Tamed by the Shrews

That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?

So, the pre-season optimism has truly deflated already, judging by the sombre reaction to yesterday. When even the more happy-clappy types are walking around with their own personal rain cloud this morning, you know it was beyond shite.

Jampot was there to witness the carnage.


# Here we are again, happy as can be…# (?)

So that wasn’t in the script. After the promising start to the season with creditable performances away at Scunthorpe and a battling performance against the Bees on Tuesday, Worn out Wombles 0 Sparkling Shrews 1 was not at all expected, if you believe the ‘experts’ view that Shrewsbury are ‘relegation fodder.’

So perhaps we, as losers of possibly an early ‘6 pointer’ are now candidates for that role. For we were outfought; outplayed; out lasted; out tempo-ed(?); outshot; out defended; out thought;…. well you get the picture.

It just goes on. When, first game of the season at home you find out your goalkeeper has been announced as man of the match you know it was a bad afternoon for the home yellow and blue. And it started all so well with a decent double chance in the first five minutes that the goalkeeper and defender did really well to save. We thought, OK here we go ….

But urgh!

What went wrong? Well we did try, let’s be fair, but after that initial 5 minute spell they went down the other end and scored. True the ref did not give the foul on Barcham who was held back, but that was just indicative of how the afternoon was going to go. We never really got going and we didn’t get the rub of the green.

Whether it was tiredness from Tuesday night’s endeavours coupled with the fact it is very early in the season to put players under that sort of pressure I do not know; the fitness guys will know. But it was a slight odd selection of players, albeit hampered by injuries, and I did wonder if playing more youth might have given us more…. well, oomph!

After the goal the midfield partially fell apart for a while and then never really got going again. They seemed to be flooding the midfield, possibly playing 5 across the middle with 3 at the back and two up front. Starving our front players of decent ball they looked very comfortable.

Whilst we played the ball out from the back a lot, their passes zipped across the surface unlike ours which languidly rolled, which meant the ball was doing the work for them, not the man. The man was doing his work pressing high, in our faces as our players seemed to chase shadows when Town had the ball.

They were constantly on the front foot, we were on the back, forced into turning (or passing) back numerous times. It was painful and frustrating to watch.

The Scunny game had been a game of two halves and the hope here was we could do the same having somehow held it to 0-1.

No chance. Apart from a LTB inspired 10 minute spell around about 50-60 minutes, more of the same. And in truth 0-3 would not have flattered Town such was their dominance in the game.

Don’t get me wrong – we were not ‘Stevenage’ terrible, just not good enough on the day. Maybe that tiredness I mentioned meant that we did not think to bypass the midfield and play the channels deep. At least then for once we would have been on the front foot…

So where do we go from here?

I guess a good rest will help, but that Plan B option (big guy up front) needs to be considered urgently (even if it is the ageing Robinson). The passing game is good when you get it right (we didn’t) and it works. If it doesn’t it becomes oh so predictable.

Plus points: Only 0-1. George Long.

Minus points: Lack of ability to up the tempo to compete. Tiredness. Almost becoming 11 individuals not a team.

The referee’s a…: well, missed or decided not to give the foul on Barcham that lead to their goal Winching tackle in second half I think on Francomb was only a yellow where I think most thought it was a red. Bit up and down. So, standard League 1 ref. Sigh ……

Them: They will have gone away last night thinking that they have totally controlled this game, bar the first 5 minutes.

And they did. Plenty of running, and movement off the ball and a willingness to keep going forward whatever made it very difficult to play against. It was what we should have been doing of course.

Couldn’t find that 2nd goal (thanks George) and if that continues could come back to haunt then when clubs play better than us, even whilst losing. But they were the team yesterday.

Point to ponder: Is a loss like this actually a blessing in disguise? We’d played pretty well at Scunny and not disgraced ourselves against Brentford. This brings a degree of sanity to matters after a pretty good pre-season too.

Whilst I don’t want too many sanity checks like this it does make you think rightly this early in the season that you have to work for what you get. And, if you need a straw to clutch we weren’t very good against the relegation sides last year, were we?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Only 3.9K above there. Holidays seem to have cut into attendance but is it also a degree of second season syndrome? 2) So not unsurprisingly, not a great amount of passion in the crowd, although Town kept us quiet both on and off the pitch. 3) Their first ever win at KM which brings all meetings to W4 D4 L4 – symmetry.

Anything else? I wasn’t there on Tuesday but a double save then turned the game and it seems so again yesterday. Not that we did not try or that we had a truly woeful performance by anyone. It just didn’t seem to come off. For example, right at the end LTB gets between two Town players and the ball doesn’t fall for him but ricochets off one of their players’ feet without his knowledge.

This is going to be a strange division; I mean Blackburn 1 Doncaster 3; Rotherham 5 Southend (no players off) 0; Bristol Rovers 1 Peterborough 4?

It is going to be a long hard season to be sure , with lots of ups and downs. Let’s hope we’re not a down.

So, was it worth it? Ask me in May 2018, but we’re still ahead of 2016-17.

In a nutshell: We could have been watching the Landlords …..


The good things about yesterday is that a) it’s only the second game of the season, b) it’s shaken off the complacency, and c) Brentford might have taken more out of us than we first thought.

That said (and I’m no fitness guru), should players be that fatigued this early in the season? I know the concepts of peak fitness etc, but Martin Tyler at the Arsenal v Leicester game on Friday made a point – players tend to keep themselves fit during the summer these days anyway, so it shouldn’t be an issue this early.

I know it’s the Prem, but we are a League One squad, and it’s not 1986 any longer. And yes, I know that might be difficult for some of our fans to believe 😉

We do have a week off now to regroup and rethink. And we’ll need to do a fair bit of the latter. Reading around, it seems like our setup was all wrong, as though we’re playing a system that simply doesn’t work.

One wonders if your editor’s concerns expressed during pre-season are coming home to roost. No, not trying to be a smart arse after the event, but playing too many games that weren’t the first XI (think Aldershot and Ebbsfleet the last two PSFs) and now we’re trying to alter things while the actual games are going on.

True, everything needs bedding in, and tweaking is inevitable, but I’m sure I’ve heard about a bad choice of system getting found out by the second league game before.

Oh yeah, I have.

Thankfully, we know how that season eventually ended up, but unlike that day in Sussex two years ago, there was no comeback this time. Indeed, the way we didn’t have any efforts of note yesterday is becoming genuinely concerning.

It’s a problem because lest we forget how last season ended as well, goalscoring wise. Eunuchs look back on that campaign and laugh at how bad we were scoring.

And by the sound of it, it hasn’t got any better. This with – in theory, anyway – a better squad all round. Appiah has disappointed many already, although if it’s true he’s got a groin problem that will explain a lot.

Not least relying on Taylor and McDonald already. The need for a big lump up front may become urgent now, if only to give us something different when all else fails. We’ve still got a couple of weeks of the transfer window left, and the kitty might have to be grabbed just one more time for any loose change.

If that’s not an option, why not just give Antwi a cameo or three? Those there yesterday will answer the question of whether he would have made any difference, but already Plan A seems to have failed in competitive action.

I note Jampot mentioned the “second season syndrome” earlier, and while that – and horseshit on the field – will dampen attendances, it’s fair to say that there’s a bit more expectation on us this campaign.

The club did try and condition fans during the summer that we weren’t going to do as well as we did last season, with tales of the budget and fundraising etc, but I don’t think in the real world of football supporting that approach works.

See, we finished 15th last campaign with arguably a worse squad. And one the manager said in public had some personnel issues which affected team spirit. Not to mention that we’ve supposedly got a higher budget this season.

So expectations have risen, and collectively we expect games like yesterday to be once-offs, and not de rigeur.

I expect more questions to be asked of our squad (and yes, management team) if it underperforms as often as it did for too many times last season. It happened increasingly as we settled into L2 life, and it will happen again now we’re putting our feet under the L1 table.

Or to put it another way – yesterday was shit, and people won’t put up with too many shit weekends. Yes, even our supporters…

Still, seasons are decided by the end of April, not August, and we’ve been taught a very valuable lesson already. Learning and acting on it is another matter, of course, but the good thing is that a decent result against Fleetwood and/or Donny, and all will be fine with the world again…

16 thoughts to “Tamed by the Shrews”

    1. Nobody on the radar at the moment. If the right player comes up we will move but we’re one of many clubs looking and quality is hard to find in August.

      If we do bring one more in I think it will be a last minute job.

  1. Rob, that link to the Crawley game reminded me that it is the only time in my football supporting career that a crowd has chanted a formation in unison. At half time the entire away end started singing “4-4-2, 4-4-2, 4-4-2…”.

    Perhaps the first crowd-induced tactical change in history..?

  2. Whatever happened to the English stiff upper lip?

    One poor performance and some of our fans wave the white flag quicker than a French conchie. For shame!

  3. A truly dire performance yesterday. Can’t believe NA has trotted out the familiar “we lacked intensity” line already.

  4. The players were locked in the dressing room for a fair time yesterday. Whether that was because the management wanted to do some frank talking or it was to protect the players from being invaded by angry fans is not clear.
    However, what is clear is that we are not looking good with half of our defence. Robbo is not the best centre back we have now. Sure, Darius is injured but surely Will is young enough to have recovered better from Tuesday than our oldest player? Also, it saddens me to say it but Callum is better in the final third of the pitch than the first third. Sadly, Meades is also, still, injured and nobody seems to know when he will be playing, but it can’t come soon enough.
    If we aren’t going to score goals, we need to stop conceding them and George Long can’t do it all by himself.
    I’ll give the new players ten games before forming an opinion on them, but we can’t wait ten games for the team to fire. I’m not concerned that NA can’t sort it, but we have some tricky looking games coming up and may not have much more in terms of points than we do now and that may make some people uncomfortable.
    Bring on the Cod Army!

    1. I’ve been uncomfortable with the Meades situation for a while – he just isn’t fit for long enough periods, so we rely on our second choice left back for much of the season. Unsurprisingly the second choice left back of a club with one of the smaller budgets in the division struggles. If Meades isn’t fit soon then I would play Deji and Darius in the centre with Will at left back.

      1. Or would it be better Darius and Will in the middle and Deji left back? I note Deji’s comments in yesterday’s programe. He’s left footed, Will right!

        I am not moaning about our form already; just disappointed with the performance. As SA says judge after 10 games and compare to last year to see where we really are.

  5. Last season 4 points from these fixtures, so not a great return so far. First half performance was dire. Second, some improvement when LTB came on. An Elliott replacement is needed urgently. Appiah and Macdonald had zero service, no point punting high balls to them! Appiah does not look the part at present, whether he is unfit or not used to our ‘system’ who knows? Midfield very disappointing yesterday, Parrett has potential, but he needs to find more telling final balls and finishes. We do need our injured players back asap. The youth do not look anything like L1 players at present.
    All in all a worrying performance.

  6. We’ve got to get a target man in. We’ve lost 2 in the summer and can’t see us passing and moving teams about to score too many goals.

    Ardley’s got to get us scoring again. Something like 1 league goal in the last 10 league games is just not good enough. The rot set in at the end of last season and hasn’t been sorted out yet.

  7. A full pre season working on a more fluid style as A. in the second half of the season the “lump” tactics were well harnessed by most in the league and our goals had dried up and B. We don’t have the personnel for a “lump” game nor the budget – allegedly – to recruit a decent lump.

    But 5 hours of competitive football has yielded 3 goals. I don’t buy the fitness bollocks either. Moriarty knows his onions. Shrews also played midweek – away from home to a Championship side and then travelled away to us. And seasoned pros such as Mac/LT/Robo/Abdou/Parrett/Barcham etc don’t get leggy having played an extra 30 minutes in a midweek home game.

    NA quick win is to return his best player to his favoured position and having the team set up to feed him.
    Bloody stupid having the clubs best striker “putting a shift in” out wide because Fuller can’t get up and down as he used to.

    Is NA tactically so shit that its either total football or hoof? Can’t set up to defend deep so the old boys in defence don’t get into footraces then play on the counter with a quick one over the top to Taylor/Barcham?
    Can’t play out if a team presses us? How about the clip over the top of the press to a wide player now we have a keeper that can actually play out?

    If after the next 3 games, 6 games in and before the window shuts, NA brings in a “lump”, we will know that he has hit his head on the glass ceiling. Fair enough. At least we know that if and when the time comes for us to push on rather than just hold on in L1, we know what we need to do.

    This game at Fleetwood will be very interesting. Hope SW19 or Stan will be heading up. Look forward to the analysis.

    1. Good post.

      I believe we need to play more football to progress so I back Ardley’s decision to ‘go brave’ and ditch rugby union.

      If he does shit the bed and abandon football quickly then I completely agree – as you suggest – that he will be diminished. He’ll lose respect from players and fans alike.

      1. I think NA will be in more trouble with players/fans if we keep failing to score, and therefore win games…

        1. No shit, Sherlock.

          I’m kind of hoping Ardley doesn’t bring anyone in so that he is forced to stay on a rugby-free diet for the remaining 44 games…

  8. I think that it’s all down to simple football. The team always has the tendency of missing out the games like this. I am not so sure whether it is due to the type of football/formation played by the manager.

    I opine that simple football will win the days for the team.

    Ben

Comments are closed.