Bernard McNally column: Paul Hurst and Shrewsbury Town rewarded for his brave tactical approach
The story of Shrewsbury Town’s season gets better from week to week.
We’ve watched the achievements of the players, Paul Hurst, Chris Doig and the staff come to fruition and it’s been a tremendous season.
And now there’s a Wembley trip added to it. That is at least one trip to the national stadium, there might be a potential second to add come May.
Any footballer worth his salt wants to play at Wembley. Whether it’s National League, League One or whatever – and hopefully Town’s success can continue.
I played in the 1992/93 Second Division play-off final for West Brom against Port Vale. We won and it was just sensational. I was about 30 and knew it was probably going to be my last chance. I absolutely savoured the occasion.
The Baggies army took 42,000 fans, I think Vale brought about 10,000. We absolutely dominated. With the crowd behind us we felt unbeatable. It’s special to any player, whatever you’ve done in your career, whatever level you’re at.
When you have the medals on the table after your career and remember the memories. It does not matter what level – a Wembley trip is the highlight of your career.
I’m sure from today onwards Paul will insist that the Trophy run is dead and buried for now.
It will be absolutely vital that he says he does not want anyone thinking about it. Otherwise people could get starry-eyed. But that is not now. That does not concern us. Now we get back to what really concerns us, the league. I’m sure Paul will do that – we know what he is like.
One or two things struck me as I was leaving Montgomery Waters Meadow on Tuesday. Paul was very brave in what he did tactically.
We know he is very pragmatic, particularly with his team’s shape.
But against Yeovil it was noticeable that Town’s two centre-halves split wide of the box and Dean Henderson was free to roll the ball out to Bryn Morris. The full-backs Ben Godfrey and Omar Beckles were playing as wide as possible and as high as possible – almost in a Premier League style.
That creates space and Bryn Morris was able to use his excellent passing range to try and find the advanced full-backs. They were creating space.
I think Paul probably thought ‘we are not playing against Man City’, no disrespect to Yeovil, I felt he was ready to try making the pitch as wide as possible and getting his side to play expansive football.
I thought they achieved it and it worked well. I thought Paul was brave. Town fully deserved the win. There were one or two late scares and man-of-the-match Beckles pulled out a fine late block and Mat Sadler had a very good game, going under the radar as he often does.
It will be different come the league visit of Walsall on Saturday. You can be more pragmatic. If one full-back goes forward, the other stays.
Players and fans will be delighted at the Wembley trip. If we don’t make first or second spot – and it’s going to be tight – then you hope there may be a second trip to London on the horizon.
We welcome Walsall on Saturday. They lost against bottom-of-the-league Rochdale on Tuesday but that can act as a kick up the backside for Town.
It does not matter who you play, form goes out the window if you do not do things right.
Town will want to ease their poor record against Walsall and return to winning ways at home in the league.
These are big games. At the top of the league with a Wembley trip heading into the run-in. You want to make the top two for automatic but, if not, you’re making sure of the top six.
It will be vital they start picking three points back up at home. Without putting pressure on the players there will be occasions where we have to say ‘it’s time to perform as a team’.
I’m sure Walsall will bring quite a few supporters. I know a few fans that have said to me they are looking forward to coming.
The Saddlers – with all that’s happening to Shrewsbury this year, all the prestige we are getting – will want to spoil the party. They won’t be coming to make up the numbers.
Our players will need to roll their sleeves up, put their foot in for everything, challenge and head everything. Hopefully then Shrewsbury’s football will take hold and we can express ourselves and claim a crucial victory.