It's been an interesting week or two for Shrewsbury Town who haven't been beaten since Ipswich Town beat us 3-0 at Portman Road. In the last 10 days, we've held two decent teams away and beaten an improving Southend. Things could have been better of course, in both away draws, we had opportunities to win but then both Rotherham and Wimbledon had opportunities to win too.
Looking at our away form so far, I'd say we've started pretty well, earning points in three of our five away games. Of our two away defeats, the Ipswich game showed us how good they were but I thought Milton Keynes rode their luck in their 1-0 win at their place. Their goal was pure good fortune and although I may be a little biased, I thought we were the more likely to score. Had we been able to sign all of our targets earlier, we may well have done better.
I've been impressed with the quality of Sam's signings as a whole, the capture of Ro-Shaun Williams from Manchester United last season would have been a decent deal if it was a loan but to get him on a permanent contract really blew me away. Ricketts has added defensive quality since with Aaron Pierre and Ethan Ebanks-Landell joining Williams, giving us four excellent centre-backs for three places. As with the defence, we looked well supplied in midfield and between the sticks but the forward positions looked a little under-staffed. As if to underline that shortage, Fejiri Okenabirhie fell to a hamstring injury and was ruled out just a couple of days before the transfer deadline.
Jason Cummings and Callum Lang were brought in before the deadline on a permanent signing and loan respectively. Both look excellent acquisitions with Lang scoring for fun in League Two last season and Cummings prolific at the highest level with two clubs in Scotland. Cummings signing should prove to be an excellent one, you only need to watch him for a few minutes to know that we have the predator we need. To be honest, I can't quite believe we've signed a player with his ability but in his two and a half years with Forest, they changed manager five times if you include caretakers. With the greatest respect to Forest, that's not the best environment for a young player to thrive in and good players can fall through the gaps, especially at big clubs. Now we have him, we can give him the adulation he deserves.
With Cummings and Lang both scoring quite soon after signing, the pressure eased on the whole team and they look a far more complete team now. We have quality throughout the squad and they seem to be settling into the formation and philosophy. The difference in the two results against Rotherham is quite stark given the short period between them. Admittedly the team selections were different in each game but the difference in confidence and tenacity was noticeable.
The Rotherham game was short on goals but for the most part, we looked the more likely team to break the deadlock, especially in the second half. The threat that we saw in the previous Rotherham game was countered for most of the game and on another day we may well have won. It was probably the better of our two results this week but in terms of excitement, Tuesdays home game against struggling Southend United is the one I'd watch again.
Southend had just parted company with Kevin Bond and were hoping to bounce back into form after a good 3-3 draw at home to Fleetwood the previous Saturday. They caused us quite a bit of trouble and I'm not entirely surprised that they went on to win at Milton Keynes just a few days later. Omar Beckles capped off some excellent recent performances with a well-deserved goal to open the scoring. Jason Cummings showed his class a few minutes later with a deftly curled shot from the edge of the box and everything was going swimmingly.
However, two minutes later, Southend rudely interrupted our enjoyment by scoring from a well-worked cross and header. Shaun Whalley came on after about an hour and immediately made a difference by beating two players holding another one-off and supplying the pass for Ollie Norburn to score our third. To their credit, the Shrimpers wouldn't lie down, scoring again before Josh Laurent won the ball in the Southend half and passed to Callum Lang who finished from the edge of the box. Southend scored again before the end making injury-time exciting for the wrong reasons but we held on.
We're now sitting in 11th position with a game in hand over some of the teams around us although there are also teams who have a game in hand on us.
It's encouraging that we've managed this position without some key players because of injury. Now we have them back and have also brought in additional strikers, we look a much better team but there is still work to do as players get used to each other. It's great to get these clean sheets but there are occasional lapses of concentration that lead to us conceding. However, even the best teams get caught out like that occasionally and I'm sure it'll improve as the season wears on.
This week, Town will be in action at Montgomery Waters Meadow twice, once on Tuesday in the Shropshire senior cup an again on Saturday when we welcome 4th placed Fleetwood Town in Skybet League One. They're in a great run of form but their away form includes just one win and one draw from four games, so I think we have a decent chance of a result if perform well.
Tuesday night sees Whitchurch Alport visit us in the Shropshire Senior Cup final and tickets are priced at just a fiver for adults and a quid for kids. It starts at 7.30 pm so it's the perfect opportunity to get a cheap night out, hopefully watching Town win.