September showed this can be Shrewsbury Town's season
One particular fixture loomed prevalently over Shrewsbury Town for the whole of September, writes Andrew Harding.
Indeed, it has dwarfed the rest of the games in what has been another strong month for the Shrews. There are those that look down on the League Cup but to provide Shrewsbury with an away trip to Premier League opposition, never mind a club with the media profile of Arsenal, was great for all connected to the club. The fact that the Shrews even led at the Emirates is a great source of joy and while Shrewsbury ultimately failed to pull off an upset, the performance certainly belied thoughts that this will finally be the year in which Shrewsbury get promoted to League One.
The momentum gathered in August has been carried forward and while there have been defeats, there have also been some thoroughly excellent victories. September began with a tricky trip to face Gillingham. It appears whenever the two teams play, there is a one-sided result for either team. The game would prove more dogged than recent history but the Shrews ultimately managed to be victorious with a re-taken last-minute penalty scored by Nicky Wroe to make the journey back west a joyous one.
The game against Hereford usually brings with it stereotypical derby emotions but the fixture appeared less confrontational this time around. Last season, it was an evening game and Graham Turner’s defection was fresh in away fans’ minds but the dust has now settled and things appear calmer. The last meeting between the two sides was hardly as scary as a writer for a famous national football magazine sensationally put it, but it was still aggressive with the away fans ripping up a Shrewsbury flag that adorned the unseated part of the away end.
It would appear the organisers had learned from last year’s mistakes by making this season’s affair a lunchtime kick-off. The home side collected another three points with a 3-1 victory, Marvin Morgan continuing his fine form with a brace. The negative from this game was supplied when Terry Gornell inexplicably lunged into the goalkeeper when the ball was loose. Gornell’s lack of pace in the challenge only made it look worse to the official who saw it correctly and gave Gornell his marching orders. The red card meant the former Accrington Stanley striker would miss the trip to the Emirates. Where one door closes, another opens though as this would present James Collins with a chance to get himself back into the team and prove that he could form a formidable partnership with Morgan.
The two-games-per-week pace continued and following a defeat away to Bristol Rovers, the Shrews won 3-2 at Port Vale. This was another game in which Shrewsbury struggled last season and served to further the belief that the Shrews have learned a valuable lesson.
It has become clear that this current squad is more than capable of maintaining the approach that endeared the Shrews to many neutrals last season while improvising in a much more aggressive manner in attack. The three points at Vale Park meant that the Shrews would travel to London with confidence. Indeed, on the journey back from the Emirates Stadium, this had simply been reinforced. Despite the injuries that have plagued the defence this season, the Shrews have continued to play good football no matter which players comprise the team for each game.
Confidence continued to flow and beating Torquay certainly helped exorcise the demons of last season. Another injury, this time to Reuben Hazell, overshadowed the result as while the diagnosis is now better than first feared, he will spend some considerable time on the sidelines. Torquay frontman Rene Howe was the villain of the piece and could have been given his marching orders before the challenge that resulted in Hazell’s injury.
While he was issued a second yellow and a subsequent red card, Howe was evidently frustrated at the passes he was receiving and quite possibly his own abysmal performance. Luckily for the Shrews, Hazell’s injury has happened as Shane Cansdell-Sheriff and Ian Sharps return from their own periods on the sidelines.
Fatigue did begin to show in the 2-0 victory over Torquay. Perhaps it was the change of pace in the fixture list that affected the Shrews in their final game of the month. While the 3-0 scoreline certainly flattered Southend as all parties have agreed, errors in judgement appeared too frequently for the liking of the Shrews supporters.
The month as a whole has been a good one for the Shropshire side. The important moments are yet to come and it will be up to Turner to ensure that the team continue to play football on the ground when things aren’t going their way. Shrewsbury always look out of sorts when playing long-ball and while it is a stereotype, lower league clubs can fall into the habit. Still, these are positive times for the club. As Graham Turner himself put it, “the last month has been quite eventful”.