Marcus Braddock takes his weekly look at all things Shrewsbury Town
To say it's been a bit of a bad week for Shrewsbury Town would be an understatement but the news we received this Morning puts any footballing woes into their proper context. As you may have read, ex-Town manager Harry Gregg has passed away peacefully, aged 87. When he arrived at Gay Meadow, it was to replace the inimitable Arthur Rowley, and he did an excellent job but as good a manager as he was, his greatest achievements were earned before he reached the Gay Meadow.
He was the worlds most expensive goalkeeper in 1957 when moving from Doncaster Rovers to Manchester United. He played for Manchester United for nine years, played for his country 25 times and was voted the best goalkeeper in the 1958 World Cup. However, what was truly amazing about Harry Gregg showed itself just a few months earlier during the Munich Air Disaster. With no thought for his own safety, Harry Gregg went back into the burning plane and rescued teammates, a baby and a pregnant mother. We have footballing heroes, but Harry Gregg was a true hero.
Last weeks football was difficult to enjoy from our perspective, two defeats in dreadful conditions, neither of which inspire me to re-live them for the purposes of this article. Following the Accrington game, Town manager Sam Ricketts was obviously unhappy with the result and the performance, saying afterwards, "We were far too slow, didn't move the ball quick enough and didn't get forward quick enough". From an outside point of view, I thought that Accrington were expecting us to play a certain way and were able to stifle us. John Coleman is an experienced manager at this level and hopefully, Sam can learn something from their encounter. I think we sometimes forget that Sam is still a relatively new manager and will need to learn from defeats like this. He's been pretty good with substitutions this season, and it was a bit of a surprise to me that his introductions didn't have the usual impact and impetus this time around.
Saturday saw us travel to in form Portsmouth, which was withstanding the brunt of storm Dennis. The menacing conditions weren't the most conducive to an unexpected win. While it's true to say it's the same for both teams when you're in a bad run, it's just one more thing not going your way. I thought it was a much-improved performance from the Town but once they were sunk by a well-worked goal, there only looked to be one winner although I thought there was a foul in the lead up to their second. Confidence seems a bit on the fragile side at the moment. We looked to have it at Fratton Park but in an instant, it was gone again which seems odd as this team don't strike me as an under-confident bunch. They are missing their captain of course and I wonder if that's a bigger loss than we might think. Norburn is always that vocal presence in the centre and whilst nobody is irreplaceable, an identical facsimile is impossible so we're always a different team without him. That's not to denigrate any replacement for him, just an acknowledgement of what he brings to the team. Sadly though, it looks as if we've seen the last of Ollie for now and we may have to wait until next season to see him in action again.
This week we have a rest from midweek action, but we do have Doncaster Rovers popping in on Saturday. Last weekend they were beaten by Gillingham, who look to be timing a play-off charge quite well. During the 2-1 away defeat, ex-Town striker Fejiri Okenabihrie was sent off after 38 minutes, so we won't be seeing his return just yet. Rovers' form has been a bit better than ours with only three defeats in their last ten games, and away from home they've not been too bad with four wins, and four draws from thirteen games in Skybet League One. Another challenging game but one we really need to get something from, I know we're in no real danger of relegation, but it would be good to keep the gap at a manageable 12 points.