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The Shrews Take A Trip To Teeside

January 9, 2012

There are always lessons to be learnt in football aren’t there? Regardless of a club’s stature or current situation, there’s always much information to be gleaned from a game of football even ones that not many other people are particular bothered about. When a team travels some considerable distance to a ground of a team valued as superior to them in stature, then would such lessons be demeaned as simply the nature of such a contest? Such trips fascinate in that the away team will be always expecting to return home beaten no matter what drive and desire possessed that their representatives state to the wider community. The FA Cup organisers would like to believe that the suspension of disbelief drives their product into the public consciousness and to an extent they would be correct. Of course, it’s repackaged as optimism and it was something that the travelling Shrewsbury support hoped would not be found to have false foundations upon heading to the Riverside for their game with Middlesbrough.

Saturday’s excursion to Middlesbrough would end up being the final of such trips to teams of higher-standing at least for this season.

From a Shrewsbury perspective, it was a cruel way to go out when the effort and endeavour displayed gave rise to the prominent idea that at the very least, Shrewsbury should have had the opportunity to return the favour of a welcome in the name of The FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round (or Ninth Round depending on individual preference). Alas it was not to be as Middlesbrough were victorious by a solitary strike from the boot of Dutch forward Marvin Emnes.

The goal itself was certainly preventable. Scored in front of the away end, it seemed to be one of those moments that drags on too much. An emotional reaction of course but what rankled was that goalkeeper Chris Neal must have felt that his teammates in front of him could’ve dealt with the danger. That was to their collective downfall as Emnes showed strength before prodding the ball into the net. Why it rankles is that upon the next cross entering the goal area in an almost identical position, Neal leapt and parried the ball away to a more comfortable setting.

It is not to mark Neal as the reason behind the result. His goalkeeping exploits after that moment were much more assured and he made some very good saves to prevent Middlesbrough from truly killing off the contest. When all analysis is done into individual performances, the actual reason as to why Shrewsbury can focus all their attention on league matters (something they desperately need to do with results if automatic promotion is to be achieved) and not be looking forward to hosting a Championship club that longs to return to that oh-so-glamorous of lands (Premier League to give the actual name) is the gap between those nearer the top of the English football pyramid and those not. Technical attributes are an important element but what this game reinforced was the point that it is the tactical mindset and the appropriate positioning that makes that all important difference.

Terry Gornell’s performance would prove to be the focal point of frustration as like he did against Northampton, he ran into spaces but appeared to not know quite what to do when there. It is not to his detriment. He is still young and he will improve judging by his natural characteristics but it was his lack of positional sense and that of some of his colleagues that saw Shrewsbury fail. The point comes in the substitution when Gornell was replaced. James Collins came on and caused an immediate problem to the Middlesbrough defence. They had become used to Gornell and fellow forward Martin Morgan’s movement back into channels and expected to be met by a similar threat. With the initiative required, Collins stayed forward in the centre much more and it was this that helped Shrewsbury create more chances in the latter stages of the game.

It would’ve been more interesting if Collins had been introduced some 15 or so minutes earlier but it was not to be the case on this occasion. The same applies to Jon Taylor’s introduction from the bench as well. His running into central areas caught Middlesbrough unaware in some moments but it was those moments where Middlesbrough’s technical edge showed.

It is not to be too detrimental to any individual players’ effort. That would be cruel. It is more the fact that sometimes a player just falls into a pattern. There is always talk of the great players being ones who can do the unexpected and maybe it is this eulogised power that divides the haves and have-nots of the game. Shrewsbury can be proud that they were far from disgraced and can hopefully turn such an experience into greater improvements in future scenarios. The key is always to react accordingly to such setbacks. In reality, Middlesbrough were expected to be victorious and the Salopians were expected to return to Shropshire with defeat ringing in their ears no matter how much pride could be derived from it. The result simply fitted into the current natural order of English football. Therefore, it’s only inevitable that it would be routinely ignored by the greater population desperately seeking some upset to boost the want for there to be some “romance of the cup”.

Besides had Shrewsbury progressed at the expense of the Riverside dwellers then the Fourth Round wouldn’t have one of its “derby” games to get excited about. Sunderland versus Middlesbrough appeals to the market more than Sunderland versus Shrewsbury. Home games are bankers after all when the gap between the teams is large in the English footballing pyramid of power.

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