Shrewsbury verdict: Dominant and deserved win without killing Tranmere off
You will struggle to find a more one-sided 1-0 victory than this one.
Shrewsbury gave the required response from the home setback last time out by taking maximum points in front of a raucous and appreciative crowd of almost 1,000 travelling supporters.
The scoreline does not always tell the full story and Shrewsbury were better by some considerable distance than their hosts, managed by former promotion-winning Town boss Micky Mellon, but could not find a killer touch to put Tranmere to bed.
Instead the door remained ajar and Rovers were afforded a sniff towards the death, but Sam Ricketts’ men never looked troubled. The Shrews boss said afterwards that, despite the narrow winning margin, he was comfortable and unconcerned watching on from the dugout and it was easy to see why.
Shrewsbury had no less than 22 efforts on goal. That is six more than their highest previous attempt of the season – and that was in the 4-3 victory over strugglers Southend.
The visitors were the better side in the first half, but it almost felt like a mis-match after the break, where Salop at times worked their man advantage brilliantly as they launched wave after wave of attacks, but the final touch was lacking.
It was concerning as chance after chance flew wide. Luck evaded the visitors as the superb Ollie Norburn, who led Town very well as skipper, thumped the post against his former side while at least two efforts were cleared off the line.
But on other occasions Ricketts’ side were guilty of a rush of blood or poor decision-making.
It was an important victory for Town. Fans felt let down and deflated following the 3-0 home reverse to Fleetwood seven days previous. There was a mutual feeling that the second half that day was miles below what is accepted and expected from the side this season.
Add in the hefty away following at Prenton Park, Rovers’ lowly position in the early League One table, their injury and discipline problems and the fact that Town were facing a former boss and there were a crucial three points at stake.
Tranmere, in something of a defensive injury crisis having only managed one clean sheet in 11 games previously, did their cause little good by having Connor Jennings sent off for a second yellow card just before half-time. But the visitors were already deservedly one goal to the good. Nobody is quite certain who put the visitors ahead, but it seems like – contrary to reports elsewhere – that Aaron Pierre was the Shrewsbury goalscorer with his first strike for the club.
Striker Callum Lang was lurking at the far post and looked like he may have got a touch, but Pierre’s well-taken finish across goal seemingly went in off the woodwork rather than being turned in by Lang – but all strikers worth their salt are meant to sniff out goals.
Pierre, who jetted out to Grenada to join his international side 24 hours later, admitted afterwards that Wigan loanee Lang had said the goal belonged to the defender.
In truth, Lang should already have put Salop one to the good by that point as he directed a header wide of the near post following Ryan Giles’ fine delivery.
Town had got into their stride well after 15 minutes. It took a little while to settle as the hosts started brightly, but Shrews’ quality soon began to shine through.
Ricketts’ side looked particularly good when shifting the ball from side to side, Norburn and Sean Goss using their passing range, while Josh Laurent’s runs from deep are always a threat.
Lang and fellow striker Daniel Udoh – a surprise starter with Jason Cummings rested on the bench alongside the returning Fejiri Okenabirhie – were tireless in their running in the first half and real thorns in Tranmere’s defence.
It was soon apparent to the home side’s makeshift defence they would have little time to dally on the ball.
Once Jennings was shown a second yellow card by Craig Hicks for what appeared on first viewing a 50-50 challenge, it felt like Mellon’s men faced a tough old second half.
And that came to fruition pretty quickly after the restart. Town seemed to have so much space, particularly in midfield, where they were picking their passes and launching attacks. Tranmere could not keep the ball.
How Shrewsbury didn’t add to their goal tally is a mystery. With 10 goals after their first 11 league games, Town are the second-lowest scorers in League One after Bolton – who had to play their academy side for the first month or so.
That statistic has to be a concern. Their lack of accuracy in front of goal is pretty surprising when you consider they are in the handy position of 12th, just three points off a play-off position.
But the fact they were able to create so many openings – and very clear ones at that – against an admittedly limited Tranmere side is a boost. On another day they would have scored more than one.
That encouraging position in the table is down to the resilient and organised defensive side to Town. The shutout made it five from 11 in the league this season and that is a record not to be sniffed at.
Stopping teams from scoring against them means that Shrews only need to make one moment count to take maximum points.
There was always the concern that the lack of a second goal would bite them on the backside. The home fans became encouraged and Rovers only needed one chance. That fell to Neil Danns in minute 95, but Max O’Leary did his job with a top stop.
Town, who did not use Shaun Whalley, Dave Edwards or Jason Cummings from the bench while Steve Morison again didn’t travel, won comfortably. Almost 1,000 away fans were delighted as Ricketts punched the air and patted the badge.
Just the response needed.