The weekly look at Shrewsbury Town from Marcus Braddock
Football is a simple enough game for me if we win it's been a good week and if we don't, it hasn't. I've had a few weeks that haven't been good recently and although this weekend's game wasn't a “must-win”, it was an important one for a few reasons. One was to stop the slide, we were never in any real danger but the losing habit will eventually cost you. We also needed to show that we can cope with the loss of key players like Ollie Norburn and Shaun Whalley. Whilst Shaun Whalley shouldn't be out for too much longer, we're without our influential captain for the rest of the season and we need to be able to win without him. Another important reason is for us, the supporters, nobody wants to see their team struggle for results and it's not unnatural to occasionally question why you're doing this when things get tough.
The performance was important too, we looked to have benefited from having no midweek games, we looked much fresher in all departments. Doncaster have had a half-decent run of late and are a difficult team to beat, we had to dig deep and although it wasn't always attractive, it got us out of the rut that we were in. The change in formation looked like a bit of a gamble, I quite like the three central defenders as the basis of our system but it hasn't been achieving the desired results. We still played a cautious game of course and much of the time we operated with three defenders as our backline, with either Omar Beckles or Kayne Ramsey slotting in when the ball was on their opposite flank. We also had two Josh Vela and Dave Edwards falling back to defend just in front of the backline.
I was quite impressed with Josh Vela, after a long spell without first-team action, he looks to have recovered very well. There is a simplicity to the way he plays that I like, he doesn't look to overcomplicate things which I think stems from a good awareness of his team-mates. With this being his first game after injury, it looks like there is more to come from Vela as he regains 100% match fitness. He also looks like a hard worker, but then they all put in a hard shift despite the less than perfect conditions.
The hard work permeated the entire match-day squad, it would be a little unfair to single out one player who worked the hardest but there were one or two who's performance was notable. Callum Lang must have covered some distance, he seemed to be everywhere as he combined his forward and defensive duties. Not every young player has the maturity to focus equally on their defensive and forward responsibilities. I think it's a rarity to see that sort of unselfish, footballing intelligence in such a young player.
It was great to see Dave Edwards get his first league goal since coming home last season if his goal tally reflected his desire and industry he'd be well into double figures by now. He's a great example to any young players looking to make an impact in the game. He may be in the final seasons of his playing career but he still runs around like a kid of 21, such is his desire to do the very best for us.
At the other end of the pitch, Max O'Leary had another excellent game, making game-winning save after another. It's the 11th clean sheet he's been involved in his 31 games so far for us, and our fifteenth as a team from our 43 games this season.
However, one swallow doth not a summer make and we still have the prospect of Tranmere Rovers this coming Tuesday. Rovers haven't won in Skybet League One since December 21st and will be absolutely desperate for some sort of positive result. In the seven games they've played since Manchester United put six past them in the cup, they've only scored once. That solitary goal was an equaliser at Wycombe last week although Wycombe went on to win the game 3-1. There is also the Micky Mellon factor, as our ex-manager, he's going to want his team to perform at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
The weekend has another trip to Bristol on its agenda, this time to meet Rovers at the Memorial Stadium. The Gas have parted company with Graham Coughlan since we last met and Ben Garner has been in charge since Christmas. Since he took the reins, Garner has found results difficult to come by with just the one win and five draws in 13. So both the teams we face this week will be desperate to get something from our games.