushion over the relegation spots too and no improvement would be needed to ensure the side completed an unremarkable mid table finish come May.

Ratcliffe’s side contained a strong Merseyside link with three former juniors having made their way to Gay Meadow after failing to break into the Liverpool or Everton teams. Ian Dunbavin and Ryan Lowe both came direct from Anfield in 2000 while ex Everton trainee, Alex Smith had helped both Swindon and Reading to promotion to the Premier League before falling out of favour at both clubs. Sam Aiston had also been part of a promotion winning Sunderland side but also fell out of favour once the team were in the top flight. Jamie Tolley came through Shrewsbury’s youth policy while Luke Rodgers joined the club as a teenager in 1999. Ratcliffe also inherited Darren Moss and Steve Jagielka and brought David Artell on loan from Mansfield Town to join the club’s local hero, Peter Wilding in a side where three former Premier League stars stood out.

Mark Atkins was considered something of an unsung hero of Blackburn’s 1995 Premier League title winning side before arriving at Gay Meadow six years later. Ian Woan had given a decade of service during the final years of the great Brian Clough’s reign at Nottingham Forest, being part of the team that lost the 1991 cup final. And the trio was completed by another former Forest hero, Nigel Jemson, who scored the winner when the men from the City Ground claimed the League cup in 1990. Jemson missed the following year’s F A final however in a career where he played for a string of clubs but rarely stayed more than a season at any of them.

Back in November, Jemson set the Shrews on their cup run, scoring the first in a 4-0 romp over Stafford Rangers with Peter Wilding bagging a brace before the victory was rounded off by a late Jamie Tolley effort that made the result a little cruel on the non-league outfit. Round two proved a little trickier, despite the much travelled ex Australian International, Jason Van Blerk giving the Shrews the lead over non-league Barrow. Jemson doubled their advantage and then settled the tie after Barrow had pulled a goal back in the second half.

Another home draw in round three was greeted with delight when paired with Everton.

With a divisional high forty-seven goals conceded in the League, compounded by a 1-5 mauling at the hands of Rushden & Diamonds on New Year’s Day, there were few willing to back a cup shock at Gay Meadow.

What about Everton?

The Toffeemen’s glory days of the 1980s, when they won two League titles were now the stuff of fading memory after a decade in which they had managed to finish in the top half of the Premier League just once. Having come within a whisker of relegation on more than one occasion during that time, David Moyes was brought in from Championship Preston to try and stabilise the club. As fate would have it, Moyes was a former Shrewsbury favourite in his playing days and was earning great plaudits at Goodison Park with a resurgent Everton who were challenging for a Champions League place before a run of draws over Christmas saw them drop to fifth. It was still by far the best season the club had enjoyed in years.

On 3rd Round day Moyes may have been missing his star striker, Kevin Campbell through injury but he could still call on a quality squad, which included goalkeeper, Richard Wright, who won the League & Cup double with Arsenal the previous season as one of ten players capped by their national teams. Yet it was one of the uncapped players in the squad who attracted most attention as the teenage Wayne Rooney, recently crowned Young Sports Personality of the year for 2002 took the field for his first ever experience of the F A cup.

The game

The BBC was at Gay Meadow in force on the day of the tie, which broke with bright sunshine on a crisp January morning. Kevin Ratcliffe was asked by the lunchtime Football Focus programme to recall his glory days at Goodison and to tell the men of the Beeb that the huge gulf in class between his fourth tier strugglers and Moyes’s Premier League stars could be gulfed on a pitch considered in a poor state by 21st Century standards but a veritable carpet compared to the mud baths of the previous century. {image left: Nigel Jemson celebrates his winner}

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By 3pm over 7,000 fans crammed into the tiny Gay Meadow ground while those who couldn’t be there heard the story unfold on Radio Five as they delivered live second half commentary. That night, Ray Stubbs introduced the highlights of the game on Match of The Day on BBC1. The commentator was Barry Davies {if link below is not working please notify web site here}


After the players had navigated the inevitable media scrummage they began to leave to celebrate a fantastic cup day. All bar the man of the match, Nigel Jemson. The double goal scorer had a nine week old son at home so instead took a moment alone to sit in the now empty stand, clutching an unopened bottle of champagne in one hand and young Wayne Rooney’s shirt in the other, to take in the events of the day before heading off for a quiet night at home.

Jemson told the pressmen “Ian Woan put me in for the winner, I'd been telling him all day to look for me at the near post and he did it in the first half but Richard Wright made a magnificent save. I got my head to this one too and was flat on my back when I saw Wright get a hand to it, but the ball hit the back of the net. It's lovely to score twice against one of the best teams in the Premiership. We've got some great kids here and if they carry on listening to what they are told, we'll have a few more occasions like this."

Sadly that wasn’t to be for the Shrews. While Everton went on to finish seventh in the Premier League, Shrewsbury’s season fell apart. They failed to win any of their next four games in a period where their form was largely put down simply to a bit of cup fever. The Shrews were drawn at home again and now faced the prospect of pulling off an even bigger shock by taking on title chasing Chelsea in round four with local fan Paul Jackson even recording a song, ‘Fly the Flag’ to mark the event. Only 1,000 copies of the tune performed by a group of local Shrews fans with the help of club mascot, Lennie the Lion were ever pressed.

The TV cameras were at Gay Meadow to cover the fourth round tie but the magic of the cup wasn’t to be repeated and once Chelsea took a 40th minute lead the contest was effectively over. The men from Stamford Bridge strolled through the second half to a comfortable 4-0 victory.

Most Shrews fans and pundits now expected the team to meander through the remaining fifteen games of the season without any serious danger of relegation but as the draws and defeats began to stack up they were dragged further into trouble. The club failed to win any of their remaining games, losing the last eight on the trot in a remarkable collapse that saw the heroes of January rapidly become villains. Kevin Ratcliffe resigned before the penultimate game of the season with Shrewsbury needing a great escape to survive, moving on to a new career in TV punditry. Mark Atkins took over the reins but was unable to turn the tide, overseeing the defeat in the next game that confirmed the end of half a century of League Football. Atkins retired at the end of the season to move into non-league management.

Nigel Jemson and Ian Woan sadly found that their relationship with the Shrewsbury fans rapidly turned sour as both were singled out for not giving enough to the cause. Woan departed for soccer in the United States while Jemson joined Irish League side Ballymena.

David Artell briefly returned to his parent club Mansfield, only to be then released to continue a career in the lower Leagues, which eventually saw him capped as a Gibraltar International. Alex Smith found a similar fate when returning to his parent club, Reading and also continued a career in the lower divisions. Peter Wilding was one of the few to avoid criticism from the fans but retired from the professional game at the end of the season.

Ian Dunbavin, Darren Moss, Ryan Lowe, Sam Aiston, Jamie Tolley, Luke Rodgers and Steve Jagielka all stayed on to build the backbone of the squad that was to win back their place in the Football league the following season. All would leave Gay Meadow over the course of the next two seasons to continue their careers in the lower divisions with the exception of Rodgers, who made his way to the New York Red Bulls where his strike partner for a time was Thiery Henry. Steve Jagielka’s brother, Phil would later go on to score a semi-final penalty shoot-out winner for Everton.

Gay Meadow itself was torn down in 2010, three years after Shrewsbury had vacated the ground for a new stadium on the edge of town. Today it is home to luxury apartments that overlook the severn where once 7,000 fans looked on in delight, or indeed horror when Nigel Jemson chewed up the Toffees.

Town: 1:Ian Dunbavin, 2:Darren Moss, 31:Alex Smith, 12:Peter Wilding, 30:David Artell, 17:Ryan Lowe {replaced by 11:Sam Aiston-85}, 8:Mark Atkins, 4:Jamie Tolley, 20:Ian Woan, 9:Luke Rodgers {replaced by 7:Steve Jagielka-81}, 10:Nigel Jemson {replaced by 14:Liam Drysdale-90} {Manager-Kevin Ratcliffe}

Everton: 1:Richard Wright, 27:Peter Clarke, 4:Alan Stubbs, 5;David Weir, 6:David Unsworth {29:Kevin Mcleod-90}, 26:Lee Carsley, 17:Scott Gemmill {12;Li Tei-76}, 16;Thomas Graveson {Niclas Alexandersson-45}, 15:Gary Naysmith, 7:Tomasz Radzinski, 18:Wayne Rooney, {Manager-David Moyes}