Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Coventry City Six Things: first win for Ricketts

Sam Ricketts –

Aaron Amadi-Holloway’s goal early in the second half gave Shrewsbury Town a 1-0 victory to boost their top half aspirations, plunging visitors Coventry City closer to the relegation mire. Here’s our Six Things from the game. 

Shrewsbury’s first half dominance

Shrewsbury’s 4-4-2 diamond system, which had proved successful during the interim period under Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsey, worked a treat in the early stages here. Strikers Fejiri Okenabirhie and Aaron Amadi-Holloway imposed their athleticism on visiting centre-backs Jordan Willis and Dominic Hyam, which allowed Salop midfielders like Greg Docherty and Oliver Norburn to pick up second balls from midfield, as Abu Ogogo and Liam Kelly dropped into their defensive third. Salop also threatened in transition, with Anthony Grant picking out a fine pass to pick out Okenabirhie, who teased Dujon Sterling before curling a shot that was tipped away by Lee Burge; Amadi-Holloway might have done better with his nodded, rebounded effort at the back-post. Anthony Grant then saw two shots blocked by Kelly in the space of a minute midway through the opening period, as Salop turned up the heat. Luke Waterfall was a threat from set pieces with his charges to the back-post and his header from a 33rd-minute corner was headed off the line, again by Kelly, before Amadi-Holloway then turned Hyam only to blaze over from close-range. In essence, it was a first half of nearly moments for the Shrews.

Disjointed Coventry

The one downside to Shrewsbury’s diamond system was that it allowed Coventry space down the flanks, most notably the left channel. Mark Robins’ side though lacked the confidence to exploit that particular vulnerability; Junior Brown is more of a technician than a direct runner and while winger Luke Thomas is quick, he is naturally right-footed and more likely to move into congested central areas than hold the width. Worryingly, the Sky Blues did not create a clear cut chance until the 48th minute, when Jonson Clarke-Harris set Thomas free from close-range, with Steve Arnold saving with his legs.

Amadi-Holloway finds form

That stop from Arnold proved crucial, because just a minute later, Shrewsbury opened the scoring. All of the pre-match talk had been of Fejiri Okenabirhie and his record of scoring in each of his last five games, but a striker who had gone under the radar was Aaron Amadi-Holloway, who bagged his third in six in all forms. After Greg Docherty delivered from a wide free-kick, the former Oldham striker bulleted his header past Lee Burge. It was fully deserved for Amadi-Holloway, who pressed superbly from the front.

Sky Blues’ late surge

Conor Chaplin had been quiet for much of the contest but came alive midway through the second period, poking home from close range before the goal was disallowed, then seeing appeals for a penalty for an alleged foul by Luke Waterfall fall on deaf ears. Tom Bayliss’ 70th minute effort from outside the box was blocked by Sadler before Kelly, one of Coventry’s more driven performers, fired over on 77 minutes. Okenabirhie tired though and while Lenell John-Lewis replaced Amadi-Holloway in the latter stages, pace is not among the substitutes main attributes, so the Shrews needed a combination of fortune and dogged defending to see the game out.

Cov’s bleak midwinter

It should not be forgotten the work Mark Robins has done at Coventry. Last season, his adaptability was his biggest strength; when injuries struck, he was able to re-build the team setup very quickly and promotion was secured. This year, however, he has almost been too adaptable; there is a disjointed feel to the team which perhaps stems from the volume of changes. Equally however, for the first hour, his players were slow to loose balls and there were too many times when they were found wanting, not necessarily for work rate, but commitment and bravery; there are a lot of young players in this squad who, although talented, are used to youth team football and need to adjust to the men’s game very quickly. With uncertainty over the club’s future off the field and five league defeats in six on it, this is a bleak midwinter for the Sky Blues.

Good start for Ricketts

It has been an encouraging start for Sam Ricketts at Shrewsbury. One of the main things he has done since taking charge has been engage with supporters and show a willingness to embrace the ideas of Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsay, who are highly-regarded coaches within the hierarchy. The team can play early balls into the front men but, from there, they also use the ball with pace, quality and fluidity; then in the second half, they showed the determination to see the game out. Avoiding relegation was the main priority when John Askey left last month yet now, with the team just two points off the top half, Shrewsbury can spend Christmas looking upward.