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Dave Edwards: A familiar XI is working wonders for Shrewsbury

There are a few factors that are playing into the improvement we’re seeing at Shrewsbury Town.

Nathanael Ogbeta of Shrewsbury Town and Travis Johnson of Crewe Alexandra (AMA)
Nathanael Ogbeta of Shrewsbury Town and Travis Johnson of Crewe Alexandra (AMA)

The big positive take from Gresty Road was another clean sheet and that’s four on the bounce in League One now. I don’t think that would’ve been done by Town for quite some time, it’s a hard task in any league.

It shows the massive turnaround, when you consider we waited so long for one, especially away from home.

The clean sheets have been under the same line-ups and I believe that continuity helps massively.

I know Steve Cotterill hasn’t got an abundance of numbers, but being able to pick the same side – and not having many midweek games – helps as well.

As a player to know those around you, know how each other work, building the relationships with the people beside and behind you, is crucial.

If you are Natty Ogbeta on the left, for instance, that connection with George Nurse behind you and Luke Leahy inside of you will develop with games.

The way the manager sets the team up, it’s a real 11-man battle to force a clean sheet.

Start with the strikers, they will stop supply into opposition midfielders with their work rate. The midfielders do a little bit of both, they’re on the front foot trying to nick balls, but also having an extra man in there to protect the back three, which Dave Davis has done particularly well recently.

The wing-backs’ work-rate up and down the pitch, from a solid back five to an attacker at the back post, is very, very hard work. They have to be the fittest players on the pitch.

The back three protect the box ever so well. They’re all very strong in the air and cover each other well.

Marko Marosi takes most of the credit for a clean sheet but it’s got to come through those units to get to him. He’s made some big saves when called upon but the 10 in front of him need a lot of credit.

It’s all about the momentum building and moving in the right direction. The lads will be taking that extra bit of pride battling to make sure they don’t lose. It breeds confidence and resilience.

I feel it’s taken the pressure off January recruitment a little.

But looking at Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool and Crewe, it does get to that point on 70 minutes where if you need a bit extra to win or protect the game we don’t quite have those options. I was surprised Janneh and Bloxham didn’t appear on Saturday for those fresh legs.

If Tyrese Fornah does check in on loan from Forest this week it does crucially provide another option for the three midfield roles. Someone a little different.

It is key we get another couple through the door this window but the results, performances and togetherness at the club has taken the pressure off the recruitment. If we were in the same place as November, the fans would be desperate to see it and making their voices heard.

I have to include a word for the near-1,500 travelling fans and the superb support of late. It makes such a difference.

I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of it. It’s much tougher at games with not as many fans, especially at home, with the atmosphere a bit like an EFL Trophy game.

The whole club has turned around, fans are on board and turning up in their numbers. They are responding to performances, which have to drive the crowd and get numbers through the door. Steve is really tapping into that.

I find it amazing how many young fans there are at games. I remember being young, there weren’t many kids going to Town, there were one or two of my friends at school on the odd occasion. Now I take my lad and half his class are there! It’s amazing and can only help the next generation of Salop fans.

The club is so accommodating for young fans and their families, making it affordable, parents I’ve spoken to say it’s a no-brainer, it ends up being a reasonably cheap day out and is a great experience for kids. The club deserve a lot of credit.

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