Promising signs for Shrewsbury Town
It’s been a decent month for Shrewsbury Town, writes Andrew Harding – far from perfect but there are certainly signs of encouragement.
With transfer business concluded in a swift fashion prior to the season’s opening game at home to Plymouth Argyle, boss Graham Turner has gone about developing a stronger work ethic in a squad that has been refined since last season. Turner had felt that the squad was too big and therefore looked to bring in quality additions while reducing numbers. The return to the rule of five substitutes to be named for Football League matches seemed to further enhance such reasoning.
Results have been interesting if nothing else. Admittedly, cup competition achievements have taken centre stage and, after drawing Arsenal away in the third round, the Carling Cup will surely be the foremost thought in the minds of many Shrewsbury supporters. However, it is the league where Shrewsbury seek to be ultimately rewarded. The opening day’s 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth was a bit of a sickener for the Shrews faithful as Town had created plenty of good chances to extend their 1-0 lead prior to Plymouth’s late equaliser.
The game provided more questions as to how the season would turn out for the Shrews. In recent times, an unsuccessful promotion push has usually been followed by a season of mid-table mediocrity and while the Shrewsbury squad is one of the most talented assembled in some time, there is no doubt that recent history does create a lingering doubt. It’s a doubt that most Shrewsbury supporters are hoping to dismiss early and one sign that helped was the following game in the League Cup.
Many expected the trip to Pride Park to end similarly to the Shrews’ recent travels to clubs in a higher division: Shrewsbury would perform well but would ultimately leave with a defeat. The first half that Shrewsbury provided for the visiting fans was remarkable with swift counter-attacking play interjected with quick passing. It may have been more a case of Derby underestimating Shrewsbury but the Shrews exploited the Rams’ errors to their fullest and deservedly led 3-0. Derby fought back and ensured a nervy close to the game, bringing themselves to within one goal of the Shrews but the first half display had been enough and the Shrews had secured passage to the second round of the League Cup.
Their next game was a short trip from Derby to Burton Albion. League Two seemed to provide a bump back to earth for the Shrews as they drew again 1-1 at the Pirelli Stadium. There was little time for the Shrews to linger on the result and they were soon on the road again to an Oxford United side who many are tipping to make a push for promotion. The Shrews would suffer their first defeat of the campaign at Oxford, falling 2-0 and this result encouraged the idea that the Derby result was a blip rather than a sustainable high for the team. In terms of their approach on the field, Shrewsbury were continuing the ethos that had served them well last season by keeping the ball on the ground as much as possible and utilising long cross-field balls when necessary.
A second round League Cup tie at home to Premier League newcomers Swansea City possibly served as a distraction from league games. Victory at home to Crewe went some way to rebuffing such thoughts and when the Shrews outperformed and beat the Swans 3-1 the following Tuesday night, positivity was the prevalent feeling at the Greenhous Meadow. This feeling has now come through to September thanks to the Shrews’ comeback 2-1 win over Swindon. It was a game that came complete with a “passionate” tantrum from the much talked about Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio and questionable attitudes displayed by some Swindon players.
The month of August would be concluded with a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round exit at the hands of Walsall. Usually this would be a huge disappointment as it is a competition many believe to be very winnable but with the League Cup run throwing up an away game against Arsenal in the third round, the Shrews faithful won’t be too concerned.
Graham Turner had already spoken a few days prior to transfer deadline day of his contentment with the squad available to him and that he didn’t believe there would be any more business for the club to conduct. The emergency loan system means there may be a few new faces over the coming months but it appears that Shrewsbury’s squad is complete for the trials that lay before them.
After a busy August, the squad showed that effective rotation is a possibility. There is no doubt that they need to push on with matters on the field and develop a good run of form but there are encouraging signs for the season ahead, never mind the trip to the Emirates.