‘They’re at the top end of the table for a reason’ - Shrews’ boss Ricketts heaps praise on Town ahead of clash
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Football writer CARL MARSTON casts his eye over Shrewsbury Town, today’s visitors to Portman Road
There is no such thing as a three-point home banker in League One, but Ipswich Town will be desperately disappointed if they drop points against visiting Shrewsbury Town this afternoon.
Everything points towards a home win.
There’s the current trend: Town are third in the league, 14 points and 19 places ahead of the relegation-threatened Shrews, who are down in 22nd with just one win from 11 league starts.
And then there’s history being on their side: Town have never lost on home soil to Shrewsbury, and in fact have won on 11 of the 12 occasions that the Shropshire club have visited Portman Road.
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Plus there’s Shrewsbury’s injury list: First-choice strikers Leon Clarke and Rekeil Pyke have both been out of action in recent weeks, and both will continue to miss out this weekend.
As a further confirmation of Town’s expected supremacy, Shrews boss Sam Ricketts regards Town as being blessed with one of the strongest squads in the whole division.
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However, it might not be all plain sailing for Paul Lambert’s men.
A quick glance at recent results show that Shrewsbury are unbeaten in November, from four starts in various competitions.
Perhaps the tide has turned at New Meadow?
Shrewsbury manager, Sam Ricketts, the former Hull City, Bolton Wanderers and Wolves full-back, is a big admirer of Ipswich.
The 39-year-old said: “Ipswich have one of the strongest squads in the league. If you look through their squad, they are very strong and very experienced. They have good players who could play at the level above.
“We want to challenge ourselves against better teams and better players. They are playing out from the back this year and trying to control games. Paul Lambert has good players and they rotate well.
“They’re at the top end of the table for a reason. They have good players and a good way of playing.
“We’ve scored nine goals in the last four games, which is very good, but we need to start making sure that is enough to win games.”
UPTURN IN FORTUNES
Shrewsbury were only denied a second league win of the season by a stoppage time equaliser during a thrilling 3-3 draw against Swindon last Saturday.
The Shrews were leading 2-0 early on, and were 3-1 up after the hour mark, thanks to a brace of headers by Aaron Pierre and Matt Millar, and a clinical finish by veteran Dave Edwards.
However an injury-time goal by Matt Smith rescued a point for John Sheridan’s new charges, so keeping the Shrews in the bottom four.
Earlier in the month, there were wins at Cambridge United (2-0 in the FA Cup) and Crewe (4-3 in the Papa John’s Trophy), and a 1-1 draw against Burton Albion in the league when young striker David Udoh came up trumps with a 98th minute leveller.
The previous month, the Shrews recorded their first league victory with a 1-0 success at AFC Wimbledon, via Leon Clarke’s 90th minute header.
Five of their eight points have been accrued on the road.
THE HISTORY BOOKS
Shrewsbury have never enjoyed their trips to Portman Road.
The one possible exception was 66 years ago, with a goalless draw on March 27, 1954. Otherwise, they have lost on their other 11 visits.
Moreover, they have failed to even score a goal in their last six visits, spanning nearly 54 years and extending all the way back to a 4-1 defeat in January, 1967.
GOALS SPREAD AROUND
Although only two players have scored more than one goal – Aaron Pierre and Brad Walker have both needed two goals from 12 and 11 appearances respectively – an impressive 13 different players have got on the score-sheet.
So whereas the strike-force duo of 35-year-old journeyman Clarke (hamstring) and ex-Huddersfield front-runer Pyke (thigh) will be missed, Town will have to be on their guard with threats elsewhere from all over the pitch.
Late October arrivals included Marc Pugh and Charlie Daniels, both with bags of experience.
Winger Pugh returned to the Shrews, 11 years after his departure for Hereford, having played for Bournemouth and QPR, while 34-year-old defender Daniels rattled up 265 games for Bournemouth over a nine-year period. Both signed short-term deals until January.
Other signings from last month were keeper Deyan Iliev (on loan from Arsenal), defender Matt Millar (from A-League club Newcastle Jets) and Jan Zamburek (loan from Brentford).