How come Shrewsbury are so good?

It is a medium size town in Shropshire with a stadium capacity of 9,875. The height of the club's achievement was the ten years they spent in the (old) second division in the 1980s. When they last came to The Valley in August 2016 we saw them off 3-0. When previous manager Micky Mellon was sacked in September 2016 they were bottom of League One. They arrive on Saturday in an automatic promotion position. What is the secret?

The club has been transformed since the arrival in October 2016 of manager Paul Hurst.

Paul Who?

Hurst played left back for Rotherham for fifteen years before going into management in 2008. He learned his trade as joint manager (with Rob Scott) of Ilkeston, Boston and then Grimsby. All three clubs gained promotion under his management. His record as a solo manager is: played 260; won 128; drawn 64. That earns him a points per game ratio of 1.72. To put this into context, Charlton's most successful manager is Mike Bailey with 1.64. Chris Powell managed 1.50, Jimmy Seed 1.49 and Karl Robinson 1.44. Compared to Robinson over a 46 game season Hurst's 1.72 per equates to 13 extra points.

His team has few stars or well-known names. He has made good use of his non-league experience by recruiting hungry players from the likes of Grimsby and Gateshead. He recently commented:

"success is not just to do with the money that you spend, it is about the work on the training ground and getting value for money when you do spend. We have perhaps brought in a different type of player to the ones that other clubs at our level would target."

On deadline day last month Hurst strengthened his squad by signing Sam Jones from Grimsby, Abo Eisa from Wealdstone and Nathan Thomson on loan from Sheffield United.

Shrewsbury have been in the top three since August and held top spot after their 1-0 defeat of Wigan in early September until they lost to Bradford City in late November. They have conceded only 26 goals in 33 games this season - second only to Wigan. Meanwhile, Charlton have let in 39. They do not score many - but their 43 goals is the same number as Charlton, albeit in two more games. They have recorded eight 1-0 wins and have secured five of their 19 wins through goals scored after the 88th minute.

Most of us (including Karl Robinson at the City Addicks meeting) assumed that they would have fallen away by now. However, although they lost to Peterborough, Bury and Bradford in November they then went on a run of seven wins and three draws before losing at Blackburn 1-3 on January 13th. They have stumbled recently at home (losing to Plymouth and Rotherham and only managing a draw with Gillingham on Tuesday) but their away form is remarkable with wins at Fleetwood, Bristol Rovers, Portsmouth and Southend in the last six weeks.

This is likely to be Charlton's toughest game since they entertained Wigan back in September. That 0-3 defeat brought a measure of reality to assessments of the strength of the Charlton squad. Our recent run of one defeat in seven games has been pleasing but it has largely been achieved against moderate opposition. Saturday's game will be an opportunity to measure our team and our manager up against a club they would be quite likely to encounter if they did manage to make the play-offs.