Shrewsbury v MK Dons - Match preview

It’s fair to say Shrewsbury have come a long way in the short time since they last faced MK Dons.

Aaron Wilbraham the assistant head coach (AMA)
Aaron Wilbraham the assistant head coach (AMA)

On a cold evening back in November, Town headed to stadium:MK under the guidance of Sam Ricketts and sitting 23rd in the League One table.

The 2-2 draw that followed not only led to Ricketts’ sacking, it also extended Salop’s winless run to eight games and meant they were just one point above rock-bottom Wigan.

What followed has been truly remarkable. Steve Cotterill arrived as boss and immediately started getting results.

Those results then continued despite the boss conducting things from a hospital bed due to contracting Covid-19.

Cotterill, of course, is still not well enough to return to the technical area, with coaches Aaron Wilbraham and David Longwell again set to be in charge tonight.

And even Wilbraham has to admit the club is very different now to the one he joined back in December.

“I think everyone can see the impact the gaffer has had on the team,” the assistant boss said. “But he is not a person to rest on his laurels, he just wants to keep improving.

“He has given the players belief. He has given them confidence.

“And because of that the atmosphere in the camp is brilliant. It really is a very positive place to be.

“I think everyone can see how far this team has come under him, definitely.”

Wilbraham is something of an MK Dons legend having scored 50 goals in 178 league appearances for the club between 2005 and 2011.

Tonight he locks horns with a close friend, with Dons boss Russell Martin someone he played with at Norwich.

The visitors arrive in good form having won their last three games.

They have also caught the eye with their expansive style. And with Cameron Jerome, Joe Mason and Will Grigg in the squad, Martin has three experienced strikers who know where the net is.

Wilbraham, though, is confident Town can exploit their weaknesses.

“They (MK Dons) are scoring goals,” he said. “They have had a bit of a ding-dong game against Northampton on Saturday, which they managed to win 4-3.

“They score goals and play exciting football – I think MK Dons have always done that.

“They have scored the same number of goals as Lincoln, the league leaders.

“They are attack-minded and they look to create chances

“But when you play in an expansive style you are going to leave yourself a little bit open at the back sometimes.

“That is a risk they are willing to take.

“We prepare differently every week – whoever we are playing.

“You know what you are going to get from us each week which is hard work and desire.

“And then we adapt to different situations and take it from there.”

Tonight’s match is going to feel a bit like a school reunion for Wilbraham who knows a host of players in the MK Dons squad.

As well as Martin, he also knows midfielder Andrew Surman from his time at Norwich.

He also played with Dean Lewington at MK Dons and with Jerome at Crystal Palace.

“Russell Martin – the manager – is an ex-team mate of mine at Norwich,” he continued.

“He sent our manager a message recently wishing him well and I know the gaffer was very grateful for that.

“Russ is a good man and he’s had a good start.

“They play expansive football, they like to play out from the back – I can see why they have picked up results.

“Dean Lewington is another ex team mate, Cameron Jerome I was at Crystal Palace with.

“I know them really well and Andy Surman from when I was at Norwich.

“There will be a few familiar faces for me. Whether that gives us an edge – me knowing about them – I don’t know.

“Our aim is to do what we do best.”

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