Shrewsbury 0-0 Newport

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.

salop v newport

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.”

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Shrewsbury 2-0 Luton

While I have attended all but the Leicester game this season, I have refrained from writing an article since the Tranmere game as there has been little to write about from a tactical point of view.

Shrewsbury’s intensive start to the season continued against Luton Town after a fantastic result against Premier League Leicester. Micky Mellon stuck with the same 5-3-2 formation as in the League Cup, with Vernon replacing the injured Mangan. I am really pleased to see Micky Mellon try different formations; this will allow Town to exploit weaknesses in the opposition, it maximises the players at Mellon’s disposal and gives me a basis on which to blog 🙂 Mellon selected 5-3-2 due to the Vincent injury and the limited number of wide players in the squad. Playing this way means Salop can field three of their many central midfielders in the team and exploit the natural athleticism and crossing ability of Demetriou and Gayle. The tactical highlight of the game for me was the use of Clark.

salop v luton

Salop started the game brightly with all the players looking comfortable on the ball with the license to play a pass. Goldson received the ball and looked for a man in blue, Clark made a run down the middle and Goldson spotted it. A sweet ball over the top beat the Luton central defenders. Clark took the ball down brilliantly and calmly put the ball past Tyler. Three minutes had gone and Town were 1-0 up! As the game restarted Town looked to increase their advantage as they found themselves in lots of space with plenty of time. Luton’s manager, John Still, took the decision to change his system, replacing Rooney with Lacey after 13 minutes and going to a 5-3-2. Lacey joined McNulty and Wilkinson to form a back three. I have depicted the Luton line-up as 5-3-2 as they spent the majority of the game in this formation. Shrewsbury continued to dominate the first half up to the 35th minute where Luton began to exert some pressure on Salop. The midfield three of each side was setup differently. Luton played with a deep lying midfielder, while Town opted for Clark playing ahead of Woods and Wesolowski.

I was really impressed by the passing and possession based game on show from Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury were composed on the ball, managing the pace of the game and when the opportunity presented itself attacked with real pace and purpose. All three central defenders were comfortable coming forward with the ball, surprising and breaking down the Luton defensive. Town’s wing-backs got forward and presented an option out wide. In particular Demetriou offered real quality from the left, in one attack gifting Collins a superb chance when he crossed only for the striker to narrowly head the ball wide. In the second half Town put together some delightful passages of play. In the 56th minute Town counter attacked with Woods and Clark combing to move out of defensive. A through ball was then played to Vernon who crossed to Collins who was unlucky not to score. The move ended with Town fans on their feet clapping in passionate support. Town dominated the game, enjoying 63% possession and 18 shots on goal (compared to Luton’s two).

Clark playing in the number 10 role was a huge threat to Luton with his pace and movement. He really enjoyed the role and it is positive to see a young player adapt at playing on the flank or behind the strikers. Clark often drifted left, overloading the left hand side with Demetriou.

Another tactic worthy of attention is the movement of the strikers. Collins and Vernon took it in turns to drop deep to receive the ball, play a quick one-two with midfield and then make a run forward. This dragged a Luton defender out of position, thus creating space for other players. With Clark pushing forward and the two wing-backs supporting, the player in possession has the luxury of several options. In the Tranmere game I noted that Town did not exploit the space in front of the central defenders, this was not the case against the Hatters. It is encouraging to see the team developing, Mellon is proving to be a good football manager and if the side continues to improve, Salop fans will be very happy at the end of the season.

Luton ended the game with only ten men after Robinson was sent off for a reckless challenge on Woods. The travelling side were frustrated throughout the game by the gulf in quality and gave away eleven fouls against Town’s four. One foul by McNulty on Clark gave Town the chance to score their second goal of the game. Clark took a free kick and shot direct at goal, Tyler and the ball ended up in the back of the net. The game ended 2-0.

In the post match interview Mellon stated that you couldn’t fix the Shrewsbury formation; this is partly true due to the movement of Clark and the movement of the strikers. I have gone for a 5-3-2, however it could also be described as 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2. Without wishing to labour the point – I am really impressed with Mellon. The team is organised, fit, hungry and confident. They are able to play a number of formations and the squad is full of players capable of playing in the first team. Mellon is building a strong link with the fans as captured by the Charles Darwin pub’s new beer – “Micky Mellons Barmy Army”. Brilliant!

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Thank you to Matt Ashton who has allowed me to use the photo above.

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Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Tranmere Rovers

Shrewsbury came into their first home league fixture on the back of a well-deserved victory against Championship side Blackpool. Mark Ellis’ knee problem meant Micky Mellon was forced to make one change from the side that started against Blackpool. Demetriou came into the starting eleven slotting in at left back with Knight-Percival moving into the centre to partner Goldson.

salop v tranmere

 

Tranmere set up in a defensive 4-5-1; first half they created several chances including the scrappy goal that gave them a first half lead. A cross from the Tranmere left side was not cleared by Demetriou, Laird cut the ball back for Bell-Baggie who put the ball into the back of the net – a poor goal for Salop to concede. Tranmere are not a dirty side in terms of hard-high tackles, however they are a side that loves to pull shirts, obstruct the opposition when trying to play the ball and kick/throw the ball away. This was a tactic Tranmere employed all game; they clearly respected Town’s ability. Shrewsbury lined up in a 4-4-2 formation.

In the first half Shrews did create chances, but they were rather ponderous in possession and lacked the pace of passing that troubled Blackpool. Town’s one-dimensional attack was focused down the flanks with the aim of getting the ball into the box. Tranmere in their 4-5-1 sat deep and made it hard for Shrews to play the ball to feet, closing down quickly and packing the box. This created a huge amount of space in front of the Tranmere penalty area. Shrewsbury didn’t try to exploit this space. I am sure Mellon and his team will pick this up in their analysis. Town need to mix their attacking approaches as only focusing on the flanks makes Town much easier to defend against. Salop lacked movement and it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Mellon took off both strikers. Akpa-Akpro and Mangan were given their opportunity after 74 minutes. On the 90th minute Town made the game 1-1 when Demetriou’s cross was met by Mangan who tapped the ball home. Goldson cut the celebrations short, with time ticking away, there was still the possibility of winning the game. A calm approach to the last couple of minutes saw Mangan cross for left-back Demetriou to head in the winner on 94 minutes. The Shrewsbury fans jumped to their feet in elation. It has been sometime since Shrewsbury fans have witnessed such a fight back. Something made clear by the number of fans who had already left their seats. A good come back by Town and good start to the home league campaign. The use of the flanks did create both goals, however it wasn’t generally an entertaining or exciting game. A plan B would have created more chances.

Shrewsbury Town manager Micky Mellon told BBC Radio Shropshire:

“One thing that I must make clear is that I love Tranmere as a club, but we no way deserved anything but a victory today – to keep knocking on the door and to deliver the way we did was fantastic.

“I am delighted for the three lads who came in, and we deserved to win the match. There is a real sense of character in the group of players here, some real guts about us and we want to win games of football.

“We need to be a bit more slicker, and maybe we haven’t been as good as we have been, but I am really pleased for everyone here and for the exciting finish.”

Tranmere didn’t attempt to win the game in the second half. Their negative approach gave the initiative to Salop. Despite not looking the same attacking force as Tuesday night, winning games when not playing well could be viewed as a sign of a promotion winning team. Lets hope so!

The Conical

PS. Micky Mellon’s team looks to keep possession and play the ball to feet. Some Town fans can be very frustrating. They want their team to attack, get the ball forward and have very little patience. The atmosphere on Saturday was different to Tuesday night when the fans didn’t get on the back of the players when they passed the ball around the back. I am happy for Town to keep the ball and wait for the right pass to a man in space, as long as midfielders and forwards are mobile and creating space. If Town have the ball, then the opposition cannot score and they are chasing men in Blue. Some Town’s best attacks came from the ball being switched along the back line. Rant over.

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Shrewsbury Town FC 1-0 Blackpool FC

Blackpool came to Shrewsbury under two grey clouds, one caused by the weather and the other by rather unhappy fans. Blackpool left it rather late to assemble their squad resulting in a poor pre-season and a performance against Nottingham Forest that demonstrated a clear lack of cohesion and unity on the pitch. Shrewsbury came into the game on the opposite end of the spectrum, with sixteen new squad members and an optimistic set of supporters. Micky Mellon has not been at Shrewsbury long enough to demonstrate his ability as a Football Manager, but his PR has been first class, and the fans are well behind him.

Shrewsbury and Blackpool lined up in different formations. Shrewsbury stuck to the same 4-4-2 formation they used against Wimbledon while Blackpool manager Jose Riga opted for modernity with 4-2-3-1.

How they lined up

How they lined up

Town started the game well with Wesolowski impressing in place of Lawrence who started on the bench. Wesolowski was dominant in the middle of the park; pressing with pace, and making solid clean tackles. Both he and Woods were positive on the ball, looking for space in wide areas. Blackpool started rather jumpy and two errors at the back gave Salop early goal scoring opportunities only for Clark and Vernon to fail to punish the Tangerines. Shrewsbury controlled the first fifteen minutes of the game, with attacks coming mainly down the left through Clark, and in this period winning four corners. However, Blackpool’s quality on the ball began to show. Perkins dictated play from his deep lying midfielder position as the game swung in favour of Blackpool. In their 4-2-3-1 formation, the four most attacking players were constantly on the move, interchanging positions to find space and attempting to pull Shrewsbury players out of position. However it was in vain as only Nathan Delfouneso managed a shot at goal, his attempt off target. Shrewsbury were trying really hard to get the ball out of their own half, but Vernon and Collins struggled to hold up the ball with Blackpool’s defence and two holding midfielders squeezing space.

Shrewsbury kept on battling and the Blackpool domination faded despite the efforts of Riga who shuffled his attacking midfield players around with Zenjov taking up the number 10 role and Orlandi and Cywka taking up the left and right wings respectfully. Woods won the ball in the centre circle, played a delicious ball over the head of the Blackpool’s left back to Vincent who took the ball in his stride. Vincent looked up and with a well-aimed cross-found Collins in the penalty area. A flick on from Collins found Vernon in space, and with a calm chest of the ball, Vernon took his time and placed the ball past the goalkeeper. Salop fans erupted in joyous celebration! The goal was a great piece of teamwork, and fruits of time spent together on the training ground. This is clearly going to be how Shrewsbury aim to play this season. Two busy central midfield players, looking to get the ball wide to exploit the pace of our wide players and attacking full backs. Wesolowski and Woods really impressed me in this game. They worked well as a pair, strong and precise in the tackle and with accurate passing. Clark was equally as impressive, a great signing with bags of potential at the tender age of 20.

One other tactic from Shrewsbury is to play a long pass to the striker looking to find the wingers. Woods played the ball long to Vernon who played into the path of Clark who ran at goal and shot. This play was attempted several times with Vincent and Clark both having attempts at goal.

A big positive for me is Shrewsbury’s calmness in possession. The midfielders are not afraid to pass the ball back to their defenders, who in turn look for a man, keeping the ball moving and then starting another attack. I am not suggesting Shrewsbury don’t attempt the odd long ball forward, however it is not their main approach. Mellon clearly has a different philosophy to Gary Peters! Passing is supported by good communication, you can hear the players shouting and passing on messages, different again to last season.

I really felt for the Blackpool fans as from about 70 minutes the majority of their players gave up. The pressing ebbed away and the passing became sloppy. Riga made several changes in the second half, bringing on Ismael Miller to go 4-4-2, then bringing on Dielna for Orlandi, allowing Oriol to play on the left wing. Riga’s attempts to change the game were in vain as Blackpool only threatened from long range. The ‘pool fans entertained themselves by claiming Salop were rather poor for only beating their side 1-0 and venting their frustrations with choruses of Oyston out.

The game finished 1-0. A good and fair result for Shrewsbury, an opinion shared by Riga who commented “the best team won.” The result means Shrewsbury knocked out a Championship side and look forward to the next round away against Leicester City. Micky Mellon spoke to BBC Radio Shropshire:

“The goal itself was a terrific goal, and we could’ve had a few more. Two, three or four wouldn’t have flattered us.

“We’re obviously very pleased to beat a Championship side, but what I’m more pleased about is the performance.

“This club’s fighting back now, and this result will go some way towards its recovery.”

Shrewsbury are next in action against Tranmere and then again at home against Accrington Stanley. Salop fans will be dreaming of two home wins, and after the performance against Blackpool, they have every right to be optimistic.

The Conical

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AFC Wimbledon 2 – 2 Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury travelled to Surrey to open their campaign against AFC Wimbledon. Micky Mellon has transformed the squad during the summer meaning his starting line up included seven debutants, two players returning from loan/re-signed and only two players who played the last game in League One. Shrewsbury lined up in a simple 4-4-2 with Vernon dropping slightly off Collins. The Dons lined up very similar with Tubbs running off Akinfenwa. However there was a big difference in the style of both sides, in particular the use of strikers.

How they lined up

How they lined up

Shrewsbury’s game can be cut into three parts, a vibrant start, a frustrating middle and a positive end. Salop started the game brightly, looking to get the ball down and play. On the whole, all the players looked comfortable on the ball with Woods looking especially hungry. Playing in a 4-4-2 Mellon instructed his full backs to push forward into space. This gave Salop midfield options when in possession. Collins and Vernon both made goods runs and looked to receive the ball to feet. One factor that had a huge impact on Shrewsbury’s ability to play their preferred style was the size of the pitch and the length of the grass. The pitch at The Cherry Red Records Stadium is very small; this meant both sides had limited space and time in possession. The congested midfield led to Salop’s first goal. A clumsy tackle led to a Lawrence free kick, which found Collins’ head in the middle of the penalty area, 1-0 and a great start to the campaign! Shrewsbury continued their positive start until Wimbledon left back Smith played a long ball with his right foot midway in the Shrewsbury half. His cross to the central of the penalty area found Tubbs who with a smart header made it 1-1.

The game now progressed into a long and frustrating period for Shrewsbury. As mentioned Salop tried to pass the ball, but lack of space and poor passing meant Salop time and time again failed to maintain possession. Wimbledon took a very different and direct route to goal. The Dons defenders played long balls to Akinfenwa, who used his immense physical presence to either knock the ball long for Tubbs, to control for himself or onto a midfielder. Akinfenwa is a freak when compared to typical stature of a professional footballer. Shrewsbury took an intelligent approach to Akinfenwa. Salop employed two tactics; 1) Ellis and Goldson would attempt to win the long ball fighting to header the first ball, or 2) allowing Akinfenwa space to win the ball but then to close him down very quickly. Ellis, Goldson and Woods had great success in winning a second ball. However as this battle took place in the middle of the Shrewsbury half or in front of the penalty area, therefore it can be no surprise that the ball then often went out for a throw in. Wimbledon would then aim to get the ball into the box as quickly as possible. This cycle dominated a large period of the game until Wimbledon were rewarded for their efforts with a second goal. It would be very easy to criticise Wimbledon for their traditional approach, one that got them into the old First Division, but they played to their strengths, a small pitch and Akinfenwa. Wimbledon dominated the middle of the game, which led to Mellon replacing Lawrence with Wesolowski to change the direction of the game. Lawrence had limited impact in the second half and wasn’t pressing enough unlike Woods who was working hard. The second Dons goal was one Leutwiler would want to forget. Wimbledon took a throw in, played a deep cross to the far post, Leautwiler came off his line and flapped at the ball. A goalmouth scramble ensued with Rigg slotting the ball home.

The game then changed in favour of Salop; Wimbledon sat back and this gave space for Shrewsbury to exploit. Passing improved and Shrewsbury could use their pace to their advantage. A flurry of chances were created, mostly from crosses and corners. Collins then made it 2-2 with a simple tap in. Woods crossed from the right, this was cleared to Vincent on the left who played a cross in front of the goal which found Collins. Shrewsbury could have won the game as shots rained in on Shea’s goal.

The game ended 2-2 which should be seen as a fair result. A point a away from home is a decent start for Town. Highlights to take from the game are Shrewsbury will look to play attractive passing football, attacking full backs and lots of pace from wide positions. Salop also have good strikers who can take their chances. Focus needs to be in defense, the players need to get used to playing together and form a solid unit. An extra full back would be ideal, preferably a specialist rather than a player who can play central defense and full back. I look forward to seeing Shrewsbury take on Blackpool, Tranmere and Accrington at home on our big pitch.

photo

Thoughts on the ground:

It is good to hear that AFC Wimbledon are seeking to build a new stadium. Their current home is a small conference style stadium. The terrace is shallow making visibility very poor. While I love visiting different grounds, this is not one of my favourites.

 

The Conical

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Introduction – Season 2014-15

It has been over two years since I last wrote an article for The Conical, while there were several highlights under Turner; tactical innovation was not one of them. It is not possible to write a regular tactical blog when the manager plays a rigid and unimaginative 4-4-2.

Shrewsbury Town’s new boss Micky Mellon has inspired me to reignite my blog. I am looking forward to seeing how Shrewsbury fair in the first game of the season against AFC Wimbledon and of course the tactics Mellon employs. During pre-season Salop have played 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2/5-3-2. Under the brief spell of Michael Jackson Salop played a range of formations. I expect Jackson to have a positive influence on Mellons tactics. Given what we have seen in pre-season, what I hear from Mellons past and with Jacksons influence as Assistant Manager, I hope to see tactical changes within games and over the course of the season.

Micky Mellon

Micky Mellon

I am sure all Salop fans are excited about the new season, lets hope we have a fantastic season and lots of interesting tactics to boot.

I will be writing an article following the game against AFC Wimbledon.

Salop Salop

The Conical

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Crewe v Salop – pre match

Shrewsbury go into the north west seeking two wins in a row after defeating Crawley Town at the Meadow on Monday. Two notable points can be drawn from Monday night; firstly the inclusion of Grandison and Morgan gave Turner’s side the cutting edge to win the game after falling to a 1-0 deficit. Secondly Turner made the changes at half time, the first time we have seen a double substitution at half time by GT. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grandison and Morgan start the game at Crewe in replacement of Gornell and sheriff. Gornell has been consistently average with shane only just returning from injury.

I expect Turner to keep his trusted 4-4-2, much the norm of league two. It sets to be a good game and one town need to win to keep in the automatic promotion race. Oh, and by good game, I mean taking all three points. We didn’t play well on Monday, but we did enough to win. It was pleasing to see town win without dominating a game or having shots in double figures. Against Crawley we had three shots on target, scoring two. Pleasing as it rarely happens to us town fans.

To three points and happy town fans! Salop Salop!

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