Mickey Mellon’s side came into the game against Newport after stopping a run of three successive defeats by beating Carlisle. Against Carlisle Mellon set out his team in an attacking 4-4-2 with Magnan playing on the left wing. Carlisle began in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Dicker sitting between midfield and defence. Dicker’s role was to protect the back four and distribute the ball to his fellow midfielders. He was efficient at closing down space and with the two centre midfielders, dominated the middle of the park. Unsurprisingly Shrewsbury efforts came in the space on the flanks, mostly through Mangan who was keen to get forward. Salop were successful in getting the ball to the final third, however the final ball was lacking genuine quality, Grandison standing out with his awful crossing. Salop’s first half goal was created when the team attacked with speed and precision. Good link up play gave Mangan time and space to cross the ball from the left, for a towering Grandison to head the ball into the back of the net. The second half followed a similar pattern, with Woods and Wesolowski working well in midfield, but attacks were too often slow and players made the wrong decisions. Collins had a great opportunity to header the ball home but he failed to take his chance, summing up the night for Town’s strikers. Town had fifteen shots during the game, but only 26% (four) were on target. Three points were deserved, but the quality of passing and decision making needs to improve if Salop want to achieve automatic promotion.
A lack of precision in attack was evident again versus Newport. Shrewsbury lined up in a similar formation as they did against Newport. The only change being Vernon replacing Collins in partnering Akpa-Akpro up front. Newport started in a 5-3-2 formation with wing backs and dominated the first 15 minutes of the game. Shrews looked shocked, they couldn’t keep the ball, and the three men in the middle for Newport dominated Woods and Wesolowski. Newport players skipped passed Town players as they attempted to make an interception. Twenty minutes into the game Mellon changed formation to 4-3-3.
The change in formation gave Woods and Wesolowski support in midfield in the form of Clark with Mangan and Akpa-Akpro staying high up giving the Newport wing-backs a dilemma, do they push forward and leave Mangan and Akpa-Akpro free? Shrewsbury created a number of chances in the first half, but the poor passing and terrible crossing in particular from Grandison meant Shrews failed to score. The best opportunity came from a cross from Mangan and a good header at goal forced a reactionary save from Day. The ball spilled into the six yard box, unfortunately no one was at hand to take advantage.
At half time Mellon made a substation to counteract the physical dominance of Newport by bringing on Griffith in place of Akpa-Akpro to play in the middle with Clark going wide. Out of the middle three, Woods was instructed to sit behind Griffith and Wesolowski. Possession now turned in favour of Town, forcing Newport to adopt a 4-4-2 formation. A growing concern for Mellon is the poor quality of passing. Town players consistently made inaccurate passes, so much so that some cross field balls went of out of play. It was very frustrating for the fans, and surely something the management team will focus on in training. The players haven’t suddenly become bad players, presumably two games a week since the start of the season is taking its toll. Rotation, a few weeks with only one game and focus in training should hopefully improve passing. The same drop in quality is evident in crossing; particularly Grandison, who for some reason is playing ahead of Gayle. In two games, Grandison’s crossing can be put into three categories, they either find an opposition player, threaten to injure a fan in the stand or go out for a corner. Given a very small number of goals are scored from corners, it is not a consolation to earn one from a Grandison cross.
False 9. I didn’t expect when I first started this blog to be writing about Shrewsbury playing with a false 9! After Salop switched to 4-3-3, Vernon took his place in the middle of a front three. The false 9 role made famous by Messi was adopted by Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund. Playing Robert Lewandowski in a false 9, Lewandowski would play as a striker who drops deep thus linking play with midfield, creating space in front of the opposing central defenders. Vernon was playing as a League Two version of Lewandowski. I felt he played the role well, and was one of the better passers of the ball, linking play and giving Magnan and Clark space to exploit. His link up play also generated opportunities for midfield to have long range shots at goal.
A frustrating game overall. After the red card for Hughes, their best defensive player, Shrewsbury failed to explore their advantage. Town must improve if they are to earn automatic promotion. The positives are frequent chances created (14 shots against Newport), Vincent looked positive when he came on and teams clearly see Town as a threat. Newport and Carlisle both had a player sent off and accumulated twice as many fouls as Salop. From a tactical point of view, Mellon and the players are comfortable changing formation to counteract the opposition and turn the game in their favour. Clark is a useful player in offence. Playing in a central role, he terrorises the opposition running through the centre.
Shrewsbury Town manager Micky Mellon told BBC Radio Shropshire:
“It was a decent game, and we want to win our home games. You have to keep going and keep going, but you are always going to have games like this during the season. You have to keep a clean sheet and we’ve done that.
“Chances-wise you have to say we have done enough to win the game. We’ve created some fantastic chances.
“I’m not interested in whether it’s a good point for them, we wanted to start a little run again.
“I felt we were being overrun in midfield in the second half, we weren’t being physical enough. Of course, I’m not satisfied with four points from six, so we had to be bold and we want to win every game we are taking part in.”