Marcus Braddock takes his look back and forward in his weekly update
This weekend we heard the sad news that our ex manager Ian McNeill has passed away aged 85.
I remember his time quite well. It was the late 1980's and there always seemed to be some sort of excitement and his teams were capable of playing with a real swagger. On social media I notice that people are paying their respects and mentioning some of the great players that he brought us. Names like John McGinley, Tony Kelly and Vic Kasule made themselves famous and sometimes infamous to Town fans. People always smile fondly when remembering the Ian McNeill years and he has my gratitude for that. Rest In Peace Ian McNeill.
There is also happy news though, Paul Hurst won the League One Manager of the month award which is about a month overdue for my money. Many people say that the award is cursed but happily we've shown that not to be the case.
This week has been another good one for the first team. A good win for Town against WBA in the Checkatrade Trophy gave Paul Hurst an opportunity to use players that have been on the fringes so far. With the colder, more physically punishing winter period approaching Paul Hurst seems to be managing his players well with regard to overall squad fitness and readiness.
I was really pleased to see Bryn Morris make his comeback from injury in the 3-0 win. Is it just me or do our players often come back quicker than anticipated? Possibly an advantage of having a young forward thinking physio with us. Whatever the reason, it's never nice to see a new player unable to make the impact he wanted because of injury and he looked like he was trying to make up for lost time if his performance is anything to go by.
Another good performance on Tuesday night came from Christos Shelis who signed a two year professional contract the day before. The Cypriot Under-17 international, looked impressive in pre-season and hopefully he'll be the latest of our youth prospects to transition to the first team squad successfully. As has become the case, every Town player gave a committed performance and the game worked out well for goalscorer Louis Dodds who earned himself a first team place against Walsall on Saturday.
Walsall is usually one game that is circled on away fans calendars, long considered as a derby because of our relative closeness and because we've been in similar leagues over the years. I went there once and it rained so I didn't go this time but my respect goes to the 1500 or so that did. It looks as if they saw a pretty competitive game if the extended highlights on IFollow are anything to go by.
The Walsall goal was particularly well struck and so difficult for Craig MacGillivray as it was a shot from a rebound that Ben Godfrey was trying to block. So Craig’s view of the ball was blocked until it was too late to react. I think you just have to take your hat off the the great reaction shot that it was.
The after match chatter was all about the decisions made by the ref, one disallowed goal and according to Paul Hurst, an error by the officials. I watched the disallowed goal and saw the deflection off the head of the Walsall player but it has to be more than a deflection if my reading of the rules is correct so the ref got that one right.
I've watched the penalty decision and I don’t like to see people sent off but had he been, there is every chance that we would have gone on to win the game against ten men given our excellent form. I won’t pass comment on the officials being unable to identify who handled the ball but Paul Hurst said it was remarkable and I'd agree.
Second-placed Wigan Athletic winning 2-1 at home to Scunthorpe sees our four point lead cut in half but we still have the only unbeaten record in the EFL. We have no midweek game this week so the first team can rest a little easier without the pressure of a midweek performance.
Sadly we're back on the road in Plymouth next weekend to play the bottom placed team. That's a bit of a shame for me as Saturday is my birthday and I have no game to watch so I've decided to support our under 18 team who play Fleetwood Town at the Sundorne sports centre at eleven of the morning clock.
The youth team travelled to Mansfield on Saturday and lost 5-2 after having taken the lead through Ryan Barnett who volleyed home Tyrone Ofori's cross. Mansfield then hit five before Lifumpa Mwandwe got Town a consolation goal near the end.
Shrewsbury Town Ladies lost 3-1 at TNS in the F.A. Cup. Town started well in a hard fought cup tie with striker Tania Prior taking the lead early on but as hard as they battled they couldn't avoid defeat in the end. Centre back Holly Nicholson was voted as Player of the Match for her performance. Next Sunday, Shrewsbury Town Ladies entertain Florence Colliery from Stoke on Trent.