Match Overview

With Stephen Robinson’s Shrimps in 21st – currently sitting in the last relegation spot – and Shrewsbury just four points ahead, this is a crucial game in the fight for League One status.

Neither side has picked up a win in their last five games, but this doesn’t tell the whole story – certainly from Morecambe’s perspective. The Shrimps have been playing some great football but just not killing teams off at the vital moments. 

According to Wyscout, Morecambe have had an average of 1.91 expected goals for and 0.75 goals against in the last three games, yet have only two points from nine to show for it. Expected goals don’t keep you up, points do. However, if we continue to create good quality chances, there is hope we can start picking up vital wins. 

To get a Shrews perspective on the game, I am delighted to have the expertise of both Ollie Warner from Salopcast and Gerry Leahy.

What are they expecting from the game? 

Ollie,

“The Morecambe game at the start of the season was an outlier and our worst defensive performance of the season. Our start to the season was very poor and the Morecambe game was a big disappointment.

I expect a tighter game from a Salop perspective, we are defensive and have the best defensive record in the bottom half, we actually have the 4th best defensive record in the league. Unless Morecambe give us the incentive to be more attacking, I expect us to be hard to beat.”

Gerry,

“Shrews have been a tough watch recently and I don’t expect any different here, Cotterill has opted for the low-risk approach since the turn of the year, in a run that has seen us win one, draw five and lose two of the eight games played in 2022.  With only three goals scored and four conceded over that time I would expect a closely fought battle, although Morecambe seem better at attacking than defending so maybe we’ll go for it, but I doubt it! 

The Shrews fanbase was left even more frustrated after Steve Cotterill’s recent post-match comments stating that “we haven’t got that luxury, to go out and buy goals” and claiming that “there’s nothing I can do about that” when asked about the team’s lack of goals.  With this game looking like a good old-fashioned six-pointer, it falls into the must-not-lose category which will probably dictate our approach.”

Shrimps’ Selections

As I mentioned in the introduction, I feel the individual and team performances over the last few games – excluding the first half against Lincoln – have been positive without getting the results we deserve. For that reason, I don’t believe Robbo will look towards mass changes. 

Against Bolton and Gillingham we set up in a 4-3-3 against a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-1-2 respectively. On both occasions, Robbo’s favoured formation dominated. Had it not been for more clinical finishing in both games, The Shrimps would have returned with six points and not two. 

The main selection question I believe Robbo will have is whether he brings Jon Obika into the side. The gaffer has often referenced him as his summer marquee signing and holds him in high regard, but sadly he missed the first five months of the season with a serious hamstring injury. Since making his Morecambe League One debut against Portsmouth on the 11th of December, he’s played just 242 minutes across seven games. That being said, he has two goals from off the bench which is a decent return for the limited minutes he’s been involved. In fact, he has averaged 0.67 goals per 90 minutes compared to Cole Stockton’s 0.56 – albeit Cole has an impressive 18 goals to his name! 

Against Gillingham, Obika looked sharp. Ten minutes after being introduced he finished smartly after rolling Gills centre back Jack Tucker and then nearly won it on 90 minutes.

The main issue with bringing Jon in is where you play him. The formation has been working well overall and the ex-St Mirren and Oxford player has almost exclusively played at centre forward. Cole hasn’t looked at his sharpest lately, but there’s no way you can drop the joint top scorer in League One. In Cole we trust. Jonah Ayunga has looked like our brightest player in the final third in the recent batch of games, which leaves only Arthur Gnahoua’s spot on the left. Arthur has been playing good football – against Gills he had three successful dribbles from four – but I think Jon Obika’s flavour for goals makes him worth trying as a wide forward. 

Jon Obika scoring off the bench vs Gillingham. Jack Taylor’s picture from Morecambefc.com

The Shrew’s Selections

Ollie,

“It is hard to predict the defence. Pierre has forced himself back into the side and Flanagan is a strong contender to start. Pennington or Ebanks could be rested as they have played a lot of games this season.

The strikers are in poor form and either one of them could be dropped for Janneh or Bloxham, but neither impressed away at Wycombe.

Selection decisions are limited by our small squad. We registered 17 players including an 18-year-old with the conclusion of the January transfer window.”

Gerry,

“Luke Leahy has missed the last two games through suspension so he will definitely come back in, most likely slotting in at left wing-back with the shrews still desperately trying to replace deadline day departure Nathaniel Ogbeta’s creativity on that flank.  Elsewhere the rest of the small squad are no doubt grateful to have had the midweek off which means it will be the same team that lost to Plymouth other than Leahy in for Daniels.”

The Shrews’ Strengths

Ollie,

“Our strengths are our defensive record, our organisation, fitness and hard work. We are not a team that will give in easily. We are hard to break down and have not been turned over all season. 

Cotterill is a very good tactician and will often come to a game with a clear game plan. However, this theory is under pressure given recent results.

It is very hard to be positive about Shrewsbury ahead of this game.”

Gerry

“Due to two poor transfer windows in a row, the squad is smaller than anybody would like, this has led to the manager sticking with the same team and system for the majority of games, this continuity has given us a defensive resilience with Cotterill producing a well-organised and disciplined back-line that gives little away.  Even in games where we have been clearly outclassed we haven’t given too much away only conceding more than two goals once.

One of our main strengths even without Ogbeta is the left-hand side, Leahy and Nurse combine really well and are both having good seasons.  Leahy has arguably been the player of the year with five league goals as well as impressing with his set-piece delivery, although he has spent more time playing in midfield.  Daniel Udoh is the other big plus point with eight league goals to his name, the fan favourite never stops running and hassling defenders, he has clearly worked on his back-to-goal game, showing some great improvements in his link play.”

As both mention, The Shrews have kept it tight at the back relative to a side languishing at the wrong end of the table. According to The Analyst, they have conceded the joint fifth least goals from open play in League One with just twenty-three. 

Another strength from Cotterill’s men is their potency to put crosses into the box. According to Wyscout, they have delivered the seventh most crosses in the division with 553 compared to a League One average of 488.92. One of the main sources is from 33-year old right wing-back Eliott Bennett who has averaged 4.09 crosses per game with a total of 134. On the left-hand side, 22-year-old George Nurse has delivered 92 with a success rate of 32.61%. Shrewsbury have no reluctance putting the ball into the box, but the main question is can someone be on the end to take advantage. 

The Shrews’ Weaknesses

Ollie,

“Goals, goals, goals. We have only scored two goals in the last seven league games. We are really really poor in attack. We do not create chances and we are not very good at converting the chances we do create. For those familiar with xG this stat might shock you, against Wycombe we had a total of 0.23 xG after 95 mins of football. We are truly inept at the moment and it is a real worry. In 2022 we did not score against Crewe, Bolton, Gillngham, Wycombe and Plymouth. Not being able to score against teams at the bottom of the league demonstrates how poor we are in attack.

Our inability to score goals links directly to our poor recruitment. We have two senior strikers, no number ten or attacking midfielders, one injured winger and only one right wing-back who is a converted winger. We also sold one of our best attackers in January. Our recruitment for attacking positions is utterly abysmal.”

Gerry,

“After a summer transfer window that was lacking in any activity, the departure of captain Ollie Norburn to Peterborough did little to promote any optimism, this was quickly realised with a run of eight defeats from the first twelve games.  However, to be fair to the manager he did turn things around and results improved although his arrogant/dismissive post-match demeanour remained.  When the January window arrived, it was hoped that some of the glaring holes in the squad would be addressed – very little creativity in the squad – with no recognised no. 10 despite the system crying out for one and no replacement RWB meaning that 33-year-old Elliott Bennett has been pretty much an ever present there.   Sadly, it wasn’t to be with four in (Janneh, Fornah, Bondswell, Flanagan) and four out (Pyke, Leshabela, Cosgrove, Ogbeta) and the imbalance in the squad remaining.

The manager has also shown a huge reluctance to give anyone else a chance with promising youth player Tom Bloxham reduced to a bit-part role despite scoring the club’s first league goal of the season with an overhead kick against Gillingham and January signing Saikou /Janneh yet to be given a real opportunity to show what he can do.”

As mentioned by both, a shortage of goals has made winning games challenging with the fourth-lowest average goals per 90 in League One with 0.8 goals per 90 minutes. Town have failed to score in thirteen of their thirty-two matches so they have been reliant on a strong defence to pick up points. 

Opportunities against The Shrews

Ollie,

“Salop play 3-5-2 so opportunities are available in wide areas if you are brave and keep your full back high up the field creating overloads. We have also been weak defending spaces between our wing-back and central defenders. In addition, we have been poor at conceding goals from crosses. Due to our defensive approach, counterattacks are one of the best ways of creating goal-scoring opportunities against us.”

Gerry,

“As already mentioned we are defensively pretty sound however if Morecambe can draw the shrews out from their low-block then there could be opportunities, with an increasingly frustrated fanbase you would hope that a home match against a team lower down the table might mean that Cotterill shows some attacking intent.  If the shrews do attack more and leave space at the back then I definitely think this could be an area of success for Morecambe, our defence is not particularly quick so hitting us on the counter-attack could be a great tactic.  I also have worries about our right-hand side with Elliott Bennett looking a bit tired and in need of a rest.”

If The Shrews are susceptible to counterattacks, then this could play into The Shrimps hands with an attack full of players comfortable at carrying the ball by themselves. 

According to The Analyst, Cole Stockton has the ninth highest chances created from carries in League One with thirty-four and has the most carries ending in goals with five. His strength and tenacity allow him to operate on the break and carve out chances from small openings. 

In my opinion, our most creative offensive player in 2022 is Jonah Ayunga.

Against Gillingham for example, he was a constant nuisance and completed eight of his fourteen dribbles successfully. Whilst this represents 43% of his dribbles ending without success, he constantly asked questions of The Gills defence. Ollie mentioned concerns with gaps between the centre backs and wing backs. If you look at his attempted dribble map from Wyscout you can see these are the pockets of space Jonah loves to drive into. 

Threats from The Shrewsbury

Ollie,

“Our threats are few and far between. If Morecambe concede, your players should be thoroughly embarrassed. Against Plymouth, most of our chances came from corners, so if pushed, this is probably when Morecambe fans should worry most.”

Gerry,

“Most of our attacking joy has come down the left this season and with Leahy back in his more natural position there I would have high hopes that he can get forward and cause danger.  He is also a decent threat coming in late at the back post when Bennett gets forward on the opposite wing.

Other than that I would hope we can get some decent service into Udoh’s feet as he has shown real promise in that area, I am not 100% convinced by Ryan Bowman as his strike partner so would ideally like Bloxham or Janneh to be given more of a chance.  With the pace that Janneh possesses I would love to see him and Udoh link up.  One final area of possibility for us is the talented but underused Josh Vela, if the shrews can get him on the ball more then he definitely has the ability to make something happen and create that final third spark that we are so seriously lacking.”

As Gerry mentions, Daniel Udoh stands out as their key threat in the attacking third and has the ability to take a chance if it lands to him in the box. Six of his eight League One goals have come within the width of the six-yard box inside the area. Essentially, he’s most dangerous loitering around the penalty spot and will look to take advantage of the high volume of crosses the Shrews wing-backs put into the Morecambe box. 

LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE!

To win games, ideally, you need clean sheets and goals. Shrewsbury have one of the two. The goals aren’t coming for them. However, being at home, they will come at us down the wings and put crosses into our box. If we exploit the space they leave at the back and attack their defence with vigour, we have the players who can find the net. 

I tend to feel the first goal will have a big impact on the result with five of Shrewsbury’s seven wins at home coming from a one-goal margin. On the other hand, If the Shrimps score first, it would put pressure on a forward line, which hasn’t been prolific this season, to come out and attack, which could leave The Shrews exposed to a counter. I know for certain, if it’s anything like recent games, I will have my heart in my mouth for most of the contest as every point earnt is vital to our survival hopes.

On a personal note, for the regulars who have been following The ShrimpsOnline previews, you would have noticed the last few weeks there has been a brief hiatus. During the Accrington game, I was walking down the aisle and then the following week or so we took a trek to Machu Picchu as part of our honeymoon. I hope you understand that life takes over sometimes 🙂

I’d like to say a big thanks to Gerry and Ollie from Salopcast for their excellent insights into The Shrews.

I hope you enjoyed the preview and analysis. If you did, please follow ShrimpsOnline for more news & updates. FEEL FREE TO LEAVE COMMENTS BELOW.

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1 Comment

  1. Sean Slaney on 19 de February, 2022 at 4:08 am

    Always enjoy your previews, certainly get the “footy juices” flowing, so to speak. Great as usual, and Shrews fans reiterating, my thoughts……a win for the Shrimps today. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.💪🏻🦐💪🏻



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