|Ipswich Town 2 v 1 Shrewsbury Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 9th October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Probably Our Time to Go Down - Notes for Shrewsbury Town
Friday, 8th Oct 2021 15:00 by TomTheWriter
As the Blues welcome Shrewsbury to Portman Road, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.
Having picked up 10 points from their last five games in all competitions, Town return to Portman Road looking to take advantage of a League One schedule reduced by the international week.
Their opponents, Shrewsbury Town, have struggled this season under Steve Cotterill and are second-bottom one or two bad results away from being cut adrift of safety in the league.
So far, in the league season, the Shrews have picked up two wins, two draws and seven defeats in 11 games and will be looking to bounce back from two straight losses.
Last season, attacking midfielder Shaun Whalley provided the goals, Aaron Pierre offered strength and stability at the back with Matt Pennington turning an impressive loan into a permanent deal.
“I think Cotterill is a big character and just 'ruling the roost' with full backing from the board and he's perhaps untouchable after what happened last year”, “Cotterill isn't going to get fired and we'll likely be in the relegation zone or just outside it come January”, “If we do go down Cotterill is the man to take us back into League One at the first attempt.”
Seasoned veteran Cotterill arrived at the New Meadow in November of 2020, and oversaw the club’s impressive survival having been in the relegation zone when he took over.
“[Chairman] Roland [Wycherley] has put 100 per cent faith in him, he got the man he'd been after for years and that decision was rubber-stamped by such an amazing turnaround that kept us up”, “Cotterill has just under three years left on his contract, we can’t afford to pay him off and doing so will cause more harm than good”, “Roland will give the manager time, he gave [Sam] Ricketts another nine months when it clearly wasn’t working.”
Cotterill was hired in November last year off the back off a 12-game run including only one win for previous manager Ricketts and was tasked with keeping the club up. He performed miracles in his first few months in charge before everything started to change.
“Hope Cotterill is well enough to raise a glass in celebration tonight. He deserves it, and then some”, “An amazing transformation so a big thank you to everyone involved, the only unknown is how is Cotterill’s health after Covid”, “I’ve only one person I want to see starting next season and that’s Steve Cotterill.”
In January of 2021, Cotterill was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary with Covid-19, and spent the next few months in and out of hospital dealing with the effects of the virus.
“Cotterill's illness could have been truly disastrous, the Covid outbreak at the club massively disrupted good momentum and there have been the usual spate of injuries. So, brilliant work from the management team and huge credit to [Aaron] Wilbraham and [David] Longwell in particular for stepping up at a very difficult time with limited experience”, “Let’s just hope Cotterill is back well before next season starts”, “We need Steve to get fit himself though, he can’t start next season on the bench, don’t take that in a bad way but he can’t and I’m sure he won’t.”
Eventually, Cotterill was cleared of all symptoms relating to Covid in March and was back in charge in July for pre-season. He admits himself that he was lucky to come out the other side and thanked his support staff for the progress made on the field last season.
Like Gillingham, Shrewsbury have a history of big rebuilds each season and that was the case again this summer.
Star midfielder Ollie Norburn joined Peterborough United in the Championship with centre-back Ro-Shaun Williams leaving for fellow League One side Doncaster Rovers.
Leon Clarke, Donald Love and Brad Walker all departed for League Two, joining up with Bristol Rovers, Salford City and Port Vale respectively. A handful of other players all left at the end of their contract for pastures new. Eight loan players also returned to their parent clubs at the end of the season.
From the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, nine of the starting XI remain from their 3-2 defeat away to Crewe Alexandra on the final day with three of the bench still at their club.
In terms of squad strength, Shrews fans have their fan favourites already this season, whilst they are complimentary of the defensive clan.
“[Luke] Leahy is our star man and we need to wrap him and [Josh] Vela in cotton wool. Young Tom Bloxham could well be a star of the future”, “Defensively we actually look decent on paper”, “We have got the players to be comfortably mid-table (injuries permitting) by the end of the season, if not the squad.”
However, there are a lot of weaknesses identified from the early stages of the season for Town to exploit.
“Not playing players to their strengths due to such a small squad, the new keeper has not impressed me and not as good as the one we had last season”, “The defence has been dismal, unable to defend the near and far post, far too many free headers, we seem incapable of tracking players, regularly caught out by diagonal balls and gaping holes in the centre of the defence”, “We don't score enough goals and inevitably we fall behind in a game due to defensive frailties.”
Shrewsbury 3-1 Wolves U21
“A bittersweet victory. Glad there wasn't many first-teamers in there today”, “Bloxham continues to impress and I liked the look of Callum Wilson at right-back. [Khanya] Leshabela and [Nathanael] Ogbeta both did much better second half, which helped turn the game around”, “Leshabela unrecognisable in the second half. Maybe there is a player there. Bloxham’s head hadn’t dropped as someone suggested, he was just knackered. Like all the youngsters, he put in a really good shift.”
“Well done young ‘uns, as far as I'm concerned we may as well play them in the league games, can't do no worse. Bloxham should be playing regularly anyway”, “I know it’s a nothing competition but still good to get a win and some goals”, “Good win in the end Wolves will feel a bit hard done by but the kids did very well tonight and Leshabela had a great second half.”
Shrewsbury played a heavily-rotated side for their 3-1 victory over Wolves in the Papa John’s Trophy with Rekeil Pyke, Bloxham and academy star Louis Lloyd getting on the scoresheet.
Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Shrewsbury Town
“Cotterill should go, how can such an experienced manager leave us with such a small, unbalanced squad that’s now firmly a relegation contender?”, “To be absolutely fair, we were the better team before Bolton scored, loads of pressure and positivity”, “We weren't terrible today and indeed we might have got something out of the game if it wasn't for yet more lethargic defending and keeping, and a truly shocking penalty.”
“Felt the performance was okay yesterday. They weren’t lacking in effort and had that penalty gone in perhaps we would’ve been coming away with a point”, “The penalty was beyond awful and perfectly symbolised everything that has gone wrong this season: indecisive and underpowered”, “Overall, left with a feeling of there being no way out of situation that is somehow even stickier than under Ricketts.”
Shrewsbury’s 2-1 defeat to Bolton saw them name the same side that lost the previous week to Wycombe Wanderers with Leahy picking up the consolation goal.
“Not convinced by [Marko] Marosi”, “Very debatable on Marosi I have to say, I don’t see a good goalkeeper in him”, “Poor finishing, and I'd be questioning Marosi for both goals.”
Summer signing Marosi was an impressive signing by League One standards, dropping down from Coventry City to the division he won with the Sky Blues two seasons before.
“It seemed to me that [Harry] Burgoyne was trying to protect his manager when their coach came across”, “Burgoyne made a couple of decent saves but their goal was a rebound off his chest”, “Burgoyne - could he be our first-choice keeper?”
Young goalkeeper Burgoyne started against Wolves and looks to be the second-choice keeper on paper. However, a few poor games from Marosi could see Burgoyne come into the side.
“[Aaron] Pierre is almost fit after his regular summer holiday bloat”, “At least Pierre seems to be getting back to full fitness, thank goodness”, “Mr Pierre has been outstanding last two games.”
Grenada international Pierre has played in every league game for Shrewsbury this season and looks set to continue that run this weekend.
“[George] Nurse has a good engine and can tackle”, “I hope Nurse gets the nod over [David] Davis who is more than a yard or two off the pace”, “It wasn't the smartest defensive header from Nurse, I know he was under pressure but surely he needs to be heading that backwards, not towards the penalty spot.”
Another summer signing, attacking full-back Nurse has been playing across multiple positions this season to fill in for injury players, most notably at centre-back and centre midfield. His versatility has been useful for Cotterill this season.
“[Elliot] Bennett has quality at times but also seems to be error prone so it would be good to see [Josh] Daniels at right wing-back”, “Bennett is like a fish out of water”, “It might be me but I expected more from Bennett.”
Adding some experience to the dressing room, Bennett arrived after his release from Blackburn Rovers in the summer. Comfortable on the right, he could be the man targeted by a returning Kyle Edwards if the winger starts this weekend.
“He's by far our best player at the moment by a country mile”, “Leahy is fantastic, the only player who could cut it as far as I could see”, “Putting Leahy in the middle means we lose our best attacking outlet.”
Another defensive reinforcement this summer, Leahy has been the pick of the Shrewsbury players this season. Mainly a left-back, he has been used as a makeshift centre midfielder with Vela out injured.
“I do like him too but are we being fooled by his ability to get forward and don’t realise how bad he can be getting back?”, “Leahy has some creativity”, “Leahy has been a shining star for sure.”
The man signed from Bristol Rovers has been dangerous from set pieces this season, scoring a cracker against Bolton Wanderers. Will be the main creative threat this weekend.
“I like [Ethan] Ebanks-Landell. I can’t fault his effort and commitment. Not his fault most of the rest of the team aren’t up to the job”, “Ebanks-Landell is on the floor and kicks it to their player who scores unbelievable”, “Except he’s the captain so must take a bit more responsibility than any other player otherwise no point in having a captain.”
Club captain Ebanks-Landell, or as he is known ‘EEL’, has started the last 10 games in all competitions, the longest streak of any player at the club currently.
“Steady enough. Won some decent aerial battles”, “Clearly we need one more centre-back, two if Ebanks-Landell is moved on”, “At least he’s paid for the privilege of being embarrassed - it’s the other way round for us.”
Ebanks-Landell has been with the club since 2019 and has been an ever-present in the backline since then. Usually seen at the centre of the three-man defence, expect him to be there again this weekend.
“Not sure he suits a back three”, “Then again, playing Pennington in defence I just don't get”, “Go back before that and Pennington leaves their guy on the corner of the penalty area in far too much space so it's easy for him to get the cross in.”
Ex-Town loanee Pennington has had some rotten luck when it comes to club choice. He joined Ipswich on loan the season the club got relegated, then the next season he moved to a Hull City side that also suffered the drop. Finally has a permanent home at Shrewsbury and will need to kick on to live up to his high potential.
“His touch was awful. But lack of midfield options means he won’t be challenged for his place”, “Sorry to single him out but he's in the thick of it and as our main defensive midfielder he has to do far, far better”, “Davis missed a crucial opportunity to make any sort of clearance for [Joe] Jacobson's goal, he backs off when he should be closing down and misses tackles that he should be winning.”
Senior midfielder Davis arrived at Shrewsbury last season, before signing on once more for this season. Has his critics in the stands, but looks to be needed in the middle with Vela possibly out injured for a few more weeks.
“I can't see why Ogbeta isn't getting some opportunities - if only to see if he's improved his attitude and if he can recapture the form we know he's capable of”, “Also good to see Ogbeta providing a lovely cross into the box for our second. I hope he can get his form back. With such a small squad we desperately need players of his ability playing well rather than kicking his heels on the bench”, “Ogbeta played more long backwards passes then anything creative until in the last 20 minutes when he looked to attack and we then looked a threat”,
Picked up in January of last season, Ogbeta was a real coup for Cotterill’s men with his direct running and impressive left foot. Saw interest from Peterborough United rebuffed this summer and that seems to have affected him.
“I am bemused by the lack of opportunities for Leshabela especially considering the lack of other options”, “I hope he's given a chance in the next couple of games with some of our regular midfielders looking questionable”, “Leshabela was unrecognisable in the second half. Maybe there is a player there.”
On loan from Leicester City for the season, Leshabela has had to wait for his chance to impress the manager, but a solid display against Wolves could see him jump into the midfield this weekend.
“Daniels has been injured (a knock in training prior to AFC Wimbledon I think) but I would agree that he should be involved if fit”, “Hopefully Ogbeta and Daniels can start tomorrow and do enough to play a bigger part in the upcoming league games”, “Not playing Daniels our other stand out player frustrates me.”
The player pushing Bennett at right-back, Daniels is a natural winger who is very capable at right wing-back. Has been injured for a few weeks, so will be interesting to see if he returns this weekend.
“Our midfield problems have been well documented, we rely heavily on one man”, “We are now missing the star player Vela, no idea how long for”, “We clearly missed Vela - somebody who could run at them from midfield - but I thought we were worth a draw.”
After Norburn’s departure to the Championship, the mantle of star midfielder was handed to Vela, who looks to be head and shoulders above the rest in the centre of the park. Comfortable on the ball, he started the first nine league games of the season.
“We clearly missed Vela - somebody who could run at them from midfield”, “If Vela isn't fit surely [Leshabela] is worth a go. Tonight, he is the only central midfielder playing so I think it's fair to give him a go in a vaguely normal team”, “That said, unless we sell Vela in January, he'll clearly go for nothing as I can't see him wanting to stay with the state of the team being what it is at present.”
However, he hasn’t featured for the club since the 2-1 over AFC Wimbledon, missing the past three games. His fitness will determine Shrewsbury’s effectiveness in controlling the midfield on Saturday.
“I’m sure he has great ability somewhere there but his attitude and aptitude suck so if the fans see it I’m sure the players see and get affected by it”, “[Sam] Cosgrove and Leshabala will be sent back I presume unless anything miraculous happens”, “Cosgrove shouldn't play again for us.”
Dubiously linked with Town in the summer, the Shrews have snapped up Cosgrove on a season-long loan from Birmingham City. The strong frontman scored hatfuls of goals in Scotland but has struggled since moving to England.
“He needs a good spell with a non-league side to try and get some confidence”, “I'm pleased for [Pyke], he's had a rough time lately”, “In spite of the goal, Pyke just doesn't cut the mustard nor does Cosgrove for me!”
Another attacking option, Pyke scored against Wolves during the week for his first Shrewsbury goal, but finds himself behind a lot of young talent for the striker position.
“As much as I love Bloxham, is it value for money or time to watch another relegation scrap with a bone-thin squad propped up by 17-year-olds?”, “Have you noticed that Tom Bloxham is much better at centre forward, rather than being played out wide”, “Pleased Bloxham got his goal and he was a bright spot throughout (even in a disappointing first half when I think he was asked to play more to the right side of things).”
Young striker Bloxham has been the breakthrough youngster for Shrewsbury this season, able to play off the right and up top. Has scored two goals, including an excellent bicycle kick to claim his first senior goal.
“[Dan] Udoh is trying his best but the service isn’t there”, “Udoh could certainly not play effectively in that role”, “There was no coherent plan going forward, unless the plan was to give the tireless Udoh countless hopefully balls to chase and hope he has the ability and vision to make a goal out of a blind alley. He tried his hardest today but all his chases and battles with the defenders were in vain.”
Nigerian youth international Udoh has been with Shrewsbury since 2019, and has lasted a lot longer than some of the other options around him. Quick off the ball, Udoh is best used alongside another striker.
“Udoh and [Ryan] Bowman are nowhere near League One standard”, “Fair play for Bowman though for feeling guilty and rolling it back to the keeper”, “Bowman should have had a shot when six yards from goal is the sort of decision that won't help you win games.”
Handpicked as their new leading striker, Bowman spent a few years in League Two with Exeter City scoring double digits almost every season. The 29-year-old was snapped up by Shrewsbury this summer, but has so far been unable to recreate that form and missed a penalty at Bolton.
“Bowman is obviously trying his best but it’s just not coming off for him and that penalty won’t help confidence”, “In the end, just that clownish penalty by Bowman was the difference”, “Bowman is having a mare today. Everything he is trying is ending with Bolton gaining the ball.”
Since he joined, he has picked up one goal from 10 games and has struggled to make an impact in the Shrews’ attack. Played alongside Udoh on Saturday, and could do the same this weekend.
“[Shaun] Whalley plays that advanced midfielder role well but some of his theatrics would not go down well if he were an opposing player”, “Does this also apply to our own players, as Whalley dived on Saturday to win the penalty and did it the week before which was ignored?”, “Whalley’s dive was shameless.”
Senior attacker Whalley has been with the club since 2015 and has been utilised behind the striker this season. His diving has been questioned by his own supporters, who aren’t fans of his attempts to fool the officials.
“Sadly, we are looking at the end of Whalley. Club hero but we're into the final chapter”, “Whalley is knackered. I'm surprised he's stayed on”, “Whalley looked absolutely knackered at around 65 minutes and perhaps should have gone off earlier (not due to performance).”
At the age of 34, Whalley looks to be heading into his final season with the club, but has been a stalwart for almost six years. Having spent most of his career as a non-league journeyman, he can be proud of his time with Shrewsbury.
Shrewsbury Town Fans on ITFC
“Ipswich away where who knows what Ipswich team show up. One that could paste us five or six, or the all over the shop Ipswich”, “Wonder what they will charge if the drop to League Two next season. Long time to go but this ‘big club’ needs to improve a bit to be sure they don’t go down”, “Every game is a relegation cup final from now on. Starting with Ipswich.”
“I’m afraid I’m another with very low expectations. Suspensions and injuries are yet to kick in”, “This year it seems like acceptance, I just don’t feel connected with the squad this year or the manager and have almost accepted already that it’s probably our time to go down after three awful seasons in League One”, “What I will say is that there has been an entertainment factor to almost every game we’ve played this season. Threadbare squad, confused management, plenty of effort and some tidy individuals, but overall each game gives the impression of a League Two side giving a pretty good account of themselves against a League One side.”
The only forum for a Shrewsbury fan is the Blue and Amber forum, a comprehensive and extensive area for all Shrewsbury fans to dive into and one of the more active forums researched so far this season.
Photo: Action Images
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