Our fine win over Donny on Tuesday has put us back in with a sniff of the play-offs, but to stay on the scent we now need to win at Shrewsbury on Saturday. And that won’t be as easy as their low position in the table suggests because they are on an impressive little run at the moment.
Shrewsbury’s comeback win at Coventry on Tuesday was their sixth successive game without defeat, and in four of those six games the Shrews have keep a clean sheet. Although they conceded against Coventry, their defence were strong enough to survive a ferocious second-half bombardment as the visitors sought an equaliser after Sullay Kaikai and top scorer Shaun Whalley had put Shrewsbury ahead.
That makes it is really important we find a solution to the problem of not converting more of the chances we create. Yes, we scored twice on Tuesday but we had eight shots on target. Against Gillingham in the previous game we had nine shots on target and converted none. Against a defence as recently frugal as Shrewsbury’s we need to make every chance count.
So what has sparked the mini-revival that has seen them steer clear of the relegation zone. Captain Nathaniel Knight-Percival believes it’s a question of getting accustomed to new players coming in following the sales of the likes of Connor Goldson and Ryan Woods. ‘We’re probably used to each other a lot more now and probably know how we play a lot better,’ he says. ‘Our organisation is a lot better.’
Shrewsbury also have a very successful manager who wasn’t going to stand around watching his achievement of automatic promotion last season thrown away. Micky Mellon has a great track record, having also led Fleetwood from the Conference North into the Football League.
As Shrewsbury assistant manager Mike Jackson, standing in for the flu-hit Mellon, said of the recent change in the team’s fortunes, at home particularly: “Micky and myself spoke about it the other day that we’ve got to give the fans something to shout about. They can see what we’re trying to do and we’re attacking more, there’s more of a dynamic.
‘Sometimes it’s a little bit like a basketball game in that it’s end to end, but the players are really starting to put themselves in a position now to attack teams.’
However, he knows that nothing can be taken for granted. ‘It can turn really quickly,’ he added. “‘We’ve got to dust ourselves down quickly and go again against Scunthorpe on Saturday.’ So we have to be focused on Saturday and take our chances.
A further example of how dangerous Shrewsbury can be came in the FA Cup. After beating our neighbours Gainsborough and the Codheads, they then knocked out two Championship teams, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday, before going out to Manchester United. They are no mugs. Saturday’s encounter will be a tough test.