Can Shrewsbury Town defy the odds and get promoted to the Championship?
Shrewsbury Town have been the surprise package of League One this season. The Shrews were seen as relegation candidates at the start of the season but have proven everyone wrong by making a stunning start to the season. They are currently 2nd in the league table, 2 points behind the leaders Wigan Athletic and 5 points ahead of 3rd place Blackburn Rovers. Paul Hurst, who joined the club after winning the National League title and FA Trophy with Grimsby Town, is the man behind the miracle workers and he has made his side a handful for their League One opponents. Here is the team that is defying the odds this season-
The usual 'keeper for the Shrews is Dean Henderson, who is on loan from Premier League giants Manchester United. He spent last season on loan at Grimsby Town in League Two having previously had a loan spell at non-league side Stockport County. He is a talented young goalkeeper and looks set for a big future in the game. Their back-up goalkeeper is Craig MacGillivray, who is formerly of Walsall and Harrogate Town.
At right-back is either Joe Riley or James Bolton. Riley, 2016, joined the club from Bury in 2016 and is a reliable defender with League One experience. James Bolton moved from Gateshead in the summer and despite never playing in the third tier behind, he has adapted well to life with Shrewsbury. On the opposite side of the defence is usually Mat Sadler. He is vastly experienced in the Football League and has made over 450 appearances in his career.
The central defence partnership has been solid and key to their success. Omar Beckles, formerly of Aldershot and Accrington, plays alongside Aristote Nsiala, who Paul Hurst knows very well from managing him at Grimsby.
On the right of midfield is Shaun Whalley. The 30-year-old has spent the majority of his career playing in non-league but he has been excellent for the Shrews since he joined them from Luton Town in 2015. On the left of midfield they have a variety of options such as Arthur Gnahoua, Alex Rodman, former Port Vale star Louis Dodds or Bryn Morris.
The Shrews are very strong in the central midfield positions. Abu Ogogo has been very consistent for them this season. He joined from Dagenham in 2015 and is the captain of Shrewsbury. He is usually joined by their star man, Jon Nolan. He joined from Chesterfield in the summer and he also knows Paul Hurst from Grimsby. He has been the subject of interest from Norwich City recently. They have a variety of options in midfield, one being Norwich loanee Ben Godfrey.
The Shrews are not that prolific but do know how to grind wins out. Up front they do have some decent strikers at this level. Stefan Payne, who is currently on loan from Championship side Barnsley, has scored 8 goals for them to date. Other options consist of former Grimsby striker Lenell John-Lewis, Norwich loanee Carlton Morris or young Niall Eniss.
I believe that they have what it takes to get promoted to the Championship. They remind of when Burton Albion came 2nd under Nigel Clough in 2015/16. They, like the Shrews, had a solid defence and knew how to grind out results.