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Shrewsbury Town verdict: Vital away win worth more than just the points

Sometimes a win can be worth more than three points.

Town players react to their crucial away win (AMA)
Town players react to their crucial away win (AMA)

Shrewsbury Town’s unlikely win at Peterborough was their first league win in 10 games and just a second away win of the season.

It looks like a huge result that could shape the remainder of Sam Ricketts’ side’s season – and even the rest of his Salop tenure.

A defeat at London Road, which would have been in keeping with the table and expectations from large sections of supporters heading into the clash, would have seen Town down in 22nd.

Instead they climb up to 19th ahead of their game in hand tomorrow evening. A win there and it would be the relatively dizzying heights of 17th.

The three points against promotion-hunting Peterborough should act as a huge confidence boost for Town. Confidence and belief is something that has been low in recent weeks as Salop have failed to hold on to leads and conceded very poor goals.

There is a general acceptance that Ricketts’ squad boasts enough quality to see it over the line to safety this season. But question marks have lingered over consistency. Understandably so given the winless run of nine and terrible record on the road.

But those concerning stats were both banished in the spring-like sunshine of Cambridgeshire, where the conditions made the build-up feel like an end of season fixture.

Ricketts was not able to celebrate that fabled clean sheet but he and his players can take comfort that, after a difficult couple of weeks in sacrificing promising leads, it was them that turned the tables and turned a deficit into an advantage.

Sure, they had a helping hand – quite literally – from their former loan man, as Ivan Toney, ever the panto villain, took centre stage to beat Omar Beckles’ scramble off the line after half hour.

An early bath for the 19-goal Posh top scorer via a barrage of Salop taunts. Ollie Norburn hammered the penalty in to draw the visitors level and within six minutes Tyrese Campbell was showing Stoke City-Championship-level quality to put Shrews ahead in style.

Campbell’s goal, a strike fitting to win in game, was dripping in class. A left-footed curler, into the far corner off the inside of the post from the right side of the box.

It was a snapshot of what this teenager can offer Shrewsbury for the remaining three months he is in Shropshire. Two goals in two games and you wouldn’t bet against him scoring a sackful more.

Campbell’s quality is part of why Town shouldn’t find themselves in the bottom four come May. He won’t keep them up alone, of course, but he is a key part of the jigsaw.

This win sets Shrews up brilliantly for back-to-back home games against Doncaster and bottom side AFC Wimbledon, beginning tomorrow evening.

You would take four points from those two games. Seven points from nine available this week would represent a fantastic haul.

It would leave Ricketts’ side on 40 points and much closer to seeing off the danger of relegation.

They still have a long way to go. This is merely the start of any escape plan. But there are positive signs.

Ricketts will be rightly frustrated with the way his side defended early on. They were warned to prepare for the Premier League quality’ of Marcus Maddison’s set-pieces yet defender Jason Naismith was able to wrestle Omar Beckles out of it and head into the corner.

The Town boss had been left livid with his team’s defending in previous weeks as Bristol Rovers and Burton were allowed all the time and space to head in.

When Naismith helped one over from another free-kick shortly after you wondered whether it would be another long day for Town.

But Shrews weren’t deterred from attacking and a calculated threat – Luke Waterfall at the back post from crosses of their own – brought on the Toney handball and equaliser.

Credit Town, they made their man advantage count. Sometimes it can be difficult attacking 10 men, but Salop made it look like men against boys as hapless Posh sat off and regressed deep into their own half, inviting the visitors on.

Campbell’s class took centre stage and he could’ve added a third before the break.

There was a big 45 minutes ahead of Town but you wouldn’t know it from the start of the second period as the orange away shirts again continued to knock it around with ease.

But the whole complexion changed just after the hour mark.

Skipper Norburn, who has taken on the captaincy since Mat Sadler has been out the side, was branded a second yellow card in eight minutes. The decisive caution for a careless lunge in midfield.

Norburn turned away with an anguish on his face. It was clear and obvious as soon as he made the tackle. He knew.

And it was a shame, because up to that point he was Town’s best player. Setting the tone and striding with authority all over the pitch, as well as using the ball well.

It made for a tough final 30 or so. It woke up the London Road crowd, encouraged the home players and generally pegged Town back. But you never truly feared for the visitors.

The only glaring open again fell for defender Naismith after Steve Arnold initially let one slip but saved heroically.

Otherwise Waterfall and Beckles repelled everything, including all of of Maddison’s masterful deliveries.

It was a ballsy, gutsy way to see out the win. A potentially season-defining win watched by just over 300 travelling Salopians who were left buoyed at full-time as they celebrated with the players.

This win should provide the team with belief they can make themselves safe.

Town must remember how good it feels to win and now go on a run.

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