Watching Shrewsbury on Wednesday, it felt like the team had turned over a new leaf.
But the goals conceded and the late collapse was all too familiar.
Nine points have been lost from winning positions in the last four matches. It’s been a common theme this season, with 13 points dropped so far. Town would be in the top 10 and level with Fleetwood and Accrington on 23 points, if they held on.Still, as far as positives are concerned, goals are flowing for the first time in a long time and performances have largely been good.
That gives hope it’s possible for the team to get out of relegation danger.
Paul Hurst came in after 16 matches during the 2016/17 season with Shrewsbury bottom of the table and six from safety on just 11 points after 16 games – two more than Town have currently played and with just one more win.
He turned it around with a team much worse than this one. There is still plenty of time, yet we must accept it won’t be easy and happen overnight.
Steve Cotterill has been clear about that, but he’s increasingly looks like the best man for the job.
Conceding last-minute goals always leave you deflated as a football fan, and Salop have had their fair share of them so far this season.
Our inability to close a game out struck again against Accrington after a last-minute penalty was conceded by Aaron Pierre – but this felt different.
Had we seen that game out there would have been a huge feel-good factor at The Meadow. Despite there being less than 2,000 fans in, the place was rocking when Shaun Whalley scored a brilliant free-kick in the 87th minute, which should have been the winner.
It should have capped off a strong performance on the whole. The lads played well and deserved to win the game, which can’t be said for the majority of games so far this season before new boss Steve Cotterill’s arrival.
We were aggressive, winning first balls, winning second balls, creating chances, and restricting Stanley to long range shots for the most part.
Matt Miller was a revelation at right wing back and Shaun Whalley had one of his best games for a while, running the Stanley defence ragged.
While of course there was a sense of disappointment after a golden chance to win slipped by once again, there are definite reasons for optimism that given time we are on the right track, especially once the new boss has had more time to coach his new squad.
The advantage of the games coming thick and fast is that Salop have the chance to put this right against Charlton at home on Saturday and don’t have time to dwell on missed opportunities for too long.
It’s clearly very early days, but as I sit here reflecting on Steve Cotterill’s first League game in charge, it seems to me he could be our very own Luke Skywalker.
Despite the pain of conceding yet another injury-time equaliser, there was still so much that was positive about our performance. In Cotterill, we might have a new hope.
So that’s enough of the Star Wars puns for now – but let’s highlight why I feel we might be starting to come out of the dark side (okay, one more…).
We created chances. Good ones. We were brave. We entertained. There’s not been much of that in recent weeks.
Daniel Udoh was superb. Josh Vela looked a player reborn in the No.10 role. Matt Millar excelled again at right-wing-back (sign him up, please Steve!). Then there’s Shaun Whalley – 202 appearances and still notching world class goals. It’s going to get tougher.
The next five games in the run-up to Christmas look daunting. Two giants in Charlton and Sunderland at home. Three promotion chasers in Hull, Lincoln and Doncaster away.
By the end of that lot, we could even be further adrift than we are now. It’s certainly a formidable challenge.
But In Steve Cotterill, we appear to have a cool, calm head that will give us the best chance possible. I’m feeling the force. I believe.