In midweek, we watched a Lincoln City side have a win we didn’t deserve snatched from our grasp. In the cold light of day, the point we brought away from Sixfields was hard-fought against a decent side.
Northampton leveraged that late leveller to beat Peterborough this afternoon with a last-minute winner. City, on the first half showing in Shropshire, suffered a hangover of sorts. There are many factors that went into a tepid first-half performance; I’m going to look at the overall performance, but let’s not forget we took three points from a Shrewsbury side that were well-organised and tough.
Once again, the team news was all about who would play, not who wouldn’t. There’s certainly depth in our squad right now, and that was proven by TJ Eyoma not making the 18 after starting in midweek. It’s harsh on TJ, but against a challenging pairing of Udoh and Bowman, I think Jackson’s aerial capability perhaps trumped Eyoma’s skillset. I’d like to think it wasn’t a direct outcome of the header he made against Northampton because I felt he did okay for most of that encounter. The other big shout was Ben House dropping to the bench and Tyler Walker starting. Given that Shrewsbury had some big units at the back, it was interesting to see a player who perhaps likes running in behind more than playing holdup. If the weather conditions had been calm, it might have been a master stroke. Instead, a swirling wind was in our faces for 45 minutes, and it showed.
I said in midweek Northampton were a side that impressed me, and I can’t say the same against Salop. The conditions really didn’t help, and having their backs to the wind allowed them to be a bit more direct, but it was so unpredictable that long balls just floated out of play. The home side still felt a lot like Steve Cotterill’s team. -the key players are the same as last season, the threats were the same, and the evolution under Matt Taylor and Mickey Moore is going to take some time to develop, I feel. They’re not a bad side at all, and in the first half, they were undoubtedly the better team, but they won’t be troubling the top six over the course of 46 games. They might say the same about us, though. It’s hard to develop a proper overview of a team’s chances in 90 wind-swept minutes, so hopefully, I won’t get pelters from Salop fans!
We did struggle with the conditions, but there were a few nervy moments of our own doing. Jensen booted the ball out of play a couple of times, then went for a corner that he didn’t get, resulting in Taylor Perry firing over. Our first chance, indeed our only chance of the first half, came from Reeco Hackett, who fired a vicious drive over.
We couldn’t get going, and Mark Kennedy revealed part of the reason was Danny Mandroiu carrying an injury. Shrewsbury’s medical team gave him an injection to allow him to play for us, a rather magnanimous gesture that many clubs would not have done. In fairness to Danny, he did look a little off the pace, although they were doubling up on him as well (in some instances, he was shackled by three players at a time). We huffed, and we puffed, but injections or not, we couldn’t get out in the first half.
It should have been 1-0 to Salop just after the half-hour mark. A quick counter saw the lively Udoh play in Perry, who broke clear and cut back only for Jensen to make a strong save. Perry is a player our head coach worked with at Wolves, who followed Mickey Moore from Cheltenham to Shrewsbury, and he’s going to be a big name for them over the coming months. Still, he wasn’t able to convert, but it wasn’t the last of the chances. On more than a couple of occasions, they peppered Jensen’s goal without the big Dane having another save to make.
There’s no doubt the first half was a tough watch – I’d go as far as to say horrible. I don’t think we were ‘awful’ as such, that would be a little strong and if we were, I think we’d have conceded. We just weren’t on it, and it felt like a bit of a hangover from the body blow against the Cobblers, combined with an organised if not spectacular home side, and the wicked wind of the west.
By half-time, it felt like we were hanging on a bit. Shrewsbury had one shot on target, us none, but they’d had eight that hadn’t tested the keeper. The conditions didn’t help, but Walker had looked isolated, and we’d struggled to string three or four passes together. Whilst the home side had been better, it had been a truly tough game to watch, with neither side registering more than 70% passing accuracy. I think that reflected the conditions, and I expected changes at half-time.