Marcus Braddock gives his New Year's Update on alll things Shrewsbury Town
It's been a particularly good Christmas for Shrewsbury Town fans with pretty much everything going the way we would have liked. Good performances against good teams giving us 10 points from our four games. It's a tiring part of the season and the few days respite before we recommence cup duties will come in handy.
One of the most positive things about the last week or so was the way Omar Beckles has started to grow into his role on the left of defence. Imagine for a moment that you had to use your less dominant hand at work for everything, it's more than just which hand or foot you use, it's fighting your instinct to do what comes naturally and he's doing it under pressure. This Christmas he's been a big part of three clean sheets that have helped us keep up the pressure on Wigan and being a slightly later signing he's not had the luxury of pre-season to get used to us. He's come to a winning team, had to play out of position and is starting to excel which I find particularly impressive.
Defence has been a massive part of the season so far and it's difficult to remember any major errors made by our defence, you don't get to this position by defending sloppily. Our two centre-backs have been as close to immaculate as I have ever seen in a Shrewsbury Town shirt. Much of what they do is aided by great anticipation, seeing moves develop and understanding where they need to be in a free flowing sport gives them a little more time to pick the right pass forward. Whoever has been put with them on the right has done well but of late, James Bolton has been doing an excellent job and it's hard to believe that he was playing two divisions below us last season.
The excitement continues for the first team this coming week with the visit of Premier League West Ham United. The Hammers have a couple of games to play before coming here (West Brom at home and Tottenham away on Thursday) so their stats may change but a quick look at their away games sees 9 goals conceded in the last 15 minutes in the Premier League. That said, they've picked up some important points since David Moyes arrived and I'm looking forward to his and Joe Hart's return to Shrewsbury Town F.C.
Finally, I was looking at the top positions in League One and if you look at the recent history of all the teams around us, you see two F.A. Cup winners, a league cup winner and a finalist and plenty of Premier League and Championship experience. I mention this for a bit of context, the difference between the top and bottom of this division is huge and to bridging that gap has made me as happy as I can remember as a Town fan.
After rather long gaps, Shrewsbury Town Ladies and the Youth Team return to action this weekend with games and at home to Leek Town and at home Blackpool respectively. The ladies game is set to kick off at 2.00 pm on Sunday which is exactly the time of the West Ham game so they may have to be content with the highlights.