Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Portsmouth Six Things: solid Salop start with a screamer

Marquis goes close on debut – www.portsmouthfc.co.uk/

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 Six Things from the contest.

Pompey’s strong start

Portsmouth were strong in the opening exchanges, with John Marquis looking lively just three days after signing from Doncaster. Marquis put himself about and his physical presence allowed Pompey to play forward quickly and with intent; they came close from a couple of corners, with Ross McCrorie stinging Max O’Leary’s palms with a snapshot from the edge of the box, before the goalkeeper had to be an alert to deal with an awkward Lee Brown corner that hovered tantalizingly above the near-post.

Pompey looking short of a Plan B?

Shrewsbury weathered that storm and once the imposing Ethan Ebanks-Landell got to grips with Marquis, the visitors were unable to find alternative routes to goal. Ronan Curtis, on the right and Marcus Harness, on the left liked to cut inside due to playing on the opposite side to that of their favourite foot, but when Dave Edwards, Luke McCormick and Romain Vincelot cut off space in those central areas, they were unable to use the space on the outside. This was made even more problematic with full-backs, Anton Walkes and Brown, not naturally attacking, even if the latter gave it his best shot. The attacking play could have worked if Kenny Jackett’s side had midfielders making the overlapping runs to allow Harness or Curtis more space in those central areas, but Gareth Evans was the only player permitted the freedom to do that and because he had to do it on both sides, he struggled to make those runs early enough to open things up.

Shrewsbury’s solidity

Shrewsbury were solid defensively as Ro-Shaun Williams and Aaron Pierre, either side of Ebanks-Landell in Sam Ricketts’ 3-5-2, defended the penalty box well. Going forward though, the hosts encountered more problems. Their play revolved around Steve Morison but the target man, so impressive at this level and at times the one above for Millwall, did not display the aggressive edge he perhaps had two years ago. With Morison struggling to engage in the physical side of the game as much as he needed to, Shrewsbury could not quite gain quality possession so the likes of wing-back Ryan Giles and attacking midfielder McCormick were able to show their quality only in short bursts – although Giles would do so to maximum effect.

Giles’ grabs glory

It was a tight game in which neither side got their attacking play going with any fluidity, so perhaps it was no surprise that it was decided by a long-range belter. Giles had been able to show his talent only in flashes in the opening three-quarters of the contest, but here he took the initiative to strike a wonderful left-footed effort into the top right-hand corner, giving Craig MacGillivray no chance. Pitman’s improvised effort from Bolton’s pull-back was held by O’Leary, before another from the veteran was blocked by Ebanks-Landell, as as the visitors’ storm was inevitably incoming: Marquis missed the target as Pompey piled on the pressure in a period of penalty-box pinball, but to no avail.

Encouraging day for Ricketts

Shrewsbury can take some encouragement from this performance, as well as the victory. Although not necessarily the best attacking display, they were always likely to need to do their fair share of defending against the promotion favourites. And it is the work they did in that department that will please Sam Ricketts; Dave Edwards and Romain Vincelot gave the imperious back-three good protection, while full-backs Donald Love and Giles were positionally savvy too. If Salop can improve their use of the ball – and Ricketts is under no illusions as to the importance of that – they could be in for an exciting season.

Disappointing start for Jackett’s troops

While Portsmouth cannot be too displeased with the defensive aspects of their work, it is somewhat worrying that they struggled to find a way of opening their opponents up. Seeing as this is only the first game, it is important to recognize that they had the more half-chances, applied a lot of pressure towards the end and maybe on another day had some of the efforts in the late scrambles been more accurate, we could be looking at a slightly different narrative. If Pompey are to get their promotion push off the ground, though, they will need to find alternative routes to goal when the high-tempo, all-guns-blazing types of attacks are not viable.