Shrewsbury Town v Macclesfield: Josh Laurent inks in a trip to Wembley
Montgomery Waters Meadow may not be bursting at the seams tonight but for Josh Laurent it is all about the end goal.
Gracing Wembley Stadium is something lower-league players dream of and very few achieve, writes Lewis Cox.
Shrewsbury players were spoiled two years ago with two trips in as many months – though both ended in defeat, bringing their overall Wembley record to five defeats from five matches.
Tonight, Town look to take one step closer to a return trip to the national stadium by qualifying for the knockout rounds in the EFL Trophy.
They welcome crisis club Macclesfield Town, whose first-team squad have been on strike, to decide who goes through.
For lifelong Tottenham Hotspur fan Laurent, who was on target in the FA Cup at the weekend, his first experience of the national stadium was one he will never forget – because it is inked on his arm.
“It’s a dream of mine to play at Wembley,” said Laurent. “It’s where I went to my first cup final when I was 13, Tottenham v Chelsea in the League Cup, and it’s stuck with me forever.
“I’ve got it tattooed on my arm because it is a dream of mine. I want to play there one day.
“For players in League One and League Two, it’s a dream to get there, so it’s a chance for us to do that and we need to grab and it and take it.
“I’m a big Spurs fan and I’ll keep it with me forever, that’s why I got it tattooed and hopefully Spurs will do better and win more competitions because they’re doing my head in!
“It’s a personal dream of mine, I want to go far in this competition, get to the final and win it. I want to play every game and every game I play I want to win.”
Laurent, born in Leytonstone, only had to hop westbound on the tube to reach Wembley and it is clear that Jonathan Woodgate’s extra-time winner in February 2008 has left a lasting impression.
The 24-year-old midfielder left home to join Hartlepool in 2017 but, after a switch to Wigan didn’t work out, has played more football for Shrewsbury since signing in the summer of 2018 than anywhere else.
Shrewsbury boss Sam Ricketts is bound to ring the changes for tonight’s Group D decider against the Silkmen.
But the Shrews boss signalled his intentions for the competition in the previous game, where an experienced Town side put Newcastle United’s under-21s to the sword.
With both sides on three points going into this evening, with group leaders Port Vale facing the Toon youngsters, Shrewsbury must ensure victory in 90 minutes – or win the penalty shootout worth two points after a draw – to qualify.
A Macclesfield penalty shootout victory following a tie would see the visitors through.
Laurent gave a nod to Town’s substitutes bench in the FA Cup last weekend as a show of strength in depth.
He added: “Some of the boys aren’t playing and that’s unlucky because they’re good players. When they step in they do well.
“There’s players like Thommo (Louis Thompson), he’s top drawer and Edo (Dave Edwards), good players. Ro-Shaun Williams was unlucky (on Saturday).
“It’s not so much a second team with changes, it’s chances for everyone to get minutes, and they’ll step in and do well, no question about that.
“Everyone knows what the game is about and it’s time to kick on.”
Ricketts’ side are without action this weekend as the scheduled trip to Doncaster was postponed due to international call-ups.
Grenada trio Aaron Pierre, Omar Beckles and Ollie Norburn are absent while Ryan Giles could be fast-tracked to England under-20 duty if the Young Lions suffer injuries.
Ryan Barnett has played in the EFL Trophy for Town this season but is now out on loan at AFC Telford.
The likes of Thompson, Edwards, Brad Walker and Fejiri Okenabirhie are all in with a shot at a recall.