Analysis: Shrewsbury make their point – but Crewe will have regrets

It was a breathless, frenetic, yet edgy afternoon at Montgomery Waters Meadow as two early League One strugglers had to settle for a point apiece.

Both would have wanted more in a clash that could have quite easily finished 3-3, but it was not to be after more than 100 minutes of an open, watchable contest.

Steve Cotterill’s hosts, as the home side, going in one place higher than their visitors, will have viewed the fixture as a chance to get on track. A chance to make it back-to-back home wins in the league.

They scored first, too, for the first time this season. The rare feat came at the 10th time of asking.

But the visitors were surely the side with bigger regrets come full-time. Crewe had enjoyed the better of a pulsating second half, periods of which were one-way traffic in the Railwaymen’s favour.

Were it not for their lacklustre and wayward finishing – and, to Town’s credit, some fine last-ditch defending – the three points would have made the short 40-minute trip back to Cheshire.

They were still unable to secure that elusive clean sheet, but Town’s defending was largely impressive, specifically the last-ditch stuff, both Ethan Ebanks-Landell before half-time and Matthew Pennington right at the death made vital interventions.

Shrewsbury will probably take the point following the liveliest of 1-1 tussles.

In the end, following a basketball-style finale, ‘a ding-dong’ climax – as Cotterill put it – a share of the spoils probably felt about the right result.

Cotterill and his staff will know Crewe carried the biggest threat in the second period and through ex-Town loanee Mikael Mandron, who had brought his side level just before half-time, should have sealed the victory.

Still, for Town who have often been caught short in attack and too easy to score against this season, Saturday can feel like a step forward and a platform on which to build.

They ended one of their barren runs, while another concerning statistic ran on.

Sam Cosgrove’s 19th-minute opener meant that, at the 10th time of asking, Shrewsbury had finally scored first in a fixture this season.

Cotterill had constantly pleaded with his troops to not give opposition a ‘leg up’ by falling behind. It promised to be interesting as to how his side would handle having a lead.

And, having lined up in a 4-3-3 formation for one of the first occasions in the manager’s 10-month tenure, Town looked in a reasonably good place with their early advantage. They remained on the front foot and pushed forward. Crewe, however, and in particular their deadline signings J’Neil Bennett and Scott Kashket, were real threats.

The big negative for Town came a minute before half-time as the ball was worked through to Mandron inside the box and, from close range, the Frenchman was able to lift a nice finish beyond Marko Marosi and into the far corner.

Town are now 10 games in all competitions into the new campaign and still awaiting a first clean sheet. It is unrealistic to expect a defence to record a clean sheet every week, but the reality is that positive results and sufficient points will be difficult to come by if they cannot keep shutouts.

Cosgrove’s opener was not the prettiest goal of the weekend by any means.

But neither the Birmingham loan striker nor his manager will care as the boss rebounded off his knee and in following Crewe keeper Will Jaaskelainen’s save.

That is two from two in home league fixtures for Cosgrove, who will feel much better about things after rediscovering the back of the net.

Interestingly, Cotterill opted to role the dice with his formation at half-time and reverted to 3-4-3 from his rarely-used 4-3-3.

Crewe had the better of the second period and did enough to win nine times out of 10 so, on the face of it, the change did little to boost Town hopes.

But the manager was likely reacting to the joy Bennett and Kashket were receiving on either flank of Crewe’s attack. Town wing-backs Elliott Bennett and Luke Leahy were tasked with keeping tabs of their opposite numbers while remaining a threat in the other direction.

The hosts’ main shot at winning it was via substitute Ryan Bowman’s header, but Jaaskelainen made a top stop.

Ultimately Town and Cotterill will look at a point gained – with encouraging signs again from Josh Vela and Pennington, a rare opening goal and Shaun Whalley somewhere near his sharpest – on an afternoon Crewe should have nicked it.

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