Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in!
Somehow, there’s still a chance we can make the play-offs, although, we require results on Saturday afternoon to go in our favour. A defeat for Doncaster Rovers, along with Peterborough picking up fewer than four points in their next two games will keep the dream alive until the final day – provided we do our part and beat Shrewsbury Town in this upcoming fixture – to set up a tantalising clash with Doncaster Rovers – if Peterborough lose their next two games, our final game of the season becomes effectively a pre-play-off play-off.
In a week where hope of remaining at the Ricoh Arena was restored and club legend Steve Ogrizovic announced his retirement, there is plenty to celebrate regardless of how meaningful this final home game of the season comes to be.
Having found a starting XI that has proven itself capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the division, there is no way that Mark Robins will be contemplating any changes to the current set-up – injuries permitting – aside from restoring Jordan Willis at centre-back in place of Tom Davies.
The main question mark heading into this game is whether this side is set up to break down a determined opposition at home. The pace and skill in our front four means that we benefit from open games where teams leave space in behind for us to exploit. In light of that, some of the precision we belatedly saw against Bradford City last Friday, particularly in Liam Kelly’s passing, is hopefully something that we can build on here.
Elsewhere, there is possibly an argument for playing Corey Addai in goal in this game if results go against us and there is nothing to play for. With Lee Burge and Liam O’Brien set to leave in the summer, Mark Robins may want to test Addai in competitive league action to see whether he’s worth keeping around as second-choice. Although, this is presuming that Robins hasn’t already made his mind up on Addai based on training and under-23 games.
Last Time We Met
We were on an eight-game winless run as we took on Shrewsbury Town just before Christmas, it became nine in a truly insipid display, capped off by Shrewsbury’s decidedly non-prolific centre-forward Aaron Holloway scoring the game’s winning goal – which, of course, came from a set-piece.
Manager – Sam Ricketts
Although he has achieved par for the course in all but ensuring Shrewsbury Town’s safety for another season – they may only need one more point to stay up by kick-off, they also have a final game at home against a Walsall side who may be relegated by then as a fall-back – former Sky Blues captain Sam Ricketts has yet to really justify why the club were so keen to appoint him with less than six months prior managerial experience with National League Wrexham.
The main source of frustration with Ricketts is a trait he could well have picked up from Tony Mowbray, constantly tinkering with his starting XI. Players have dropped in and out of the side seemingly regardless of previous results or performances, which has made Shrewsbury incredibly inconsistent, even though they have pulled off some important results to prevent slipping into crisis. Although Ricketts may benefit from a summer to put his own squad together, he may well find himself under pressure early next season if he gets off to a poor start.
Who To Look Out For?
If Shrewsbury are to get the result from this game they require to make absolutely certain of safety, the pace and skill they pose on the counter-attack is likely to be vital. In the experienced winger Shaun Whalley and the explosive young forwards Tyrese Campbell and Fejiri Okenabirhie, a key element of this game from our perspective will be in keeping quiet whichever of those three players Sam Ricketts decides to pick.
Whalley’s skill and delivery as a wide-man mark him out as someone probably capable of playing at a higher-level, although his age is against him. Okenabirhie is somewhere between a striker and a winger and hit a hot-streak around December before seeming to burn-out over the course of the season although will be a threat if deployed in this game. Tyrese Campbell looks a natural-born finisher with excellent technique in his finishing while offering pace running in behind.
Shrewsbury also have goals from midfield in the form of penalty taker Ollie Norburn, a ball-playing midfielder who has stepped up impressively from non-league this season, and the more attack-minded Greg Docherty, on loan from Rangers. Operating behind them will be the experienced Anthony Grant, who is an absolute expert in leaving niggly tackles on opponents that evade the attention of referees and winning soft free-kicks at the slightest, if any, contact.
Areas To Exploit
The lack of pace of centre-back Luke Waterfall was cruelly exposed last week during a defeat against a 10-man Oxford United side. Although fellow centre-backs Ro-Shaun Williams and Omar Beckles offer more mobility, if we can find ways to isolate Waterfall against the pace and skill that we have in attack, we are likely to find joy.
Additionally, Shrewsbury under Sam Ricketts aren’t a side that risk throwing players forward, which should make marking their key attacking threats more straightforward than were the entire team more attack-minded. Given Shrewsbury’s situation, they are likely to be more than happy to soak up pressure for long spells of this game in order to scrape a point that could well secure them safety. This is set up to be yet another home game that we’ll dominate for long spells, an early goal for us is likely to go a long way towards victory.