Burton v Shrewsbury Preview: Town spirits high for Sam Ricketts’ league bow
Sam Ricketts will be in a League One dugout for the first time tomorrow as Shrewsbury take on Burton – and spirits are higher than ever.
Ex-Wolves and Telford defender Ricketts’ reign began with a Checkatrade Trophy victory against Walsall on Wednesday, and now he is set to find out what his first-choice XI are made of at the Pirelli Stadium, writes Lewis Cox.
One of those who is expected to return to the starting line-up is goalkeeper Steve Arnold.
And he admits five wins from six under the caretaker guidance of Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsay – and the arrival of Ricketts – have transformed the mood around the Meadow.
“Everyone has got everyone’s back,” said Arnold.
“We’ve come together these last few weeks. There’s a buzz about the place and spirits are high – the highest it’s been since I’ve been here.
“We’ve stuck together, Coyney and Eric have been great, they’ve brought us together and have been quality for me.”
Arnold has played no small part in lifting those spirits – his last-gasp penalty save helping knock Scunthorpe out of the FA Cup last weekend. The Salop shot-stopper has previous from 12 yards – but not for some time.
Now aged 29, it was back in the 2011/12 campaign, when he was finding his way on loan in the then-Conference with Hayes & Yeading United, that Arnold earned himself a reputation for keeping out spot-kicks..
But, despite beginning his Hayes stint with two penalty saves in the first half on his debut, there was nothing quite as dramatic as securing a place in the third round with minutes left on the clock.
“It’s been a bit weird,” said Arnold. “When I was younger with Hayes in the Conference I managed to save three out of three in the first month of the season.
“I was renowned as a penalty-saving specialist – but then after that every penalty I faced seemed to go in!
“It was just nice to save it, get the win and keep the momentum.
“You’ve got a chance at being the hero. Our position is horrible, you make a mistake and it’s shown massively.
“It’s always nice to do something right and get a little bit of credit for it.”
Arnold had to wait for his chance after arriving in July on a two-year deal from Barrow. It wasn’t until the trip to AFC Wimbledon that he was named in the starting XI for a league game.
But having ousted Joel Coleman from between the sticks, Arnold is determined to stay there and help Town continue their climb up the table.
“It’s always hard for a keeper to come in at any level, especially when you’ve been out so long,” he added.
“It takes a good few games to get settled in and know your players. Although you train with them, you need to get to know them on a matchday with positions.
"But I feel like I’m getting there slowly. It’ll still be a few more games yet before it comes completely natural but they make it so easy for me, those four in front of me.
“The boys are chucking themselves in front of the ball, they’re making my job much easier.
“It was a long wait for a clean sheet and the more it goes on the pressure starts to build with the back four.
“To get two on the bounce was really good for us.”