Marcus takes his weekly look back at all things Shrewsbury Town
I decided to take a little seasonal break from my regular Monday football waffle. It's a common enough experience at this time of year to not be able to differentiate between the days and this makes the concept of Mondays a little woolly. The last couple of weeks have not been too bad results wise with a win at home to Coventry the pick of the bunch and the 2-1 defeat at Accrington the one to forget. We had a good result at Sunderland and on a different day we would have come away with three surprising points but Sunderland's goal was of a very high quality and punctured our otherwise immaculate defensive performance.
The game at home to Fleetwood felt like a bit of a non-event all around with neither team really taking the initiative but the Emirates F.A. Cup game at home to Stoke City again saw us perform adequately without taking advantage of a lacklustre Stoke team. I don’t know whether it's just my perception as a town fan but every time we play a team with recent experience of top flight football, they try to crank up the pressure on the officials by questioning every decision and it does very little for the game. I'm not saying that we don't do something similar when it suits us, just that you have to feel sorry for the officials who don't see that sort of intensity every week and must find it difficult to adapt.
The positives to be taken from the Christmas/New Year period would be two clean sheets and the two draws against clubs with silly money to play with. The Coventry win was also quite a good result when you look at their three league wins since playing us. I'd liked to have seen a few more goals but the transfer window may see Sam Ricketts add to his striking options with Lenell John Lewis injured on Saturday.
So far this season the better performers have been relatively easy to spot, Greg Docherty and Anthony Grant in particular have shown touches of class. Steve Arnold needs a mention too, after last season, we all thought that the top-flight youngster would be a shoe in but Arnold has taken his opportunity and served us pretty well, well enough to keep his place betwixt the sticks.
Luke Waterfall has settled in now and his goals from defence have been a very welcome addition to the over all tally. Another that has caught my eye has been Josh Laurent who can certainly deliver a well weighted pass and shows a real deftness in nicking the ball from an opponent without tackling. The main success in front of goal has been Fejiri Okenabirhie who doesn't seem to know how to score a bad goal. Most recently Ryan Haynes who has taken his first team opportunity on the left of defence well and is starting to look quite composed in defence and an irritant to the opposition going forward. We just need to apply all of our talents consistently, if we can do that, the top half of the table should be well within our grasp. I think we can do that because our performances against Stoke and Sunderland seemed to show an improvement defensively and in both cases it took a goal from a top quality player to stop us.
As I'm writing this I've just seen news that we've signed David Edwards and his return certainly brings a smile to my face. Someone with his quality is certainly going to bring something extra to the squad and our younger players will learn a lot from someone with his experience. He's not made a first team appearance for Reading this season but he had a full season in the Championship for Wolves and Reading last year and has plenty of football left in his legs. The news has really brightened up a bit of a dull afternoon for me but it might give Sam Ricketts a nice selection headache with some real quality oozing from our midfield. Grant, Laurent and Docherty I mentioned earlier but there's also Ollie Norburn and now Dave Edwards competing for the central midfield positions! Exciting times ahead!
Talking of excitement, we're in the bag for these evenings Emirates F.A. Cup fourth round draw with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham tonight. We're ball number 18 and although we have to get past Stoke first, the draw might bring us to dream about as it has so many times in the past.
After a cup draw at home to one side of Stoke we move on to our EFL CheckaTrade Trophy Northern Section round three game away at the other. Port Vale are in a similar position to us in League Two but their form is a little worse. They have the advantage of not having played since their 1-1 draw at Lincoln on New Years day and with home advantage they have every chance of going through if we dot play at our best. The big question in my mind is about Dave Edwards availability so close to arriving home. At the time of writing there was no news either way but it would be great to see him in a Town shirt again so soon.
The weekend ahead has another home game for us with 4th placed Charlton visiting which will provide a strong test for Sam Ricketts' team. Lee Bowyer has picked his team up after last seasons disappointment in the play-offs and is challenging once again. It's not going to be an easy game but we've shown we can hold our own against teams in better positions.