Marcus takes a look at another busy week at Shrewsbury Town
It's been another exciting week for Shrewsbury Town supporters with a bit of a giant-killing and a fourth unbeaten 90 minutes away from home in a row.
However, I'll start with the youth team who had an excellent result away to Preston North End on Saturday. After going a goal down, the under 18's showed great tenacity in the face of adversity with four goals in reply. Jack Leask scored the first two, capping off a great couple of weeks that have also saw him selected for the first team against Port Vale. Lifumpa Mwandwe and Reiss Corfield also scored second half goals in one of their best performances of the season. This weeks youth game against Wigan Athletic will be at Sundorne Sports Centre at 11 am on Saturday.
You will probably have heard about or seen our excellent result at Stoke in the Emirates F.A. Cup. It was certainly a game of two halves with the first going in favour of the home team. The second saw Sam Ricketts make a tactical change that brought about a three-goal comeback! Changing to a three-man central defence saw his team transformed into a more cohesive unit and with three goals in a ten minute period we stunned the Championship team into submission. Our reward is a home game against our most local Premier League neighbour Wolverhampton Wanderers but more on that later.
Saturday brought us a second away game in a row against a Blackpool team that had played Arsenal, Sunderland and Portsmouth in their last three games.
A draw may not have been everything we wanted but given this seasons away form, it's not a bad result against a top ten team. I think it's probably quite difficult for a new manager to come in partway through a season, work with new players, decide upon a philosophy and a strategy that both work immediately but I think Ricketts team is going in the right direction despite finding ourselves worryingly close to the relegation zone.
I've seen enough from these players to believe that they have more than enough ability to do well for us but it needs to be consistent enough for us to profit from. A great first half counts for nothing if you can't see it through to the end and similarly, a great second half isn't always going to make up for a poor first half. Saturday's performance was encouraging as we kept out a decent team away from home for the whole game. The three at the back system seems to have worked for a game and a half since it was introduced it against Stoke City which I hope is the start of a more consistent end to the season. It's good to see Omar Beckles back in the defence, Ryan Haynes has been making the left side of defence his own but Omar seems too good a player to be on the bench for too long.
Moving on to the transfer window it's always sad to see players leave and there are a couple who have left that I particularly liked but the reality is that some have to leave to allow others to arrive. One player I had a lot of time for is Bryn Morris but he hadn't really forced his way in at any point since he's been here and with six months left on his contract, it's either get a little something for him now rather than nothing in a few months. We've brought in striker Sam Smith from Reading on loan, a player that Sam Ricketts describes as a hard worker. It's a description that would fit Carlton Morris very well, I hope Sam does as well as Carlton did. Strikers need to have a little more than just pace and a sharp eye these days, they have work to do all over the pitch. One of the things that I've noticed about Aaron Amadi-Holloway is his involvement all over the pitch, working hard and trying to deny the opposition space to work there is more to his game than goals. Of course we'd all like to see more goals from strikers but we do have two midfielders on seven goals this season and both look likely to score well into double figures by the end of the season.
This week will be the first without a midweek game since before Christmas so it's a good opportunity to get some rest before the Wolves game. The Emirates F.A. Cup has been good to us over the years and we have another exciting weekend coming up. Some say it was fate to face Wolves after soon re-signing ex-Wolf Dave Edwards but I think it's just a little bit of synchronicity that cropped up purely coincidentally. I watched Wolves play Leicester at the weekend and we've certainly got a game on our hands, they looked a top class side in the first half. Leicester had to push hard to draw level but they showed what is possible before ultimately being beaten by a wonderful goal from Diogo Josta that made his hat-trick all the more special. Wolves away form is pretty good too so if we're to get anything we're going to have to work very hard indeed!
Before that though, we have a game in the Central League Cup semi final against Premier League Bournemouth. We've already beaten Bristol Rovers 3-0 at home, Walsall 3-0 away and then Burton Albion in the final group game 4-3 and now have the chance to make the final! It will be a good opportunity to see some of our youth players alongside others on the fringes of the first team. The game takes place tomorrow afternoon at Montgomery Waters Meadow at 14.00 with FREE admission!