No question that hurt. We’d I think pretty much reconciled ourselves to the fact that we hadn’t played well enough, against another lowly but resolute opponent, to be able to claim we deserved to win; but losing in stoppage time to a ‘goal’ that so clearly should have been ruled out is another matter. Going into the game you’d have said a win and dropping the points against Morecombe was repaired, four points from the two games a good return, a defeat and you have to question whether at least the initial the JJ bounce has run its course, a draw and we’d feel a little disappointed but fair enough, depending on the circumstances. As it is, the loss and the circumstances inevitably leave us feeling gutted, even if JJ is right to focus on 14 points from 7 games.
For Shrewsbury’s goal, it is worth remembering that we got our equaliser against Rotherham (well-deserved as it may have been) curtesy of a clear shove in the back on their guy by Washington. In both cases I’d suggest that you had a forward playing the percentages: no chance of getting the ball so no downside to trying to influence play with a foul, worst that can happen is the ref gives the free kick against you and if he misses it you never know. The refs in League One are inconsistent enough to make it well worth trying; with VAR both goals would have been ruled out.
With around 10 minutes to go, the game scoreless and horrible in windy conditions, the situation was created whereby either side could have nicked a fortunate winner. In stoppage time the ball actually dropped in their box to Gilbey, but instead of firing in the winner he scuffed his shot. Narrow margins. And although we look back on the lion’s share of possession, they could have scored twice in the opening spell – one cross inches away from being converted then the powerful strike which MacGillivray superbly turned over the bar. The sum total of our real efforts on goal was Gilbey’s first-half shot, two headers either side of the break from Washington, and a fierce drive from Lee – all of which amounted to routine saves by their keeper. Might add in the cross which was headed out from under the bar by their defender.
The concerning aspect for me about both the Morecombe and Shrewsbury games was our failure to impose ourselves and win the games in the second half. In both games we were brighter and more inventive before the break. That surely points to the fatigue we have all been pointing to, plus the lack of good options on the bench. I suspect most would agree that if Stockley and Pearce had both been available we would have taken more than the one point. It isn’t that those on the bench are not good players, just that we are short in key areas (up front and central defence) while the midfield trio of Dobson, Gilbey and Lee has been working so well that you don’t want to alter that during a game.
It's also reasonable to suppose that the opposition have been doing their homework and worked out how they want to counter our threat. Shrewsbury began the game very much on the front foot, but one they didn’t get their early goal they focused more on getting players behind the ball, leaving no space for Lee in particular to utilise. That really meant our threat had to come down the flanks, but while Blackett-Taylor caused them problems moving Purrington into central defence did curb the threat on the other side, with Soare looking rather rusty.
We know that in both games the zip and verve which we saw against Plymouth has just not been there. Has to be back by the time Ipswich come visiting if the momentum is to be restored. Barring injury Stockley will be back for that one, perhaps Pearce too, and with Leko now back in the frame and Jaiyesimi having a further break to rebuild the energy we should be in better shape physically and mentally. Of course in the interim there is the small matter of sending out a side for the Papa John’s thing and avoiding the embarrassment of an FA Cup exit to Gateshead. Quite frankly just want those games out of the way so that we can focus on the ones that matter and getting back on track after a blip.