Shrewsbury Town fans return to the Meadow for first time in nearly 200 days - with PICTURES and VIDEO

It has been 196 days since Shrewsbury Town fans were last able to cheer their team from the stands but 1,000 season ticket holders were amongst the first in the country to get back to watching live football.

The result might have been a disappointment, as Sam Ricketts' side lost out 2-1 to their Northampton visitors, but for some fans starved of football since March, it was an emotional return.

Speaking after the game there was a common theme amongst those lucky enough to get a ticket – huge praise for the club and its organisation, succeeding where others have failed to get fans safely back in the ground.

Understandably the new environment will take some getting used to, but again there was a common thread, with fans desperate to get back in at the next opportunity.

Chris Wakeman, from Shrewsbury, started watching the side in 1968, and throughout those years there won't have been a more unusual match-day.

The 62-year-old said that the absence of the weekend ritual of watching his team had hit harder than he'd expected over the past few months.

He said: "I have really missed it. I didn't realise how much I had missed it.

Watch: Fans on socially distanced return

"I have been going there for 50-odd years and it was great to be back in. It was quite emotional to be there and see them come out of the tunnel. It is just a shame the performance was not really what we wanted."

The atmosphere was understandably different, with the reduced capacity, the social distancing, and the lack of away support all making it very different from a pre-pandemic fixture – the last home game in March had seen more than 6,000 fans shouting from the stands.

Chris said: "It was a little bit like a friendly atmosphere but it was great to get back in there. The club have done brilliantly, it was very well organised."

Chris Bowen, 48, who last saw his side play in March against Oxford United in a 3-2 loss, said the lack of away fans had affected the atmosphere, but that it had been great to get out of the house and back to the football.

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He added that despite the reduced capacity the 1,000 watching on were still able to make plenty of noise when Shaun Whalley got them back into the contest.

Peter Dickin said that it had been "terrible" without live football on the weekend, adding: "You get all your frustration out on the Saturday when you go to watch."

He added: "It was obviously good to be back, but obviously the atmosphere was a bit strange with no away fans."

Peter said he hoped that the success of the test would mean more fans being allowed in for future fixtures.

He said: "In the circumstances they have done really well. Hopefully it means they will be able to get more fans in for the next time."

Watch: Lewis Cox and Luke Hatfield on fans back at football

Rob Ecclestone from St George's in Telford said the club's efforts to get fans back in the ground had been superb.

He said: "To get it done at such short notice, it is brilliant."

For Rob it was also a different experience because he usually watches from the safe standing section.

He said: "We are normally in the safe standing so it was completely different."

Rob also said the lack of away fans showed how much they could impact an atmosphere.

He said: "It was subdued, not your normal football atmosphere but it was always going to be like that with the little amount of fans.

"We probably missed out on a big gate too, they would have brought a few down with them."

John Taylor praised the club's chief executive Brian Caldwell and the staff for getting them back in the ground.

He said: "Fair play to Brian and his crew, they have done so well at such short notice. Three or four teams pulled out of it."

He added: "It was great to be back and we will be back again whenever we can."

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