Town End is back, and we’ve got a big ol’ away game to preview. Reading head up to Shropshire to face Shrewsbury Town on Saturday, exactly one day short of a full year since the Royals’ last league away win - that scrappy late victory at Hull City.
To find out some more about Salop, who currently sit in 19th place in League One, we spoke to the gents at Salopcast. They painted a pretty bleak view of Town’s season so far, but predicted a frustrating afternoon for the travelling Royals fans...
How would you sum up your season so far?
*Sigh* - It hasn’t been good. We started okay with a couple of wins against Cheltenham Town, Burton Albion and then we were very lucky against Fleetwood Town to get all three points.
It quickly became apparent Salop 2023/24 Edition is utterly inept at scoring goals. We went seven games without scoring a goal, including two Pizza Cup games against Forest Green Rovers and Brighton & Hove Albion under-21s. We have scored seven goals in the league this season, 0.43 goal per game.
At the other end we have only kept four clean sheets. If we have a game plan, it is either very simplistic or the players aren’t implementing it correctly, both of which points the finger at the head coach and his assistant.
We are boring to watch and following the team is a grind. The context is the club sacked a popular and relativity successful manager in Steve Cotterill who got us to 12th last season. This year we are 19th and our current projection for goals scored is 20. Bristol Rovers have already scored 21.
How’s Matthew Taylor doing as manager?
He has said all the right things, however the proof is in the pudding and it tastes off. The game on Saturday is absolutely huge, and we have to win and see a good performance. It could be a key game in terms of the fan reaction to this season and it could turn toxic. We should and have to beat this Reading side.
How does he set Shrewsbury up tactically?
5-2-1-2 or 5-2-2-1 - we sit deep, make it hard for the opposition and then invariably concede after 60 minutes. We play the balls into the channels and keep our wing-backs back in defensive positions.
What are the main strengths of this Shrewsbury side?
Strengths come in terms of key individuals. Chey Dunkley is a fantastic defender and leader. Marko Marosi is a top ‘keeper for this level. Tom Flanagan is having a good season after starting mostly on the bench. Jason Sraha, a signing from Barnsley, has played really well in the last five games or so.
Taylor Perry, a signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, has performed well in the middle of the park. A lot of hope rests on Jordan Shipley who has been out injured but played a major part in our 3-2 FA Cup victory against Colchester United last Saturday.
Everything, apart from in goal, however Marosi might be out injured on Saturday.
How do you see the rest of the season playing out for you at this stage?
It all rests on Taylor’s shoulders. Can he get this team scoring goals? Can he improve results? If he can’t, the club will be forced into a mid-season manager change. Given the quality of the league this season (it is really poor) and our squad of players, we shouldn’t be in a relegation fight. My expectation is we will be boring to watch and grind out enough points to survive.
How will the game go and what will the score be?
The game will be an insult to the beautiful game. It will be full of errors, lacking quality and Salop will earn an unconvincing, controversial 2-1 which will place further misery on long-suffering Reading supporters. Enjoy the game!