Marcus Braddock beings his weekly thoughts on all things Shrewsbury Town
In retrospect, Saturday mornings changeable weather seemed a portent to what lies ahead for Shrewsbury Town supporters that afternoon. After a decent performance at Rotherham, hopes were high that we'd see a good performance against a Fleetwood team that had already pushed themselves into the top six. However, with their home form looking to be their main strength and their defence only keeping one clean sheet so far, I thought we could do well with the right selection. The team sheet was very similar to the one that beat Southend so I had high hopes that we could get a good start.
As I'd hoped, we started well, looking dangerous going forward and pretty tight at the back. However, the chances created weren't finished well enough to give us a lead, so much so that I started thinking about the old adage; If you don't take your chances, you'll get punished.
Our punishment was delivered after 36 minutes of near domination when, against the run of play, Fleetwood won a corner. They managed to get the ball into the net via the bar and Callum Lang who was rushing back toward the goal line. Pig sick would describe how I felt at that moment, we'd looked to be the better side, we were passing it about neatly and finding each-other in good positions but were a goal down.
From the moment the ball went in the net we looked a different team, it was as if we were so stunned at conceding that we didn't know what to do. The goal also emboldened Fleetwood who pushed forward as a unit, giving them a greater presence in midfield, taking control of the pitch in the process. When we did get the ball, the earlier silky passing ability deserted us and I wasn't the only one looking at the clock, hoping we could last to half time.
My half time hopes of a recovery were dashed after 56 minutes, Fleetwood were still looking the more likely team to score and they did so all too easily. We looked far too casual in our approach and Fleetwood took advantage, getting in behind the defence and punishing us again by squaring and scoring. They did it again a little while later with a better finish and that was the game pretty much finished apart from some histrionics from the Fleetwood bench that I didn't really see but the referee did. I did see the Fleetwood manager baiting the home crowd but I can't say that I was particularly surprised given his well-documented form. Sadly, having beaten us well, his team followed his lead acting like bad losers rather than gracious winners.
The other difference between the two teams was pretty plain to see, we're a team with good quality players but when things go wrong, we look a little lost. Fleetwood on the other hand, grabbed a goal, sensed indecision and exploited it. That's why they're in 3rd place and we're in mid-table, they have a killer instinct that we've yet to exhibit for a whole 90 minutes.
Changing the subject a little, we're now ten games into the 2019/20 season, a point that many supporters feel is a fair time to draw an opinion on what sort of team this is and how we might do. Whilst I'm not sure that ten games are enough to judge, there are patterns and tendencies that look to be emerging. The Fleetwood game saw both our good side and our not so good side When we take control and go forward we look very dangerous, as our confidence grows, we press the opposition well in their own half. When teams do get an opportunity, on the whole we defend well but we have lapses which can be quite costly because we don't always cope well after conceding.
However, on the whole, I'm more pleased with our start to the season than I was this time last year. We're still a work in progress but I think we've definitely improved since the start of the season and have plenty of time and games to make further progress.
If you'd have offered me 12th place at the start of the season I'd have happily taken it, but we've achieved that and it feels a little disappointing. I think the disappointment reflects the potential I see in this squad of players, I would have been happy with 12th but I see so much ability in the team that it's raised my expectations. Obviously, ability means nothing if we spend the rest of the season playing as we did in the second half on Saturday. However, it was clear from Sam Ricketts' post-match comments that he wasn't happy with the result and has his thoughts on where we need to improve.
This coming weekend, we take on Micky Mellon's Tranmere Rovers who are sitting just above the relegation zone in 20th place but they do have a five-point cushion. They've been pretty strong at home, losing just once in the League so it looks like another tough game for Sam and the boys.