Marcus Braddock takes his weekly look at all things Shrewsbury Town
It's not Monday but I thought Marcus on Christmas Eve had a nice onomatopoeia. It also sets me up nicely to do a review of the season so far today and the calendar year so far on New Year's Eve. Saturday’s game was probably one of the most pleasing of the season for a number of reasons, the first being that away wins are just good. It was a nice Christmas gift from the players and management team to the away supporters and the wider fan-base and a great start to our holiday games over Christmas and New Year. It also meant the completion of our 20th game of our Skybet League One and as I had a bit of a look at patterns, strengths and weaknesses after ten games, now seems the perfect opportunity to do the same.
Our 20th game of the season saw a good Blackpool team start the stronger but eventually the risks posed from Armand Gnanduillet, Liam Feeney and company were realised and mitigated. It was the most complete performance against a top-half team that I can remember. It crests a second wave of ten games this season, a wave that was an improvement on the first ten in a number of measurable ways. The most important is that we earned more points, thirteen, which is five more than the nine we managed in our first ten. We've also scored more goals, or more accurately we scored one more goal which is better but obviously not the sole reason for our improved points haul. The most informing stat is that we've conceded just over half the amount of goals, six from ten as opposed to thirteen in our first ten games. Along with that improvement, there is an increased number of clean sheets with 60% of our games ending in shutouts.
The reason for the improvement can be seen on the pitch. We don't give possession away as cheaply as we did earlier in the season, so fewer opportunities for the opposition. A big part of that is that we seem to complete far more passes than when we began the season. To me, it looks like the players have a far better understanding of how Sam Ricketts wants them, to play. This means more confidence in our performance which brings the rewards you would expect.
We all want to see more goals though, all football fans do, it's what we turn up for, but I take a little pleasure from the fact that we've only scored one more goal in this set of ten games. Mainly because the efficiency of the team has made those goals worth far more than they were when we started.
As I've mentioned on this page previously, another area that seems to be working very well is our adaptability mid-way through a game. This was shown very well a week or so ago when we beat Coventry 2-1 at Montgomery Waters Meadow. We were a goal down and the introduction of Shaun Whalley at half time had given us a little more edge but Coventry were dealing with it well enough to warrant another change. This time he brought on Ryan Giles for Ro-Shaun Williams, leaving us in a more conventional four-man defence rather than the three centre-backs and two wing-backs that Sam Ricketts likes to play. It worked a treat, stretching Coventry enough to get an equaliser. It isn't the first time we've used the bench so well, this season but it did show that Ricketts isn't so committed to his system that he can't change it to benefit the team.
When you look at the improvements made since last season in terms of personnel and performance, it's difficult to argue that Sam Ricketts hasn't been a good appointment so far. There is a long way to go yet and we have to negotiate a transfer window without losing any part of what's becoming a very good team. I'm not sure we're in dire need of any new faces, maybe we could do with a little cover here and there. Word of interest in Greg Docherty is quite pleasing to hear though, he was one of the highlights of last season but there are plenty of other teams interested. Do we want to be drawn into a bidding war when things look quite well balanced? I trust that the club will make the right decision on that.
Boxing Day brings us another home game against Rotherham who took us apart in the EFL Cup earlier in the season. When we played at their place in the League, we managed to improve with a 0-0 draw. This time I'm hoping for a home win, three league wins in a row would be a good statement of intent for the rest of the season. Whatever the result, I hope you have as good a Christmas as you can and that you'll join us on Boxing Day at 3-pm!