Analysis: Six without win - but Shrewsbury can focus on the positives
It has been a difficult few weeks for Shrewsbury Town in the league – but there are still reasons to be optimistic.
The facts are, Shrews have not won in six League One fixtures, but that statistic does not tell the full story of how events have unfolded for Salop recently.
They have been blinded by injury problems and they now have five players – all of who would most likely start every fixture – missing for the foreseeable future.
But as Steve Cotterill said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday, the available players ‘will fight like hell’.
It is a grit and determination we have come to expect as the bare minimum from Town.
And when their backs are against the wall, they seem to come out punching.
When the odds are against them, they find a way of putting in a performance.
They did at Plymouth Argyle at the start of this run, and then travelled to Portsmouth just days later to do it again, earning a well-deserved draw.
Those skills were on display in the last half an hour at Hillsborough as Salop gave a 24,000-strong home crowd a real scare. They laid siege to the Wednesday goal in stoppage time, with the home side defending for the points.
The game came not long after the news Elliott Bennett could be missing for up to three months with a calf injury.
Town’s performance saw them toil in moments during the first half, going 1-0 down, but they bounced back after the break.
On another day, they could have had a draw.
Sadly, a good performance is not what earns you points.
Cotterill said in midweek he thought his side were three points worse off from where he felt they deserved to be at this stage of the season based on games that had not gone their way.
But he reinforced the notion they need to maintain the way they are playing for their fortunes to change.
It has been a tough period for Town, but with the schedule calming down and the fixtures being more winnable, it presents an opportunity for them to pick up some points.
If they are to change though, they will need to be more ruthless in front of goal. In most of the games throughout this period, Salop have missed some good chances – and they have been punished for that.
Against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, it was good to see Carl Winchester back in the starting XI.
The midfielder went off injured against York City in the FA Cup a few weeks ago.
The injury prevented the Sunderland loanee from featuring in the game against Oxford and only allowed him to make a brief substitute appearance in the defeat against Barnsley last weekend.
He was everywhere in this one, but what was more impressive was his composure and time on the ball.
Winchester getting through 90 minutes can only be a positive for Shrews.
The chances for Cotterill’s side fell to Taylor Moore, whose left-footed shot went wide, and Matthew Pennington – who ran forward with the ball, combining well with Tom Bayliss, before he missed the target too. But only just.
Chey Dunkley was as threatening as ever in the opposition box with his stature.
He had a couple of headers that missed by a coat of paint after the big defender had got on the end of a couple of dangerous set pieces.
One thing that was disappointing for Shrewsbury was the way they conceded.
Mark McGuinness was the scorer, and he got on the end of a near-post corner to direct his header into Marosi’s net.
It was another good day for the academy at Shrewsbury.
Charlie Caton made his debut for Chester – the side he signed for on loan on Friday afternoon, in search of some minutes to aid his development.
But the space on the bench meant young Declan Hutchings was called up to the squad by the Town boss.
He did not get on to the pitch, but nonetheless, the experience of travelling with the first-team squad will be invaluable for the young man.
He has featured for Town in their EFL Trophy campaign.
It meant he joined Josh Bailey, who made his debut last week, and Tom Bloxham on the bench.
What was remarkable was the support Salop took with them to Yorkshire.
More than 1,000 loyal supporters made the trip from Shropshire – a great effort and something the players showed their appreciation for after the game.
Cotterill’s men will now turn their attention away from the league for a while as they prepare to welcome Peterborough next weekend in the FA Cup.
After that, they have some incredibly important games to look forward to as they head into the Christmas period.