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Comment: Shaun Whalley will have to wait patiently for Shrewsbury chance

By Tom Leach | Shrewsbury Town FC | Published:

Shrewsbury talisman Shaun Whalley could find himself having to be patient for his place amongst Sam Ricketts' inherited winning formula.

Town are on a blistering run in all competitions, winning six of their last seven games and only dropping three points in the league since the start of November.

The last time the 31-year-old started for Shrewsbury they were within just a single point of the drop zone.

Back then cracks were starting to show in John Askey's reign at Montgomery Waters Meadow, and especially in the 4-3-3 system that saw Alex Gilliead and Whalley feature on the flanks.

A 2-0 defeat at home to the side who many consider to be League One's champions elect, Sunderland, and an injury to star-man Whalley forced Askey into taking a quick-fire gamble.

Shaun Whalley of Shrewsbury Town receives treatment. (AMA)

At first it paid off. With only 72 hours to prepare, Town welcomed high-flying Barnsley to Shropshire by accommodated for Whalley's absence with a three at the back system.

Ryan Haynes, who was quickly becoming a forgotten man under Askey, stepped in at wing-back and Josh Emmanuel saw his work-load doubled as the man set with task of being dangerous going forward and comfortable going back.

Town were phenomenal that night and put on a showing even stronger than anything fans were treated too under Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsay.

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Docherty and Norburn bossed the midfield as they both chipped in with goals to fire Askey's men on the way to a memorable 3-1 win, at what finally looked like the start of something special under the former Macclesfield man.

It would be fitting of Askey's time at the club that their most triumphant performance would be followed by their most dismal.

That Saturday, the same eleven players in the same system were on the wrong end of a three-goal drumming by fellow strugglers Oxford United and the 3-5-2 was quickly crumpled up and tossed into the bin.

Like it or not, one of the key moments that sparked town's turnaround in form came a fortnight later.

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Askey's final game in charge saw Shrewsbury forced into an FA Cup replay with non-league Salford City that ended with the 54-year-old being jeered off the field and out of his job.

In that game he laid the foundations for a narrow diamond that dominated the midfield and brought the very best out of Doherty, Norburn, Josh Laurent and especially Anthony Grant, but never had the chance the use it to it's full potential.

Under Coyne and Ramsay, the diamond stayed and Town's players began to grow increasingly familiar with it.

For what it lacked in width it made up for down the spine, in a division that looks far more direct this season than in years gone by.

Shaun Whalley chats to former boss John Askey. (AMA)

Six weeks later and Shrewsbury's midfield diamond has only come unstuck once, at a frosty Adams Park where a visibly fatigued Shrews side, playing their fourth game in eleven days, were beaten 3-2 by Wycombe.

If it wasn't for Joe Jacobson's right-footed swinger nestling in the top corner and a lesser-spotted Adam El-Abd chest and volley from the edge of the area, we would now be talking about a Shrewsbury side looking to make it eight wins on the spin.

Ricketts would be a brave man to tinker in Askey fashion with a side that can top the form table with a win at the Pirelli. So where does a wide-man like Whalley fit in?

He can feature at the forward tip of the diamond, but who would dare to disrupt the form of either Norburn or Docherty, a pair who are currently joint with Fejiri Okenabirhie as Town's top scorers this season.

It would not be a surprise if Ricketts trusted Whalley wide of the diamond, but he would need topreparedared to put in the hard yards when town are without the ball to support Josh Emmanuel, or Omar Beckles should they rotate, at full-back

Laurent has impressed at times this season, but he has blown hot and cold with a large chunk of the fanbase

Still, losing Laurent could be enough to disrupt the dependable diamond and unbalance Town.

Ricketts has preached about making only the tiniest of tweaks to Town's winning formula to achieve success.

He is adamant about being seamless in his arrival and bringing Whalley back when results do not call for it would only contradict himself.

Whalley joked on Wednesday night about forgetting to bring his shirt with him to the bench, as it had been an age since he has last sat in the Meadow's dug-out - but the number seven will have to sit and wait patiently for Shrewsbury to stutter before he gets his chance to showcase his talents under Ricketts.

Tom Leach

By Tom Leach
Digital Football Intern

Digital Football Intern with the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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