If the league table was decided only on away form Charlton would be in third place and vying for automatic promotion. Unfortunately, our troubled home form (19 points from 16 games) would see us in seventeenth place and fighting relegation. This explains why our current position on points per game is no better than mid table. Our visitors this weekend have the same problem. Their form at home has been almost as bad as ours (18 points from 15 games) and would put them in twentieth place. Away from home, however, their six wins and five draws would make them play-off contenders.
When Steve Cotterill was appointed manager to replace Sam Ricketts in late November the Shrews were in 23rd place with one win (0-1 at AFCW) from their first fifteen games. His first two games were home draws with MK and Charlton but the next three were:
- Dec 12th Hull City (a) won 1-0
- Dec 15th Lincoln (a) won 1-0
- Dec 22nd Doncaster (a) won 1-0
They had beaten the top two teams in the space of three days and followed it up with a win at the sixth placed team a week later. And on 29th December Cotterill achieved the ultimate miracle of his team at last winning a home game (1-0 v Blackpool) at the ninth attempt. By now they were in 16th place with 24 points from 20 games.
Steve Cotterill tested positive for Covid-19 on 15th January and was admitted to hospital three days later. He had a weekend in intensive care and he spent a total of thirty three days in hospital before his discharge in mid February. Although Aaron Wilbraham took temporary charge Cotterill continued to pick the team and give tactical instructions from his hospital bed via a Bluetooth speaker. Remarkably, the team maintained their position during this period despite the fact that after discharge he worked from home for two weeks before being readmitted on March 1st. They have added two more away wins to their record (0-1 at Swindon and 0-2 at Rochdale) and only lost narrowly (1-0) at Sunderland. They are clearly no pushovers.
There was palpable relief at the end of our home win against Northampton, particularly as the visitors came very close to snatching a 2-2 draw in the final seconds. The three points meant that, with Portsmouth going through a rough patch, there is still reason to believe that a sixth place finish is not out of the question, even though Ipswich, Oxford and Blackpool remain better poised than we are. Another three points on Saturday ahead of games with Bristol Rovers and Wimbledon would certainly contribute at the very least to keeping the season alive.
Lee Bowyer will be able to select Akin Famewo after resting him in midweek and this should enable the team to maintain its newly discovered defensive solidity. Shrewsbury do not score many goals - only Wimbledon, Northampton and Bristol Rovers have scored fewer than their 35. On the other hand their defensive record (36 conceded) is top six stuff and nine better than ours. A goal feast is therefore unlikely. We fear a 0-0 draw but are hopeful of nicking it 1-0.
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