Fan’s View 2021/22 – No.42 – Shrewsbury away

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, March 13th, 2022  

FAN’S VIEW 21/22 – No.42


They’ll need more than a drum for that

The world is a pretty shitty place right now with Putin foisting evil beyond description on innocent human beings. Then there’s covid which very much has not gone away. All this getting back to normal talk, removal of all restrictions and no longer being required to self-isolate when testing positive, which I think is utter madness, clearly doesn’t change how this nasty bloody virus goes about its business. In fact quite probably this is all helping it along its merry way: thanks guys you’re making it so much easier for me to spread my bad news. I’ve been looking at the week on week daily figures for new cases and have found the recent increases of at least 50% every day incredibly alarming but there seems to be a shrug of the shoulders from many and a “no-one cares anymore” attitude even as there’s an exponential threat that will whip through any weakness in defences in a trice.

The performance we put in against Burton raised the levels of optimism so high that a play-off spot was almost certainly guaranteed. (Which of course it isn’t). Then came the news that not only Sam Baldock but also Marcus Brown would be out for the foreseeable. Optimism therefore drops somewhat.

Then on the platform at Birmingham New Street we learnt that Ciaron Brown and Sam Long have got covid. Yes, it certainly does rip through defences. We later learn that they are symptomatic and not that well. Bugger, when will they be back? How will it affect them? When the news was filtering through that these two were out, fellow supporters asked why. I replied, “Long covid”. I immediately saw what I’d done but it wasn’t knowingly delivered as humour. I know you’ve got to have a laugh, it’s what helps us get through life but I didn’t think this was a laughing matter.

I was getting more and more concerned, not only for the game a few hours later but the rest of the season too. What the hell was our defence going to look like? As it happened we pretty much worked it out.

On a recent episode of EFL on Quest Colin Murray asked if anyone had told Oxford United that they are not the Harlem Globetrotters. That question would never be directed the way of our hosts. Before this game our league matches had featured 118 goals and theirs just 66. Defensively, despite their league position of 17th they have the third best defensive record in L1 and had not conceded in their three previous games. However, attacking wise there’s only three teams worse than them in the division.

So how would the match pan out? Would it follow the Oxford United goal trading model or hardly a goal in sight Shrewsbury way? It turned out something between the two I suppose.

This was classic sod the performance, get the points, it’s that time of the season. Whether we deserved it or not is neither here nor there. We won. End of. (I really hate it when anyone finishes their comments with “end of” but here I think it is totally appropriate.)

We came out top of the possession / passing stats but only three of our eight shots were on target compared to their five of 14. We certainly didn’t dominate. We didn’t even win a corner.

The game started at a decent tempo and whilst we didn’t hit the dizzy heights of the week before were playing pretty well nevertheless.

Our playing the ball around at the back as we know can lead to issues from time to time. Whilst being no Man City, we’re still rather accomplished at it but early on Saturday the returning Simon Eastwood, in for the sick Jack Stevens, let the ball run before making contact and for a split second it looked as if an own goal might result. Thankfully it didn’t and it seemed that we’d turned this into a break away but we were still in our own half and when Cameron Brannagan over hit a return pass to Steve Seddon we lost possession. Shrewsbury were away down their right flank and that area of the field was a problem for us all afternoon. Ryan Williams was constantly outnumbered there. In this little episode he was left chasing Josh Vela. The cross didn’t find a colleague in the box but ended up on the opposite wing where Herbie Kane robbed Luke Leahy and then made lots of ground, looking around as he went to see what the options were. He opted to slot a pass through to Gavin Whyte who had to slide into it to keep up with the ball which hit keeper Marko Marosi and then looped up nicely for our number nine. Matty Taylor finishing very nicely with a side foot volley. His 100th league goal.

Given what Shrewsbury are if we could have added a second goal not long after the first the game would have been all but put to bed before it had hardly started. The Shrews have only scored more than once in one of their previous 13 league games.

We didn’t go on to dominate though and the game was fairly even throughout. They were getting a few crosses in and Easty had to make a superb save with his left boot to keep out an Ethan Ebanks-Landell header from a corner. We can probably have the usual debate here about whether a centre-half should have done better or the keeper should have come and collected. Would have done if Jack had been in goal so only fair to mention it here.

That said on this showing I thought Eastwood was better than Stevens has been recently and is worth keeping in. Also Karl hinted that even if our recent first choice had been available for selection SE might have been picked anyway as he had been very good in training.

I have to say that I thought the supposedly makeshift central defensive combo did a sterling job. We’ve seen what Luke McNally is all about in recent games but perhaps had forgotten what John Mousinho has to offer. Whether he would make it through 90 minutes was a worry. He did. Perhaps I’d forgotten that he did so last November at Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup. It should be remembered that he was no longer on the pitch when we collapsed and let in three in that eight minute spell in extra time. He reads a game so well and never appears to get flustered. If he has a weakness when up against pace, that never showed here.

I also thought that Steve Seddon did very well too. Better there than at full-back perhaps.

We did get the ball in the net again before the break but it was probably rightly ruled out by the linesman who was directly in line. We’d played the ball about a bit which included avoiding referee Andy Davies who, like many defences this season, could not fathom our intricate play. Brannagan’s shot, which had much of the sting taken out of it by a defender, was touched on its way by Taylor’s head.

In the second half we didn’t have much of a threat. Williams mis-hit a Mark Sykes cross to the back stick but there was little else happening and a quarter of an hour in our lead had gone.

I’d been getting increasingly concerned about how exposed we were down our left and that we didn’t appear to be doing anything different to stop this. That’s where the equaliser came from, unsurprisingly. They got a cross in from the by-line and Ryan Bowman scored from close range. That was his first goal in 15 games which is probably about right as Shrewsbury don’t score goals (as I keep saying). But they had here and we once more had failed to keep a clean sheet.

Anyway, based on the theory that by scoring twice we’d undoubtedly win, the game was still within our grasp. Trouble was we weren’t doing much attacking and still looked vulnerable ourselves in the same area as we had all afternoon.  Luckily for us Bowman couldn’t finish off a second when he was presented with a very good opportunity.

When we reached the 80th minute with the score still 1-1 the way the game was going a point looked to be the best we’d come away with. Then in the 82nd minute Seddon found Williams and he sprinted past Elliott Bennett who took him down in the box. Matthew Pennington’s accusation that our Aussie had dived rightly got him booked. There’s clear contact that is far more than minimal, on player not ball. Well done Mr Davies.

As we’d not put on a sparkling performance I thought a miss might be in keeping with what had gone before. There was no miss, just another despatched spot kick from the reliable Brannagan making him 9th highest L1 scorer thus far this season. Matty is joint second.

We didn’t come under any sustained pressure during the remaining eight minutes plus additional time so all turned out well.

The rest of the day had gone very smoothly. Trains on time. Seat on each. Our chauffeur back home in situ the night before meaning he was able to park quite close to the ground giving us a quick getaway afterwards. A wander round a very pleasant town beforehand and four decent pubs visited.

Right outside the station is the Tap and Can, an establishment that first opened in December 2019. It has the look and feel of a micro pub but is rather bigger than that. Four real ales and plenty of craft beers were on offer.  We obviously opted for the former although I am often tempted by the latter. I’d definitely go back. Next was Loggerheads which for some reason shuts at 8 o’clock on Friday evenings as our driver discovered when he walked past the previous night. An interesting 18th century Grade II listed pub with four separate rooms. We sat in the “Smoke Room.” There’s a sign as you enter, “Gents only until 1975”. Good quality beer even if the choice was rather uninspiring. After that it was over the river to the two we now usually use when we’ve travelled by car. First the Cross Foxes. Can hardly call it a football pub. One of the locals we got chatting to had been to Gay Meadow but hadn’t yet ventured to the New Meadow. Why rush, they’ve only been playing there for the last 15 years? He had though seen the Ramones 14 times but doesn’t really count the gig where Dee had been replaced by CJ. I could not match that by any means although I was privileged enough to have been present on one of the occasions when they played Friars in Aylesbury. And they consisted of Joey, Johnny and Dee.

Finally before the walk to the ground it was the Prince of Wales. Now that is without question a football pub. Plenty of Oxford fans in there and the beer lived up to the high standards previously set.

We haven’t had much in the way of luck with other results going our way over the past week or so but we’re still fourth with eight games left. All the teams that were expected to won in mid-week. On Saturday Plymouth who are two points behind us with two games in hand won at Bolton. We could have done without that but those Wanderers can just about be written off now as far as catching us is concerned. We’re already on 68 points and the maximum they can get is 79. Ipswich, who come to the Kassam next Saturday and Pompey drawing was quite a tidy result though. I was speaking to a Pompey fan the other day and he has written off their chances of making the play-offs. I suppose we should be happy with the MK / Wigan draw too but definitely not Wednesday’s hammering of Cambridge. The blue half of Sheffield are on the march. Sunderland have rallied but it was only Crewe they beat and it would have been helpful if Rotherham had got more than a draw against the other Wanderers in our division.

There’s another few mid-week L1 fixtures coming up which obviously does not include us as we’ve played the joint most games and are not in catch up mode. But my comment after Crewe away that we’re now done with Tuesday nights could be wrong with the Morecambe game under threat from potential international call ups. I also think that Covid might yet play a further part too but have no idea what rules are currently in place regarding such postponements.

Come on Pompey, Accy and Fleetwood.

Twists and turns, twists and turns.





This entry was posted on Sunday, March 13th, 2022 at 10:21 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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