While much of the country is focussed on getting the R rate down, the R that is haunting my nightmares is relegation.
Shrewsbury showed some welcome attacking endeavour on Saturday – racing into a 2-0 and 3-1 lead against Swindon.
That we could not see that game out was deeply disturbing and highlighted ongoing defensive difficulties that simply couldn’t be masked. Our backline has looked socially distanced this season – a far cry from the watertight unit of last term even though the personnel are largely the same.
Of most concern is that the games coming up next look very tough. In failing to win any of our first six home games, we have not faced a single side currently in the top half of the table.
The games ahead look much tougher. We travel to promotion-chasing Ipswich this weekend, and also face high-flying Charlton, Hull, Lincoln and Sunderland in the next few weeks
League Two looms unless we can address the symptoms of our struggles very quickly.
Signs are emerging that goals are beginning to flow after a prolonged drought, yet a previously mean defence has turned into a leaky one.
Another shift has seen Town play more widely – and that’s where the solution to their winless streak in the league could lie
Marc Pugh has improved with every match he’s played and already looks like one of the team’s most important players
Charlie Daniels has shown he still has plenty to offer and the
return of Shaun Whalley, Town’s most influential attacking player in recent years, is a huge boost.
Shilow Tracey and Matt Millar also impressed against Crewe and Swindon and the shirts are now theirs to lose.
Meanwhile, Barnett and Daniels have shown they, too, have something to offer.
Having no fans in the ground is, I believe, having a devastating effect on form – it’s not the only reason, but certainly a factor. The 3-3 draw against Swindon on Saturday saw Salop throw away a two-goal lead twice through some sloppy play.
The place would have been rocking at 2-0 up and certainly at 3-1 after a rocket from Dave Edwards. I do believe they would have been pushed over the line by the fans.
As we head closer to a relegation battle, without fans these players will struggle to find any momentum and inspiration to claw themselves out of it. The great escapes by sides who look destined for the drop are so often started in the stands, the whipping up of an atmosphere, of belief and optimism that gets teams scraping dramatic results moving up the table
For that reason, relegation candidates could be decided early this season and that is why it is vital that Shrewsbury start picking up wins quickly.