Shrewsbury Town v Charlton: Josh Laurent is a Jack of all trades
Shrewsbury’s joker in the pack Josh Laurent is happy to run the hard yards for his team – wherever it is asked of him.
Laurent, a midfielder by trade, has been a regular feature in Shrewsbury’s League One side this season, writes Lewis Cox.
Surprisingly, he is third behind Anthony Grant and Luke Waterfall in league appearances for Salop this term, an impressive feat for the 23-year-old’s first full season in League One.
That owes a lot to his superb engine and eye-catching versatility – the latter a trait that has come to fruition in recent weeks.
You’d put your bottom dollar on him making the cut at Montgomery Waters Meadow tomorrow against Charlton as one of Sam Ricketts’ key figures on and off the pitch.
Just the one goal has often meant Laurent’s contribution goes under the radar this term. But the former Hartlepool man is a Jack of all trades. He’s played central midfielder, attacking midfield, centre-forward and left-wing in recent weeks alone.
There were many inquisitive looks as Laurent took to the Stadium of Light on December 29 as a lone striker. He did so against Stoke, too, last week. So it must have worked.
“I’ve never done it before,” admitted the upbeat east Londoner. “The gaffer pulled me in after Accrington, I was speaking to him quite a bit because I had a few questions at playing the top of the diamond.
“He said to me ‘Saturday at Sunderland I’m thinking about doing this’. He said it’d be for the first 10 or 15 minutes and we’ll see how we go from there!
“It ended up being the whole game. We did so well. It’s very different – a different world up there by yourself.
“You’ve just got to learn and do your best. You get frustrated because you’re not used to things, centre-halves are nicking in front of you winning headers.
“I’m just doing a job for the team. When the boys are doing well, you don’t mind.”
Laurent, who shows his endearing side laughing and smiling through the interview, added: “I looked at the team sheet and saw Ashley Williams and Martins Indi and thought ‘what am I up against here? How am I going to get around these guys?’
“But the gaffer gave a good team talk, he said after 10 minutes you’ll realise they’re just humans and he was right. We got a feel we could do these, they weren’t up for it.”
Laurent is progressing and enjoying himself in Shropshire. He is an extremely popular member of the squad and a player whose company is enjoyed by boss Ricketts.
“One hundred per cent, it was for the team,” he continued. “It worked at Sunderland, they didn’t really have a plan B, they kept trying and we dealt with it really well.
“Again, against Stoke it worked, they didn’t have a plan B, they just stopped doing anything and couldn’t break us down.”
Laurent’s laugh, already mentioned in this article, is renowned at Sundorne Castle.
He smiled: “It depends if I’ve had my sleep! If I’ve had a good sleep then I can be quite lively and loud, yeah.
“Everyone always says that I’ll be in the canteen, people are in the manager’s office and they can hear me laughing. I am quite lively.
“I have my days. I suppose it is quite nice having someone around laughing all the time and looking to have a joke.
“It’s quite light-hearted here. Everyone’s up for a laugh and a joke. It’s not a place coming to where everyone’s down all the time and upset. It’s a nice place to come into and work.”
Subs: Emmanuel, Sears, Beckles, Edwards, Gilliead, Angol, Gregory (gk).
Charlton Athletic: Phillips; Solly, Bauer, Sarr, Purrington; Bielik, Williams, Pratley, Fosu; Taylor, Grant.
The opposition: Lee Bowyer impressing on tight budget at Addicks
Charlton are enjoying an impressive season and they look on track for a second straight place in the League One play-offs – having had their dreams ended by Shrewsbury last time out.
The relative inexperience of the man at the helm, Lee Bowyer, has not proved an issue.
If anything, former Premier League midfielder Bowyer is catching the eye with some astute business and consistent results at The Valley.
Owner Roland Duchatelet has the club up for sale and, threfore, is cutting his cloth accordingly. Bowyer has no funds for transfer fees so has needed to work the loan and free transfer markets.
But the Addicks are fourth in League One, amid a tight bunch down to seventh, before there is a significant gap to the rest.
They have been reliant on the goals in attack from their deadly duo strikeforce of Lyle Taylor and Karlan Grant, who have 14 and 12 goals respectively at this mid-stage of the season. A hugely impressive return from the duo who both scored against Shrews earlier in the season.
Charlton have conceded more goals (31) than the other four sides that make up the top five, leaving Sam Ricketts to feel his Shrewsbury team may be able to cause tomorrow’s visitors some trouble.
Bowyer’s men have the second-best record on home ground this season but their form on the road is more sketchy, five wins and six defeats from 13 games. Town have only lost once (2-0 against Sunderland) in 18 home games in all competitions, stretching back to the start of the season, when John Askey’s side lost back-to-back Montgomery Waters Meadow clashes against Bradford and Burton.
Sandwiched in between those early defeats was a trip to Charlton, on the second weekend of the season, where Town went down 2-1 to a last minute winner after some suspect defending.
Worryingly for Salop, Bowyer’s men have improved since that early part of the season, with more quality and depth in the squad.
Jonny Williams, signed from Crystal Palace, could make his full debut after an impressive cameo against Sunderland. Preston keeper Chris Maxwell has joined on loan this week and may feature. Ben Purrington, loaned from AFC Wimbledon, is likely to start.
He’s got it all. Intelligent, hard working, can’t stop scoring and physical up top. He’s forged an excellent partnership with Karlan Grant and the pair of them have been terrorising defences all season.
A good goal tally and has also set up goals for others with hold-up play. A real coup on a free transfer in the summer.
The boss says:
We’ve been able to bring someone in to fill that position (left-back). Ben (Purrington) is a natural left-footer that will give us that width.
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The key man:
Town’s midfielder powerhouse is likely to be busy against a talented side. If he plays as he did last week, Charlton can be shut out.