Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.50 – Shrewsbury away

Article by Paul Beasley Saturday, May 1st, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.50: SHREWSBURY AWAY

Pre-match

There are certain pivotal moments in games in any season. The oft referenced Josh Ruffels 88th minute winner at the New Meadow on 7 March last year is one such. Take that away and we would have failed the PPG test and would not have from afar gone through the Pompey semi-final tension and ultimate disappointment at Wembley.

But here we, well the team, are again and this time we know that failure to win is not an option if play-off dreams are to survive until the final day of the standard fixtures in this far from normal season.

Even if we were to get maximum points from these couple of paces at the end of this marathon it is still not in our hands. That said, in only one of the previous ten seasons has 74 points not been enough to get a side into the top six. That was in 2015/16 and even then Scunthorpe only lost out on goal difference.

Trying to predict the outcome of the games involving those around us is futile and when put on record can be used in evidence against one. Having said Sunderland are the best team in L1 they have not won a match since they beat us on 2nd April. They’ve picked up just three points from 21 available and still need a couple more to guarantee top six.

Last Tuesday wasn’t looking kindly on us until added time. We could have done without Lincoln winning on the patch we’ll be playing on today and the out of form Mackems losing at home to an also stuttering Blackpool who lost at home to the Shrews last Saturday.

90 plus five – Pompey own goal to lose two points.

90 plus six – Crewe equalise to deny Charlton a win.

Tension or what. Football, it knots you up inside.

I have today’s game down as the most important of the season so far, hopefully though only until next Sunday.

 SHREWSBURY TOWN 2 OXFORD UNITED 3

After some games this season – and we all know which ones – I’ve concluded that we’re not good enough. By that I have meant not good enough for promotion, not good enough for the Championship. But we’ve kept going and if we don’t quite make it that will be because, compared to the other runners and riders, we have not been quite good enough. At kick-off time that’s yet to be decided. I will however say that looking at our starting line-up we are good enough to do the double over Shrewsbury. That is without taking anything for granted or intending any disrespect to our opponents.

So, the usual score but at plenty of times during this often frustrating encounter no way would I have put any money on that being on the scoreboard at the final whistle.

There were long periods where we weren’t playing well at all but as my son pointed out we scored two of our best footballing goals of the entire season here. So a bit curate’s eggy then.

I’d rather we were the yellows. It’s a bit alien to shout in the direction of the TV “come on you whites”. Nice simple kit though, I like it. Hate all the swirly stuff, the poxy paisley patterns that close up Premiership camera work reveals.

I take longer to get fully into a game in my own abode than when attending for real. That’s because the pre-match routine is a matter of minutes, if not seconds, as opposed to a very lengthy build up when it’s for real. It gets you in exactly the required state. The travel, the pubs, the beers, the walk to the ground, the smell of the burger van, the rush to the toilet once inside cos at our age we all need a pee, finding your allotted seat or any seat that suits, surveying the playing surface and settling into the rhythm of what’s to come.

Sat on my comfy sofa and not a hard plastic seat I’d not fully tuned in by the time we’d gone a goal up. Mark Sykes, who was going about his work in incredibly busy fashion, won the ball and Matty Taylor sensibly calculated that playing the percentages was the right thing to do even with his goal-scoring instinct. He set Elliott Lee up for a tap in.

 

That was a start beyond our dreams that showed we wanted it and could play our football on a nice playing surface. But – and there’s always a but – for a world weary football fan like me that very familiar pessimistic niggle came to the fore. We’ve scored too early. I got very fidgety.

A second looked like it might come though and that would have led to me lying back and putting my feet up. Rob Atkinson headed powerfully over from a corner.

That didn’t go in though nor did anything else and as the game moved towards the quarter of an hour mark the Salopians were noticeably getting more and more into the game and exerting pressure. They were winning corners and from their third Matthew Pennington despatched a header into the net. He did well but the degree of difficulty when unmarked isn’t that high.

Our initial impetus had gone and the game was nothing other than even. Lee had a shot in the 24th minute that went wide and a minute later the Shrews had a shot that went in. Josh Vela was the scorer when we were easily taken apart in a scene where it appeared that we completely lacked a defensive unit.

After we’d taken the lead we’d not been clinically professional and I thought we lacked old experienced heads, particularly in the heart of midfield.

At this stage we were not commanding the game. The home side were going through our central midfield, the back line wasn’t getting the protection that it has a right to demand, when left isolated Moore looked slow and we weren’t getting to the ball first when it was there to be contested.

Individuals for whatever reason were not stepping up in our hour of need. Brandon Barker on his return wasn’t quite back at it and James Henry and Lee needed to be doing a lot more than they were.  Add in that Matty Taylor had little involvement and Cameron Brannagan was trying to force matters too much when a steady approach was required with plenty of minutes still on the clock and the prognosis wasn’t a cheery one.

We were getting some balls into their box but not getting a white shirt on the end of them.

Nothing, including refereeing decisions, appeared to be going our way but we had not done enough to argue that this was unjust. Rookie referee Samuel Barrott wasn’t helping though with pushes aplenty being overlooked and the ball seemingly only in play about 50% of the time.

At half time I was fuming that we’d let a lead slip but only in a resigned manner. It was as if the not (quite) good enough was being confirmed and I’d known that all along. If we couldn’t beat a team, albeit a relaxed one, with nothing to play for we absolutely were not deserving to be remaining standing at 5 o’clock.

The beginning of part two did nothing to change that thinking. It was scrappy sub-standard stuff from us. Sykes was giving the ball away, Lee hit a wild cross, players were not on the same wavelength as each other and balls were being played into space a colleague had just vacated as opposed to that in which he was about to arrive.

We still had proper football in us though and in the 68th minute this manifested itself and culminated in an equaliser after we’d put together a move of many passes and real quality. Many touches in, Sam Long, with the outside of his foot, found Henry in the box and the one-two he played with Lee could not be bettered.  Henry’s first connection was as subtle as they come and as he spun and continued in to penalty area to get on the end of Lee’s falling first time return any defence would have struggled to cope. The passage of play got a befitting side footed pass into the goal.

To prevent us continuing immediately in similar vein with our tails up Steve Cotterill on his return after over four months having been ravaged by Covid made three substitutions and they take quite a while.

We reverted to not being that good but in fairness both outfits had something of a tired end of season look about them now even if we did have such a lot to play for. It was perhaps that we had this carrot and they did not plus the fact that the Salopians don’t quite have the class we do which explained where the game went next.

Lee was set up by Barker and fired over the bar. Ruffels had a shot then a downward header that went just wide.

Sykes had a huge run from our half. Ruffels had another shot.

All this told that we were properly going for it and were playing the better football of the two teams by far.

Dan Agyei arrived in place of Lee in the 77th minute and gave the Shrewsbury defence a different type of examination.  We’d played the ball around a bit again and when Henry, who had a really influential second period, clipped the ball into the box, another substitute Sam Winnall got a head on it to keep it live in the danger area although not much looked on. Agyei made it all be on again. He controlled, facing away from goal and used his strength to ensure the ball remained his whilst turning and via a deflection putting the final touch to the score we know we always end up with here.

With five minutes to go and at least as much again to be tacked on I just wanted to go and hide. But of course I didn’t. I was there to see two stupendous Stevens saves and a really good catch from him too.

Coming out the other side of this with all three points obviously provides that happy pill feeling but to a large extent this has to be tempered by results elsewhere.

It’s a given that nothing is a given but I’m going to take it as a given that Blackpool will get the one point from their remaining two games to place themselves out of our reach. If they were to lose both and we beat Burton we do pip them on goal difference or if all of these three games are won and lost by single gaol margins that would come down to us sneaking above them on goals scored. 100/1 shot? No, given one of the games the Tangerines have remaining is against Bristol Rovers make that 200/1.

So, with Charlton not winning at Accrington we should take note. We can now forget the Addicks. If we win they can’t overhaul us because of their inferior goal difference and their final two outings are against Lincoln and Hull anyway.

Leaving Pompey. We win and they don’t and as we now know we’ll be their nemesis for the second season in a row. Their opponents, yes Accrington, who are more than capable of being a fly in the ointment. Their last four fixtures read won 2-1 at home to Doncaster, then three draws – away at Sunderland and at home to Portsmouth before their latest draw.

That’s proof they can take points off genuine challengers including those in blue from the south coast just last Tuesday. All we need now is for them to do the same one last time. I’ve always had a lot of time for John Coleman’s boys (except when they beat us) and am hoping to have a whole lot more pretty soon.

Not forgetting JFH and Burton who have only lost one of their last nine and will be primed to piss on any party we may dare to think about if news from Fratton Park is positive.

But that’s for next Sunday.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 1st, 2021 at 9:12 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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