Bluffer's guide to the play-offs: Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury Town fan Andrew Harding gives his thoughts on whether this is the year for his club…
Feeling confident? How’s your form?
Only a week ago, I was on this site stating the hope is that it will be third time lucky for Shrewsbury Town. While pessimism was the name of the game a few weeks ago, optimism has slowly crept into the forefront of the Shrewsbury fans’ consciousness and with due reason. Shrewsbury go into this year’s play-offs in-form (albeit second to Accrington who are looking to continue their 13-game unbeaten run). To have been so close to automatic promotion, the feeling is that the players will be spurred on to get what its felt is deserved.
The fact is it would be a deserved promotion. This is something new for Shrewsbury as when they had reached their last two play-off final appearances they had done so finishing 7th. This current Shrewsbury team is also the most talented team Shrewsbury have had for some time. Plus with it also being captain Ian Sharps’ third play-off campaign of his career, the wave of optimism is in line with the theory on 3 being the magic number.
Up to now, would you judge your season so far as a success or did you have an eye on the automatic spots?
This season has been a success for Shrewsbury and I think Shrewsbury would take plenty of positives forward into next season, regardless of which division they’ll be a part of (of course League 1 is the preferred destination). Should it end in failure, there’ll be two key moments that Shrewsbury fans will discuss at length once again. Depending on what type of fan a person is depends on which you’d see as more pivotal.
To the people with an outlook on the internal, the 0-0 home draw to Accrington Stanley at a time where automatic promotion was firmly in their hands will be the moment where Shrewsbury dropped the ball and ultimately lost it to Wycombe. To those looking at external sources, the 1-1 draw at home to the team that took the last automatic promotion place was the pivotal moment.
Two horrendous refereeing decisions: Wycombe’s goal should never have been given (by quite some margin, it didn’t cross the line) and the referee blowing the final whistle when his assistant was flagging to award Shrewsbury a penalty.
Did you have the upper hand over your semi-final opponents in the games you’ve played against them already this season?
It’s fair to say that Torquay have the upper hand on the basis of league results between the two sides. At the Greenhous Meadow, it finished 1-1 while the match down south saw Torquay demolish us 5-0. It’s fair to say that Shrewsbury failed to turn up that game and Torquay were the complete opposite. Shrewsbury did play the second half with 10 men after Jermaine Grandison saw red but there is no hiding from Torquay’s emphatic victory.
There is one talking point with the game and it is in regards to a man who scored in both ties between the two clubs for each team. Jake Robinson scored Town’s goal in the 1-1 draw and netted twice against the Shrews in the 5-0 drubbing. Due to a cock-up in the loan deal contract on Shrewsbury’s behalf, Robinson is eligible to play against his parent club in the play-offs, adding further intrigue to the tie.
I would never question a player’s integrity as to what Robinson would do in a given situation but he wouldn’t be forgiven for at least wondering what would happen should he score a goal that would put Torquay in the final instead of his parent club. I actually sincerely hope it turns out to not matter in the grand scheme of things but football does like its controversy as we all can attest to.
Do you think your players have a big-game mentality? Will they step up?
There is a little worry in terms of how Shrewsbury do when it comes to the big occasion. In terms of league games against the rest of the top 7 sides combining home and away games, Shrewsbury claimed 12 points from a possible 36. Looking at results against fellow play-off contenders, the record reads 9 points from a possible 24.
This is something that pessimists and indeed rival play-off team fans have to coo over. This would suggest perhaps that the team don’t have that big game mentality. I sincerely hope that theory is disproved in the upcoming three games.
Who will be your key man?
This is an area of debate. Some would say Mark Wright with his creativity, other might point out the captain Ian Sharps but based on play-off campaigns of previous years, the key man is the man between the sticks, this year that is Ben Smith. The last play-off campaign was made dramatic by the presence of Luke Daniels. His lack of communication with then-left back Neil Ashton lead to a comical own-goal and a 0-1 home defeat that looked to put the campaign in tatters.
The second leg saw Daniels at his absolute best as his heroics not only led to a clean sheet away but also to a penalty shoot-out victory. In the final he wasn’t to blame but it’s an accepted notion that Shrewsbury just never found their feat in the final (against the team that narrowly missed out on this year’s play-offs, Gillingham). It’s surprising the impact an in-form goalkeeper can have on his teammates and Ben Smith has been in good form particularly as of late (5 clean sheets in a row). Continuing this run of clean-sheets would certainly give Shrewsbury every chance of progression.
Who is the semi-final opposition’s dangerman?
Torquay’s threat is far from limited to Jake Robinson. Chris Zebroski is one of the best forwards in the division on his day and he’ll undoubtedly test Sharps and Cansdell-Sherriff. Admittedly, Robinson isn’t alone in the current team links story stakes. Torquay custodian Scott Bevan was once a Shrew and back in January while Robinson moved to Torquay, Nicky Wroe moved in the opposite direction and has become a mainstay in the middle of the park for Shrewsbury since his move.
If you get through, who would you prefer in the final?
Should Town progress to the final, it wouldn’t be much of an issue for any Shrewsbury supporter as to who will await them. Based on league position and the clubs stature, Accrington Stanley would be creditable opponents and on that note, I would say I’d like to face them in the final. That and the less I see of Graham Westley the better.
Who’s going to score your winning goal in the final…?
I’d like it to be Jermaine Grandison just to see how he’d celebrate.