After recent events at The Valley it has become fashionable to claim that our team is only capable of beating "southern softies".
Our four wins so far this season have been against Plymouth, Exeter, Portsmouth and Derby. Yes, we know that Derby isn't on the south coast, but there's no need to be pedantic. The fact is that we haven't yet managed to beat any team north of Derby and our three defeats have all been up in the "grim far North" at Sheffield, Bolton and Barnsley. Geographically speaking we are predictable. The good news is that Shrewsbury looks to be a good thirty miles to the south of Derby.
Our hosts this weekend are above us in the table with a game in hand. They have won six, drawn three and lost four of their thirteen games and they sit in eighth place. Closer examination, however, suggests that the table (which famously never lies) might just be telling a fib or two after all. The Shrews' only game against a team above them was a 0-3 home defeat to Ipswich. Meanwhile they have played all five of the bottom five and the games they have won have been against Wycombe, Forest Green, Exeter, Burton, Fleetwood and Milton Keynes. Maybe not world beaters?
Last season's encounter at The Montgomery Waters Stadium was our first defeat under Johnnie Jackson. Supporters battled through falling trees and cancelled trains in late November to witness what looked like a 0-0 draw until Daniel Udoh scored a 93rd minute winner for the home team. This defeat was followed by just one win in our next seven away games (at "southern softies" Portsmouth) as the season drifted into mid table mediocrity. A point at Shrewsbury on Saturday might be seen as an improvement but it really is time that we managed a win on the road. You have to go back to the dreadful relegation season of 2015/16 to find the last time we hadn't won an away game by November and, despite our impressive home form, our mental strength is going to be questioned if the current winless away run continues.
Confidence looked high as the team left the pitch on Monday evening. It seemed like a formation had been found that suited the players available. The defence looked much more solid. Dobson and Fraser were dominant. Blackett-Taylor rediscovered his mojo and Chuks got some more minutes under his belt. Three points on Saturday look likely.
Further good news: Coalville -Our FA Cup First Round opponents (November 5th) - is also south of Derby.