It has been some time since almost 1,500 away fans followed Salop on the road in league action. A few dozen away from selling out Crewe’s entire away allocation.
Less than a week after more than 5,500 hit the road for Anfield too, in an expensive FA Cup adventure.
Sure, Crewe – in relative League One terms – is only ‘down the road’, and the train connections could not be better at the home of the Railwaymen, but regardless, Salop fans need applauding for their commitment of late.
Unfortunately, the action did not quite match up with numbers and decibel levels in the away end.
Shrewsbury chief Steve Cotterill apologised for not giving the travelling Salopians a priceless goal to cheer on their way back across counties. He need not say sorry, Town’s form of late has been extremely encouraging and re-enthused fans.
But, above all, it was just a bit of a shame the visitors could not force what would have been a deserved winner in what was a reasonably competitive and ‘watchable’ 0-0.
Saturday’s Gresty Road stalemate took something of a kicking from certain sections of social media and even colleagues in the press box. But Town created enough decent chances to win a couple of games and were comfortably the better side, albeit against poor opposition – even though lowly Crewe have improved of late.
The hosts were the happier with their point and glad to defend late on, but Town did enough to merit three points.
Focusing on the positives, just a second 0-0 draw for Town in all competitions this season – and second in the last four games – was yet further evidence of the consistency strides Cotterill’s ranks have made in recent weeks and months.
The point in Cheshire made it five League One matches unbeaten and four clean sheets in a row.
It must be remembered that this was a side who could not buy a shut-out earlier in the campaign. Indeed, it took until the middle of October to record a clean sheet in any competition this term.
With their goals against column boosted by a run of not conceding, there are now just three clubs in League One – Rotherham, Wigan and Portsmouth – to have conceded fewer goals than 15th-placed Town this season (29 in 26 games).
Cotterill’s men have conceded fewer goals than the sides in first and second and boast comfortably the best goals against record in the bottom half.
It goes without saying those statistics tell a story of an organised outfit drilled into a supremely confident defensive shape.
Another talking point is the consistent team selection. The boss named the same starting XI for the fifth game running in all competitions. There are definitely no prizes given out for predicted a Town line-up at the moment!
That tells a couple of stories. It tells a tale of a side in a positive place, unbeaten and with confidence high. Knowing their jobs, knowing what their colleagues are doing. Credit to those 11, none of them have deserved to come out of the side in this run stemming back to mid-December.
On the flip side, it tells a story of a squad lacking in depth and the cover to make telling changes. The early January loan signing of Saikou Janneh – with another new face set to follow in the coming days – has helped beef forward numbers, not that they were lacking, but Town are still short in some departments.
It is a tough ask, for example, to leave a midfielder out. Town are left found wanting. It is understood the imminent arrival should change that.
Also telling was Cotterill’s decision not to make a change as his side pushed for a deserved winner at Gresty Road.
Both the pacy Janneh and young Tom Bloxham are exciting forward options but neither were judged the right call.
The Town chief explained his thinking, he feels managers make ‘changes for the sake of it’ at times and that his side were playing well at the finale and in the ascendency. He was right in that regard.
Shrews should have won the game to push themselves closer to mid-table – a winner would’ve lifted them to 13th.
They can feel very aggrieved about referee Gavin Ward’s decision to chalk off a perfectly legitimate third-minute opener as Crewe toiled from a corner.
Both sides had chances, but the visitors had the more and the clearer.
Elliott Bennett, who really impressed, had one, as it did strikers Ryan Bowman and Daniel Udoh and then came big late chances for defensive duo Matt Pennington and Ethan Ebanks-Landell.
It wasn’t to be, but it was an afternoon best remembered for a rampant near-sell out crowd and more signs of progression.