In a refreshing turn of events, our opposition for the upcoming game are not Ipswich Town.
In what has been an attritional past few weeks, to come out the other side of it with an away win against one of the division’s stronger sides – albeit in the FA Cup – engenders the sense that we may be on an upwards trajectory. With a second away win of the season under our belts, players returning from injury and an already decent league position, we head into this trip to Shrewsbury Town looking forward to the weeks ahead.
A starting XI on Tuesday night featuring six central midfielders highlights where the quality in the squad currently is. Whether it’s sustainable over the course of the season to shoehorn as many of our best players into the team as possible remains to be seen, but with our wide options limited until we can add to the squad in January, it may be what sees us through to the end of the year.
The dynamism of a potential front three of Maxime Biamou, Callum O’Hare and Jordan Shipley will be important in avoiding the team sliding into sterile possession. Knowing that the deeper midfield three of Jamie Allen, Liam Walsh and Liam Kelly can break up the play and take care of the ball should provide Shipley, O’Hare and Biamou with the impetus to make runs in behind the opposition defence. Additionally, with Maxime Biamou among the goals since his return to the starting line-up, we may just have that penalty area presence we’ve been missing since Marc McNulty’s departure two summers ago.
At the back, it looks like Dominic Hyam will be the man to miss out as a result of the switch to a back four. It would be a curious decision given that Hyam is our best central defender, but Mark Robins has demonstrated throughout his time at the club that it can be hard for a player to break back into the side if the team wins in their absence.
Last Time We Met
It was the last Coventry City game played at the Ricoh Arena, although that didn’t look to be the case at the time. With news that the club were negotiating a new rental deal with Wasps, Steve Ogrizovic announcing his retirement as goalkeeping coach and speculation that Bright Enobakhare was set to stay at the club for another year, there was a buoyant mood around the game.
Against a Shrewsbury Town side that offered few attacking ambitions, Jordan Shipley’s first-half goal looked to be enough to win the game. However, a soporific second-half showing from the Sky Blues saw the opposition gradually get themselves back into the game, pouncing on some poor set-piece defending to secure a point that made their League One status for this season certain.
Manager – Sam Ricketts
With Shrewsbury Town currently 12th in the division, former Sky Blues captain Sam Ricketts is achieving just about par – if not slightly better than that – in his first full season in charge of the club, albeit in just about the dullest way possible. League games involving Shrewsbury Town have involved just 35 goals, with 10 of those 18 matches ending either 0-0 or 1-0 (to either side).
Whether it has been Sam Ricketts’ intention to create such an unexciting brand of football or has been the result of the team still being in transition after being dismantled two summers ago following a run to the League One Play-Off Final is perhaps still debatable despite Ricketts taking over just over a year ago and having had two transfer windows to mould the squad to his liking. Although, Ricketts had tended to pick teams with lots of defensive players and little support for the attack.
Who To Look Out For?
Shrewsbury Town’s back three of Ro-Shaun Williams, Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Aaron Pierre is an incredibly imposing trio at both ends of the pitch. Physically being able to get past them is going to be a tricky ordeal for our forwards in this game, and if we do, the covering pace of former Manchester United youngster Ro-Shaun Williams can further limit the ability of opposition teams to threaten Max O’Leary in the Shrewsbury goal.
There is further quality in the side in central midfield, with two excellent passing midfielders in Sean Goss and Ollie Norburn, who offer a different dimension to Shrewsbury’s largely defensive focus. The box-to-box Josh Laurent has become an important figure this season due to his energy levels and ability to make runs into the penalty area, going some way to providing the missing link between midfield and attack and currently topping the club’s goalscoring charts.
That Shrewsbury’s current top-scorer is a central midfielder has been partially down to a lack of attacking support as well as some bad luck with summer signings Steve Morison and Callum Lang – retired and injured, respectively. There were big hopes surrounding the addition of former Hibernian hot-shot Jason Cummings in the summer, however, the Scottish striker has struggled for form recently, despite his work-rate and finishing ability representing the kind of qualities Sam Ricketts needs in a striker in his system.
Areas To Exploit
There is a lot to suggest that this game will be a low-scoring affair, with the side opening the scoring highly likely to come out on top. Although Shrewsbury have been more open at home compared to away, Sam Ricketts has demonstrated that he is willing to set-up in a cautious fashion against the division’s better teams even in front of his own fans. Whether Shrewsbury consider us one of the division’s better teams is likely to have a bearing on how this game plays out.
The emphasis is likely to be on ourselves to take the game to Shrewsbury and look to break through a well-organised defence. With the odd exception, it’s something we’ve tended to do well this season, although mainly at St Andrew’s rather than in away games.