Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Portsmouth Player Ratings: imperious back-three

Marquis goes close on debut –

A long-range belter from debutant Ryan Giles saw Shrewsbury Town begin their 2019-20 League One campaign with a 1-0 win over promotion favourites Portsmouth. Here’s our Player Ratings from the contest.

Shrewsbury Town

Max O’Leary – the Bristol City loanee has produced one or two outstanding performances in the Championship, so it was a real coup for Shrewsbury to get O’Leary, who re-emphasized his value here. He looked assured in the opening 10 minutes, when Town were under the cosh; he made a strong reflex save from McCrorie in that time, then produced another to deny Pitman late on. 7

Ro-Shaun Williams – Sam Ricketts did very well to secure a two-and-a-half year contract for Williams, who displayed every quality anyone would want from a centre-back at this level. Looked quick, alert, used his strength at times and was decent on the ball – on this evidence, Williams will attract interest in the next 12 months. 9
Ethan Ebanks-Landell – the centre-back appears to have recovered strongly from a below-par stint at MK Dons; he made a huge difference to Rochdale’s defence last season and started his time at Shrewsbury strongly too. It took him only 10 minutes to get to grips with Marquis and in the closing stages, he made a crucial block to deny Pitman. 9
Aaron Pierre – the former Wycombe man has always been among the best centre-backs in League Two but, after his time at Northampton did not quite go to plan, this is his big opportunity to prove he can cut it in the division above – and he took it with both hands here. With Ebanks-Landell marking the main striker, Pierre had the licence to attack balls quickly and impulsively, which is what comes natural to him – made his presence felt in the opposition box at times, too. 9

Donald Love – the former Sunderland defender has been brought in to facilitate Ricketts’ 3-5-2 setup. While Love’s career in the top two divisions so far has not gone ideally, time remains on his side and he showed here that he can be a more than capable performer in League One, with an impressive second half including one or two good crosses. 7
Romain Vincelot – the aggressive midfielder was perhaps slightly fortunate to get another chance at League One level after a challenging few years, but he looked determined to take his chance here with a committed, dogged display. 6
Luke McCormick – the playmaker is highly-rated at Chelsea and here, he showed some evidence of why with hints of creativity and good set pieces, even if he did not see the ball in the opposing half as often as he might have liked. 7
Dave Edwards – the experienced midfielder, who recovered from a fitness issue towards the tail-end of pre-season, pressed into the opposing half at times in the opening period, but became more disciplined after the break and was happy to leave that duty to Laurent. was disciplined for long spells of the game; he only got forward with late runs, as was his trademark at Wolves, when the wing-backs had provided the thrust to break into the final third. 7
Ryan Giles – the wing-back did not get on the ball as much as he might have liked due to thhe way Shrewsbury played, although on one or two occasions he produced an example of what he can do with a driving run to pin Walkes back into his defensive third. Disciplined defensively and was happy to deny Curtis space to cut inside. 8

Steve Morison – the target man is perhaps now lacking a certan edge to his game that he would need to become a direct goal threat from close-range; he is less willing to engage in the aggressive, physical side of his game and that meant Shrewsbury revolving their entire attacking plan around going long to him was not always advantageous. 4
Fejiri Okenabirhie – “Fey” is a striker with potential, as he shows whenever he hits a purple patch; the key for Salop this season is to extend those purple patches for longer periods. The former Dagenham man found it difficult to show his usual explosive qualities here, though, seeing little of the ball to feet. 4

Josh Laurent (on 53) – the former Hartlepool midfielder has struggled with injury this summer, but it did not show here because he helped support the press very well; gave Shrewsbury a fresh injection of energy after a tricky patch early in the second half. 8
Shaun Whalley (on 64) – as a direct winger, Whalley has had difficulty fitting into the two formations Shrewsbury have played over the last 10 months – 4-4-2 diamond and 3-5-2. Ricketts could not ask for a better impact substitute though and his value was highlighted here with an energetic contribution. 7
Abo Eisa (on 89) – the speedy forward has had to work hard to be even a peripheral part of Ricketts’ plans and there were suggestions he might get a loan move, but here he was brought on for Morison to bring raw energy; unfortunately, that did not last long as he picked up an injury immediately after coming on. 6


Craig MacGillivray – the goalkeeper had an excellent season last year and began this one reasonably well, although he was not called upon too often. Could not have done much about the goal. 6

Anton Walkes – the versatile defender kept his place at right-back and while he was solid defensively, he did not contribute too much in the attacking phases of play with simple passes to Curtis. Taken off early in the second half with Shrewsbury recruit James Bolton back fit. 4
Christian Burgess – the centre-back came in for an element of criticism last season but, with Matt Clarke gone, he seems to have relished the extra responsibility and has perhaps stepped up another level in terms of leadership. Did not put a foot wrong here. 7
Paul Downing – the composed centre-back had a decent debut; although he did not tend to attack the ball directly, he gave little away. Marshalled Shrewsbury’s front-two intelligently for much of the contest. 7
Lee Brown – the steady left-back was defensively sound and supported attacks from behind as best he could, whilst producing decent set pieces. Sometimes, though, he did not have the attacking qualities to attack individualistically, which became problematic for Portsmouth against organised hosts due to the shortage of runners on the outside. 6

Ross McCrorie – the midfielder stung O’Leary’s palms with a drive from the edge of thee box early on, but struggled to influence the game as he would have liked and was sent off on 80 minutes for a second yellow. 4
Lee Naylor – the versatile midfielder did a solid job of defensively, putting in some strong challenges and nullifying McCormick’s threat, as Portsmouth reduced Shrewsbury to few clear cut chances. Could have been slightly stronger in possession, though to try and release Harness or Curtis at an earlier stage. 5

Marcus Harness – the former Burton wide man’s first instinct is always to cut inside but he did not have the space to do that effectively in the first half. That changed after the interval, though, when Evans made more overlapping runs to draw Giles away, but then when the latter went off he was once again struggling to influence proceedings. 4
Gareth Evans – in the first half, Evans had a difficult time; he was tasked with making overlapping runs on both sides and sometimes, this meant that he could not have qyuite the desired impact on either flank stuck in the middle. In the second half though, he began to focus more on influencing play on the right – perhaps a tactical instruction from Jackett – and generally was more of an influence. Replaced on 52 minutes though, just when he seemed to be having more of an impact. 6
Ronan Curtis – in the first half, Curtis did his best to create from the right flank but did not look comfortable when he had to attack the space on the outside using his right foot. Moved to the left for the second, though and forced a save from O’Leary with a cross shot – forced to make things happen for Pompey individualistically, which points to a lack of cohesion in the style of play. 5

John Marquis – after signing from Doncaster a few days previously, Marquis looked keen to make his mark early on with a lively start, but then struggled to handle Ebanks-Landell and was marked out of the game. Did not get the right kind of support until the closing quarter-hour, when he narrowly missed the target from close-range. 5

James Bolton (on 53) – offered slightly more going forward than the man he replaced and might have done enough to earn a start in Tuesday’s EFL Cup hosting of Birmingham. 6
Brett Pitman (on 53) – the technical veteran was twice denied with Pompey chasing a lead, with one improvised effort saved by O’Leary and another blocked by Ebanks-Landell. 6
Ellis Harrison (74) – replaced Harness for the closing stages to give Pompey another reference point and put himself about, without having the impact he might have hoped from a technical perspective. 5