Shrewsbury Town 3-2 Rochdale Six Things: deserved victory for managerless Salop


Danny Coyne –

Danny Coyne enjoyed his first league victory as Shrewsbury Town’s caretaker manager, with Oliver Norburn’s brace handing his side a richly deserved 3-2 triumph over Rochdale. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Sound Shrews

For a club supposedly in limbo, Shrewsbury Town played with great conviction. The only thing that had let down their vibrant, transitional play in the first period had been their finishing, but when the lively Fejiri Okenabirhie was upended by Sam Hart just after the half-hour mark, Norburn bagged from the spot. They were well organized in a diamond system: Anthony Grant broke up play at the base, with Norburn and Greg Docherty putting in strong challenges from wide midfield roles then Josh Laurent triggering the press further forward.

Dale double out of the blue

Shrewsbury’s impressive organization had restricted Rochdale. Stephen Dooley had looked the most creative for the visitors, but had suffered from a lack of movement around him – right-back Joe Rafferty, for example, didn’t quite appear the rampaging runner we have seen in previous seasons. And yet, Keith Hill’s side had the lead by the hour mark: Inman swept home following a nice passing move instigated by Dooley just before the break, 13 minutes after which Jordan Williams rammed home after Shrewsbury failed to clear.

Salopian spirit

Shrewsbury perhaps looked short of a dominant centre-back like Toto Nsiala, now at Ipswich, with both Mat Sadler and Luke Waterfall reluctant to defend on the front-foot. They do though deserve great credit for sticking to the game plan after falling behind. The persistence of Okenabirhie, who worked consistently even though things didn’t always go his way in front of goal, was rewarded. Sam Hart allowed Josh Laurent to break down the right channel, leaving the former Dagenham striker free to prod home from close-range.

Questionable substitutions

Keith Hill replaced Inman, perhaps one of Rochdale’s better players, with holding midfielder David Perkins: a willing competitor but well past his best at 36. After Perkins gave the ball away cheaply with just 18 minutes to play, the dynamic Docherty shaped to shoot, creating space for the excellent Norburn to fire past Magnus Norman, via a deflection. Hill’s decision then was to bring on Aaron Wilbraham for Williams; the addition of a second target man meant Calvin Andrew was tasked with moving over to the left and swinging crosses in, hardly the 6’2″ striker’s forte. Rochdale chased this game in a way that was not just lacking in quality, but also felt tactically chaotic and jumbled.

Rochdale’s mini-malaise

If Rochdale were 18th in League One, three points above the relegation zone in November in their first season at this level, Keith Hill would be getting more external credit. Having overseen three top half finishes between 2015 and 2017 however, with exciting football throughout, Hill and Dale, through their own great work, set a norm very difficult to uphold. Having touched that glass ceiling, there appears to be something approaching a malaise at the club: most supporters remain behind Hill, but out of loyalty based on the past rather than excitement for the future.

Sterling work from Coyne

Although Shrewsbury are looking for a new manager, they look in safe hands as it is. Danny Coyne is a well-respected figure at the club and will have learnt a lot from his previous stint as caretaker gaffer while Eric Ramsey, the academy manager who has helped with first-team affairs, has gained glowing reviews from the players. If performances like this do not increase Coyne and Ramsey’s prospects of landing the job permanently, they leave the next incumbent with a fine template on which to build.