After Tuesday night’s defeat no doubt today we were looking for improvement, hopefully in terms of both the performance and the result but at least one of them. In the event it was generally gritty stuff, especially in a sterile first half, but with a goal from a rare moment of quality it looked like we’d come away with the points, especially as we somehow made it through the final 10 minutes without Shrewsbury getting a leveller, largely thanks to Amos and the bar. But just when it seemed we had made it to the finish line we managed to create a final moment of panic and gave away a penalty, which was duly converted. Over the whole game you’d say a draw was a fair result, but no question who was feeling happiest at the final whistle.
The team saw in front of Amos the return of Pearce to the defence, alongside Famewo who had himself come back from injury during Tuesday night’s game. Gunter got the nod over Matthews at right back, Maatsen returned after his suspension in place of Purrington. In midfield Watson was accompanied by Pratley, finally getting a break from his central defensive duties, plus Gilbey and Forster-Caskey, while Aneke started with Washington. Seems that Shinnie, who took a knock in midweek, was not fit and Maddison was also absent, apparently ill, added to Innis and Smyth (and Levitt and Oshilaja).
It looked like a 4-4-2, although we played more like a 4-1-3-2, with Watson in front of the defence and Pratley ahead of him, flanked by Gilbey and Forster-Caskey. It looked a solid set-up, but you did wonder where the width would come from and about the absence of pace.
And let’s face it the first half was a bore. Neither side was able to impose itself or fashion a decent chance, let alone score. We had to wait 17 minutes for the first real moment of note, with Gilbey making space on the left and curling the ball in, Aneke almost got onto it and then someone else at the far post, but no meaningful contact came from either. Shrewsbury had a free header from a corner as Gunter was on the ground, over the bar. Gilbey picked up a yellow, followed by Aneke, and just before the break a long kick out by Amos was taken down very well by Washington, who skipped past the defender, only to find himself on his own and his cross was put behind for a corner.
That really was it. Plenty of effort, also plenty of misplaced passes from both sides and little movement. We did look composed at the back, equally Aneke was finding himself up against three centre-backs and looking frustrated, looking to feed off scraps. Basically neither side seemed to have the pace or the wit to undo the other.
There was a little more intent from both sides early in the second half and both enjoyed a spell of relative pressure, with a Shrewsbury guy clipping the bar with a curled shot. For us Gilbey was wide with a curler of his own, after which he went off, along with Forster-Caskey, for Morgan and Williams. It was a change of personnel rather than formation, with Morgan on the left side and Williams on the right.
After another 10 minutes the usual change took place as Bogle came on for Aneke. And shortly after, completely out of the blue (but with two of the subs involved) we took the lead. The ball was played up to Bogle’s feet, around the centre-circle. He turned and played a pass to Williams moving forward. Outside him Gunter was bombing down the line and Williams fed him. The ball was squared and Watson came into the box at the right moment, hitting it into the net via a deflection.
About 15 minutes of normal time to see out – but stung by going behind, and perhaps energised by their own substitutions, Shrewsbury woke up and put us under pressure. Gunter was beaten in the box, only for their guy to cut in for a better angle and lose it, then with less than 10 minutes to go we got away with a real scramble. The bar was hit, Amos saved, then the ball was scrambled away. That near miss prompted another change by Bowyer, with Matthews coming on, presumably to shore up the defence on the right side. Embarrassing though it was for him, the only real options were to take off either Williams, who’d been on the pitch for less than 25 minutes, or Washington and go to one up front. It was the former and Williams trudged off.
In the final minutes and into stoppage time and now it was Amos keeping us ahead with a couple of excellent saves. It seemed as if we had got away with it, then Morgan managed to slice a ball forward and sent it towards our box, Pearce and Famewo seemed unsure what to do, we panicked and their guy was felled. Nobody could dispute the decision and, although we had hopes that Amos would save us once more, it was not to be.
Of course you can’t concede an equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time without feeling you’ve just thrown away two points, whether or not overall you deserved them. There was positives to be taken, most obviously the return of Pearce (and Famewo), but having played Gunter and Pratley out of position for so long, out of necessity, we now had Forster-Caskey and Gilbey playing in positions which did not get the best out of them. A draw isn’t a disaster and at least we have a week now to regroup. But the stats now show that we’ve won only one in the last five and the school report has to say ‘room for improvement’.
Amos – 8/10. Almost won us two points single-handed. He really is having a splendid season, we’ve not missed Phillips at all.
Gunter – 6/10. Was given the nod over Matthews to start at right-back (he was the incumbent before having to move inside) but was caught out a couple of times and it was his challenge for the penalty.
Pearce – 8/10. Good to see him back, the defence was sound until we scored but we creaked in the final 10 minutes.
Famewo – 7/10. Much as Pearce, decent game.
Maatsen – 7/10. Not everything he tried came off going forward but covered well and did the defensive stuff with aplomb.
Watson – 8/10. Much better performance I thought than in midweek, looked assured and got his name on the scoresheet.
Gilbey – 5/10. Perhaps still finding his feet and I’m not sure he will if we play him in this position.
Pratley – 6/10. Reasonable enough contribution, thought we’d see more of him cropping up in the box than we did.
Forster-Caskey – 5/10. As for Gilbey, hard to see him thriving being pushed into a widish position.
Aneke – 5/10. Frustrating game for him, feeding off scraps and outnumbered.
Washington – 5/10. Overall disappointing in that he didn’t really pair up with Aneke and his good moments were few and far between.
Williams – 5/10. Played a part in the goal but only on the pitch for a short time.
Morgan – 5/10. Harsh but it was his slice which led to the confusion and their penalty.
Bogle – 6/10. Also involved in the goal and started well, but we didn’t feature much as an attacking threat after we’d scored.
Matthews – 6/10. Can’t really give him a mark, or blame him for the fact he was brought on to shore up the defence and we conceded a goal.