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Dave Edwards: It’s the good, the bad and the beautiful for Shrewsbury Town

It was the good, the bad and the beautiful for Shrewsbury last week.

It’s good that we’ve had two home wins – if Town are going to pull themselves clear of relegation trouble then home form is going to be crucial.

And for the players and manager, to get fans onside is a big thing. Winning home games will help that.

If you look at the form this season, all bar one point has come at home. The away form isn’t good enough but it’s more important you win your home games. Hopefully that will give them a platform to move forward.

The Cambridge win felt like it was needed. After beating MK Dons seven days earlier in a needs-must defensive performance, the manager would have been desperate to go and back that up with a good away performance at Oxford.

Unfortunately Town looked a little bit toothless, with no shots on target, so it all of a sudden turned that Cambridge game into a huge one.

And there is no doubt Steve Cotterill got his team selection and formation spot on and the players delivered on the day with a terrific performance.

The manager spoke about going back to the defensive style that brought success last season and you can understand why he’s done it. I saw from the inside what it was like and the work that went into it. It really dragged us out of a tough position.

I think the manager would’ve wanted to build on it this year but with the recruitment, not having the players available, and the form and league position – all of a sudden you make a decision that now is not the time to build possession-based football.

He knows, having been in football long enough, that this far into a season you need results and the best way – as he’s done it before various times – is to go defensive, defend your box, cut out mistakes and hope for sparks on the counter-attack.

Town did it against MK Dons but it didn’t quite work out at Oxford. It played out a bit like that against Cambridge but the goals brought confidence and Town were able to show a bit more of what they are capable of late on.

The red card was a huge moment. Cambridge pegged us back through Jack Iredale’s screamer, but you have to give more credit to the players, because that really could’ve heaped the pressure on and they could’ve crumbled. We’ve seen the team go into freefall after conceding.

But they regrouped and made a big advantage of the extra man. The players deserve a lot of credit, and a lot goes to selection and shape.

George Nurse will feel very unlucky not to have played more games after a good start. I know he’s had an injury but he’s been a breath of fresh air, he gives you a little bit of quality coming from the back. His natural ability and cross for Ryan Bowman’s first goal was brilliant.

I know the fans have been crying out for Natty Ogbeta to play. The manager has his reasons as to why he’s not – and you don’t really know what goes on inside the club as a fan – but I’m sure the manager knew when the right to play him was.

However, Natty playing three games on the bounce will do him the world of good.

He’s a confidence player and may take a while to get up to speed. He can be a huge asset now if he can keep his place. He can be a difference-maker – he was last year and I still feel he’s probably at 60 or 70 per cent of where he was last year. There’s much more to come.

The partnership between Bowman and Dan Udoh looked one of the best partnerships I’ve seen in any Shrewsbury Town team for years.

The midfield looks more balanced. Dave Davis controlled the middle of the pitch more than in recent weeks. Town’s weakness in midfield is when defending, when you’re not a midfielder you don’t see danger early enough. But on an attacking side the unpredictability of Shaun Whalley is a massive asset.

He pops up in positions you’d never expect a central midfielder in, runs at players with the ball, passing and moving, it will be hard for opposition to track.

Luke Leahy has been a class act in recent weeks. We saw how well he did at left-back and wing-back. He got a bit of stick and scapegoated in midfield with early performances but over the last month or so he’s been a real consistent stand-out.

Ryan Bowman scored a perfect hat-trick but Dan Udoh was everywhere. I was lucky enough to see his attitude in training for two years – he has such a hunger to learn and take every nibble of advice to be the best he can.

Every footballer should be like that but they are not. He’s a one-off with his attitude. He has all the attributes to be one of the best strikers in League One, but a problem will always be his confidence – he needs to feel loved and the main man, then you get an extra 10 per cent, and his consistency.

It’s nice to see he had a consistent 90 minutes and fans saw what the lads see in training. He’s so strong and a nightmare to defend. His rolling of defenders is one of the best I’ve seen.

And for him to have a strike partner now in Ryan – if they can conjure up this partnership – will take the pressure off Dan, if Ryan is scoring goals and Dan can be a foil.

I think Ryan Bowman has been so unlucky. He stood out in pre-season, then had a hamstring injury and was working his way back up before the awful heart scare.

He’s a goalscorer, he’s scored more than 100 league goals and has that in his game. I loved the header the other day, with the determination and willpower.

Ryan gained the adoration from the fans because of what happened and now he has capitalised on that with a big performance. Hopefully he can be a favourite and keep scoring, because we haven’t had many in recent years.

The acid test for Town now will be heading to Lincoln on Saturday.

We need those back-to-back wins for the first time and need to boost our away form.

We did it last year, so the manager knows we can win at Sincil Bank.

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