Analysis: Depleted Shrewsbury lacking in numbers but not effort
Promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town just had too much for Shrewsbury’s injury-hit squad at the weekend.
Town boss Steve Cotterill said The Tractor Boys are the best side Salop have come across in League One this season.
And with his players reeling from the news that Tom Bayliss was the latest Shrewsbury player to be ruled out for the campaign – the game against Ipswich stretched a depleted Town further.
The team were already without Killian Phillips, missing with concussion, and Christian Saydee was only fit enough to play for half-an-hour after recovering from a hamstring strain late in the week.
You could not blame the players for being affected by the news Bayliss’s ankle ligament injury needed surgery, meaning he would miss the last 10 games – including the fixture at Portman Road on Saturday. It was yet another injury blow to a squad that have already given so much this season.
One thing that must be said is you cannot fault the effort of the players.
They were committed, as you would expect – they are always are.
But they just were not at their best in Suffolk on Saturday and when you play against a side that has not conceded in their last six League One games, winning five of them, then you need to be.
Cotterill was disappointed with the way they conceded the goals, failing to stop the cross for the first and switching off on the left to allow Conor Chaplin to get into their box for the second.
Salop switched to a back four for the game for the second time in the last three clashes.
They have played in a 3-5-2 formation for the vast majority of this season but the Town boss chose to operate with a 4-3-3 against The Tractor Boys.
Town started the game brightly and almost led inside the first five minutes when Luke Leahy headed straight at Christian Walton from a brilliant Matthew Pennington cross.
But the hosts settled down and took the lead.
Wes Burns got the better of Taylor Moore on Town’s left, the full-back would have been disappointed he did not stop his opposite number’s cross.
And George Hirst, on loan from Leicester City, was the man on hand to head the ball beyond Marko Marosi.
Town then switched back to their tried and trusted 3-5-2 and Cotterill explained what he had spotted on the pitch to make him do this.
He said: “I just thought because they play with a stay-at-home full-back, they have done it for years here.
“They did it with Janoi Donacien and now they are doing the same with Harry Clarke.
“So what happens is they can rotate around into a 3-5-2 and a 4-3-3 and I just felt that we weren’t getting enough joy.
“Our side to go at was their left side at the weekend, so I put Taylor Moore higher up, and then we could match them up because they end up with a front five.
“So that was why I changed, and I changed quickly.
“You can wait and wait and wait, but if you do that then you might be 3-0 down by half-time. So the three they play with were swivelling around, and Leif Davis could then go even higher.
“It was a change that I saw, and to be honest with you we were probably better for the change but not good enough.”
After the break, Town’s chances of getting back into the game looked slim when they added a second goal.
Another one the boss was disappointed with, as the space was afforded to Chaplin to travel with the ball for too long.
The strike itself by Massimo Luongo was slightly fortunate for Ipswich as Tom Flanagan made a brilliant block from a Chaplin’s shot, but it went straight to Luongo, and he volleyed the ball home.
Cotterill said after the game that both goals were preventable but take nothing away from Luongo, it was a very composed finish.
Town had been a threat from dead-balls all season, and that is where their best chance of the game came from.
Chey Dunkley headed Luke Leahy’s corner off the bar when there was not long to go.
Salop kept going, and it was a valiant attempt against a side that look destined for the Championship whether that be via automatic promotion or via the play-offs.
For Town, the postponement of next week’s clash against Bristol Rovers gives them a conundrum.
On one hand, it has been a long season for Salop, and a weekend with no game would give them the chance to recharge their batteries.
But on the other hand, it then means they now have eight games in April – which looks like a relentless month to end the campaign.