Marcus Braddock previews Sunday's Sky Bet League One Play-off final with Rotherham
The headline going into this game is one of fate intertwined over the years and one of friends becoming rivals. Also in the mix are two teams whose first ever appearance at the national stadium was against each other over two decades ago. I almost forgot to add in that our manager Paul Hurst spent most of his career playing for this weekends opposition Rotherham and was in the team that beat us in 1996. As an added bonus there is also talk of a curse on Shrewsbury Town at Wembley having been beaten there four times!
The problem with stories like the above is that they fail to acknowledge the real story of the season which is that relegation favourites confounded the odds makers and popular opinion to astound pretty much everyone with a passing interest in League One! We've been fantastic pretty much all season and to finish it in style we just need to put the cherry on the cake. That is of course easier said than done against a team that have spent three of the last four seasons in the Championship and a team that has shown some frighteningly good form this season.
As the story goes, the two managers have been good friends for a number of years after playing together in the same Millers team. Hurst went into management first when he took the reins at Ilkeston with Rob Scott in 2008 and since then he's managed Boston and Grimsby before taking over at Shrewsbury in October of 2017. At the same time, Rotherham were in a spot of trouble at the wrong end of the Championship, needed a new manager after Kenny Jackett resigned and so Warne was appointed. Both Hurst and Warne were given the tough task of keeping their team in its division and neither had any experience of management at either level. Ultimately Warne didn’t manage to keep Rotherham up and Hurst succeeded. To their credit the Millers chose to stick with Warne and he and his former teammate have finished remarkably close to each other after two excellent seasons.
Rotherham’s top scorer this season is Kieffer Moore with 13 league one goals in 21 appearances including three as substitute. Unfortunately Moore was on loan and has since joined Barnsley in the Championship. However, losing Moore in late December didn't stop the winning run they were on and fellow striker David Ball took the initiative with three consecutive league goals around the time Moore left. Other dangers include Joe Newell who has chipped in seven league goals and six assists this season and Will Vaulks whose scored six league goals and supplied four assists. Part of the problem with playing a team like Rotherham is that they have a generous sprinkling of good attacking players who can hurt a team and they added to that sprinkling with the loan signing of Michael Smith from Bury in January. Smith has scored six times in 18 league starts and also has three assists, no mean feat coming into a team that was in great form and making an impact.
Aside from Blackburn and Wigan, Rotherham are the highest goalscorers in the division with 73 goals scored this season. The Millers score well throughout the game but their best period is in the second fifteen minutes of games with 15 scored although they also finish well with thirteen goals scored in the last fifteen minutes. We're pretty even when it comes to not scoring with the Town failing to score on eight occasions and Rotherham failing to score just seven times.
At the back
The Millers are the 7th best defence in League One whilst we were second having conceded 39 compared to Rotherham's 53. Over the season we've kept a similar amount of clean sheets with Shrewsbury shading it with 16 from 46 whilst Rotherham have managed 15 from 46. Our clean sheets have mostly come from home games with eleven at home and five away. Rotherham have kept things pretty even with eight clean sheets at home and seven away. Twelve of their clean sheets have been achieved with on loan Fulham Keeper Marek Rodak between the sticks and it was the Slovakian keeper who kept a clean sheet in their second play-off game against Scunthorpe.
Town are without Abu Ogogo and Junior Brown who have long-standing injuries.
Rotherham’s Jamie Proctor (knee) and Darren Potter (Achilles) will miss out.
Referee - Robert Jones from Merseyside. Games this season: 44. Yellow cards: 129. Red cards: 8.
Assistants - Neil Davies and Dan Robathan
Fourth Official - Scott Duncan
I feel quietly confident about our chances, we were the better team when it comes to points scored and I think we can do no better than replicate the two play-off semi finals. Maybe I'm getting a bit carried away but I thought that those two 1-0 wins showed all of our strengths. We controlled the game for large portions, we kept a clean sheet because everybody did their jobs and got in the faces of the opposition. I'm really hoping that the supporters can follow suit and make enough noise to get in the Millers faces because they look to be bringing a few more and we saw the impact a noisy support had at Wembley a few weeks ago. I loved the noise we all made at the Meadow against Charlton, it seemed like everyone was making as much noise as they could and it looked to translate as confidence on the pitch. The noise as Carlton Morris slotted the ball home was the best I've heard at the Montgomery Waters Meadow and I'd love to hear it again on Sunday. So bring the noise of Shropshire to Wembley and be LOUD AND PROUD!!!