History and numbers are on Shrewsbury’s side
Shrewsbury Town need only to delve into the history books for some inspiration in achieving something special.
Paul Hurst this week said that Town would require backing in the January transfer window if they were to sustain their place at League One’s summit – but the stats are mostly behind Shrews’ charge.
Town fans dared to dream after their dramatic added-time winner at Rotherham last weekend. A victory, born out of sheer desire, belief, hunger and togetherness, showed the minerals needed to sustain a promotion challenge.
Those hopes took a small dent as Town were sent back to earth with a bump on a challenging evening in gloomy Bury on Tuesday night.
But, as Hurst referenced, one defeat does not mean it’s time to panic – despite the boss’s call for the need to bolster his squad as injuries and suspensions set in.
Taking a look back over the 13 seasons since the Football League shake-up in 2004, Town fans can rest easy that the records suggest they will enjoy a tilt at the play-offs at worst.
Eighteen games into a League One season, only four teams in the division’s modern history – Luton, Leeds, Charlton and Wolves – had collated more points than Town’s current haul of 40, ahead of today’s visit of Bradford.
All four of those clubs went on to secure automatic promotion to the Championship. Three by finishing as champions.
Shrewsbury staff and supporters are rightfully aware that big-hitters like Wigan, Blackburn, Charlton and others are bound to come strong, with the two former sides still favourites with the bookies for top spot.
Perhaps blue and amber fans will be further encouraged by the succession rate of finishing inside the top two.
In eight of the 13 season, the side top of the table at this stage have gone on to win promotion by finishing first or second.
A massive 11 from the 13 leaders at this stage have secured top-six finishes and therefore at least a play-off place.
Certainly cause for being optimistic.
As Hurst has pointed to this week, Town’s January business is likely to play a crucial part in how the second half of the season pans out.
Hurst is already looking at left-back targets following the cruel injury to Junior Brown that ruled him out for the whole season.
And a winger is also on Hurst’s hit-list. The boss was keen to bring an extra wideman in on the final day of the summer transfer window but was foiled.
Further on, leaders Town also have to contend with the uncertainty surrounding all of their loan players as the January call-back time approaches.
Three of the five temporary Town men, Carlton Morris, Dean Henderson and Niall Ennis, are on a Montgomery Waters Meadow deal until the end of the season. But any of the trio can be recalled by their parent clubs in the new year.
Ben Godfrey and Ebou Adams are only scheduled to be with Town from Norwich until January.
Shrewsbury should not fear the challenge of keeping the rest of League One behind them.
Hurst has made it no secret that he feels he does not have the best – or biggest – squad in the division. And it is becoming apparent that two or three key absentees may make life tough.
But, given the boss’s transfer success rate in his windows with Shrewsbury so far, there should be heaps of optimism as he goes about adding the final touches to a squad ready for a promotion tilt.
History backs Shrewsbury up. Only Coventry (finished eighth 2015/16) and Tranmere (finished 11th 2012/13) have been ahead at this point and suffered spectacular nosedives. The numbers are in Town’s favour.