Lewis Poole reflects on the 2017/18 Sky Bet League One season
Town were hoping to go into the New Year on the back of a successful month and ensure the first half of the season’s form was repeated.
Hurst and his team’s first challenge was a home fixture against Oldham Athletic on New Years Day. Town’s right-winger Shaun Whalley was at hand again to give the Shrews the lead and subsequently all three points. The result saw Town sitting in second place above league giants Blackburn Rovers.
The next opposition for Town to go into battle with was the Premier League’s West Ham. The FA Cup fixture was toted to be a defeat for Town but Hurst’s men earned a trip to the London Stadium by holding The Hammers to a draw.
There was no let up in cup competitions for Town as they had performed well throughout the season, both domestically and in Cup games. The next game was another step on the Checkatrade Trophy journey, against Blackpool. A tightly contested game at Bloomfield Road saw the game being decided on penalties. Town stood firm and won the tie 4-2 from the spot kick and were into the next round, where they faced Oldham Athletic.
However a trip to Ewood Park beckoned, as Town were to take on the strong favourites Blackburn Rovers. Despite Jon Nolan levelling the score to 1-1 in the first half, Blackburn went onto win the game 3-1. However, this result still meant that Town were ahead on the table by two points.
The next game was a real exciting fixture for the Town fans. Town’s contingent travelled down to the London Stadium for the FA Cup replay against West Ham. In front of the live Sky Sports cameras, Town gave an impressive performance and would have made the travelling Town contingent proud despite the late heartbreak in the 112th minute. Reece Burke got the goal and denied Town progression to the next round. The 3000 travelling Salopian’s would have gone home delighted to push the Premier League big boys all the way.
January was a extremely busy month, despite already playing five games Town had three more to go. The first of the three was a home fixture against Doncaster Rovers. Just four days after the trip to London Town slogged it out and earned a 2-2 draw against Doncaster. Goals from unlikely sources got the well-earned point; Mat Sadler and Bryn Morris both got them selves on the score sheet. Despite the valiant battle, the result did see Blackburn over take Hurst’s men un the league on goal difference.
Games were coming thick and fast for Town. The next challenge would be another Cup-tie in the Checkatrade Trophy against Oldham Athletic, the team that Town had previously beat this month. A similar pattern was followed and Town got the job done 2-1. A first and 88th minute goal saw Town progress into the next round. Alex Rodman and Stefan Payne were the goal scorers; both were having stellar seasons and showed no sign of letting up.
The long hard moth was coming to a close; the final hurdle for Hurst’s men was a trip to Portsmouth. Town ended the month on a positive note by getting all three points on the road. James Bolton got on the score sheet early in the game and the team closed out the fixture to earn all three points. The result meant Town were back into second place.
Despite the majority of the season passing, the favourites for relegation were still challenging at the top end of the table to the shock of the bookies. February would provide another stern test for The Shrews as they looked to maintain their early season form.