Following my beloved Shrewsbury Town’s second round success in the Carling Cup over Swansea tonight, I thought I’d evaluate the season so far, one which has already created much discussion in the clubs fanbase.
Our season began at home against a Plymouth Argyle side tipped to struggle, the Devon club arrived ready for a fight and showed us from the off that they were certainly going to be no pushovers, a last minute goal from Plymouth denied us our first 3 points of the season and gave Argyle a much deserved draw. Despite a solid performance, many fans were very skeptical, wondering whether we had really improved from last season at all.
Our questions seemed answered the following Tuesday, as we made the short journey to Championship side Derby, 3-0 up at half time and we were heading for a historic victory, despite a second half fightback from Derby we left the game 3-2 winners and the spirit among our fans seemed to have been lifted.
What followed in the next two games gave our fans real cause for concern, first we travelled to Burton where we struggled to get out of first gear, gone was the attacking threat we posed at Burton’s neighbours Derby, we looked weak going forward, creating very few threats on the Burton goal, we came away with a 1-1 draw, far from deserved.
The following Tuesday we were on the road again, this time travelling to one of the teams who had been tipped for promotion, Oxford United. A game which never looked easy but what followed was one of our worst league performances in a very long time, falling behind in the opening twenty minutes, we looked clueless as a collective unit, our midfield was no where to be seen and our defence looked lost against a superior attacking side. We had one chance of target, a shot from Nicky Wroe outside the area going straight into the waiting hands of Oxfords keeper. What had happened to the side that has terrorised Derby County a week before?
This Saturday we entertained local rivals Crewe Alexandra, a team who had coming into the match failed to get any points on the board in their opening three games. We began the game in complete control and the goal we had been waiting for came 23 minutes into the game, Sean McAllister, one of several changes Turner made to the starting 11, heading home from a Lionel Ainsworth cross. Despite generally dominating the game, we didn’t grab our second till the 90th minute, Nicky Wroe running through the Crewe backline and smashing the ball neatly into the bottom corner.
So going into tonight’s game many Town fans were feeling mixed, we had a premiership side at home, a team freshly promoted and out to prove themselves. Despite falling 1-0 down we took our second scalp in the Carling cup this year, defeating the Premier League new boys 3-1 and doing it with an air of relative comfort.
So the big question now is Saturday, which side is going to show up, the side which ripped apart Derby and then Swansea, or the side that crumbled to its knees against Plymouth, Burton and Oxford?
Many Shrews fans will be scratching their heads as to what is making us so Jekyl and Hyde this season. Is it the heavy schedule? Are our players only showing up for the big occasions ? or has it been a case of our team just getting to know each other. Graham Turner will also be asking the same questions, with many selection issues on his hands, Marvin Morgan has proven to be one of the clubs best signings over the summer, proving to be a real handful for opposing teams, whereas midfielder Matt Richards has thus far failed to impress, being subbed off against Oxford following a terrible performance and then being replaced in the team by Sean McAllister, who has so far done nothing but impress.
If Graham Turner sticks with the same side that has played tonight and against Crewe I feel that we should be able to quite comfortably get a win on Saturday, against a Swindon side who despite their pre season hype have only gained 3 points from their first 4 games, winning one game and losing 3. However, watching Shrewsbury Town play has never been an easy task, the constant worry that we are just going to self destruct week after week doesn’t normally begin to come on until later in the season, oh well, wouldn’t have it any other way I guess.