'A big week against Sunderland and Charlton': The inside track on Steve Cotterill's Shrewsbury Town ahead of League One clash

Sunderland will be hoping to make it back-to-back league wins when they travel to Shrewsbury this evening – but what can they expect at The Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium?

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 8:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 8:19 am

Steve Cotterill’s side sit 21st in the table following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham but did beat the Black Cats last season.

We caught up with Shrewsbury reporter Lewis Cox from the Shropshire Star to get the inside track on The Shrews.

How have Shrewsbury fared so far this season?

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LC: “Not as well as they would have hoped. We are closing in on December and nearing the midpoint of the season, and to find themselves inside the bottom four at this stage of the campaign was certainly not in anybody's aspirations.

“The opening weeks and months of the season in particular were a struggle. Town found finding the net difficult and were struggling to keep clean sheets at the other end - the latter is still a problem, there has only been one shutout in all competitions this season.

“They finished the transfer window light on options in a couple of positions and found dealing with some unavailability tricky early on. Supporters were disappointed that another couple of signings did not come off.

“The feeling is that in the last handful of league games the team has started to turn a corner. They have reverted to basics a touch and found some players that suit the 3-5-2 they generally play.

Shrewsbury Town boss Steve Cotterill.

Sunderland is their first home game for exactly a month and the Montgomery Waters Meadow form has been a saving grace, having collected four league wins and just one defeat there in their last six. They remain winless in the league on the road.

“After defeat at Cheltenham on Saturday - albeit one dictated by a first-half red card to Elliott Bennett who is suspended tonight - they face a big week at home to the Black Cats and then in-form Charlton on Saturday.”

How has Steve Cotterill been after suffering from Covid last season?

LC: “Thankfully he is continuing on the road to recovery after what was an unthinkably difficult time for the manager.

“He would say himself he has a long road to go but seems to be fitter and stronger week by week. I'm sure he would've liked to have come back to better results but nothing is more important than health, so to see him in action is a relief.”

Who are their key players who Sunderland will have to watch?

LC: “Luke Leahy has been excellent of late, winning two player of the month awards. The summer signing from Bristol Rovers is a left-back by trade but he's switched into central midfield and is doing well.

“Josh Vela has just returned from six weeks out injured and was last year's player of the season, his inclusion will be important.”

What system are they likely to play?

LC: “They generally play 3-5-2 under Cotterill but are struggling with personnel for this one. Town were dealt a hammerblow when fan favourite and influential attacker Shaun Whalley was last week ruled out for between three and four months with a thigh injury.

“Bennett is suspended for the game and another right wing-back Josh Daniels is also out, so it does raise the question of who will fill in there. I wonder whether they might switch to a back four instead.”

Can you have a go at a predicted line-up?

LC: “I'll go 4-4-2. Marosi; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Nurse, Ogbeta; Bloxham, Vela, Davis, Leahy; Bowman, Udoh.”

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