Shrewsbury Town take on Cheltenham Town this Saturday at the Croud Meadow stadium in a fixture that has traditionally been a feisty encounter. Shrewsbury are the slight favourite to claim all three points but Cheltenham will be optimistic about repeating their 1-0 victory at this ground last season.
Last campaign, Shrewsbury finished in a mid-table position, however, their point tally did improve from the prior season and new boss Matthew Taylor will be hoping his side can continue this upward trend. At Croud Meadow, Shrewsbury won 48% of their games which clearly highlights they thrive alongside the support of the Salop faithful. The Shrews also went on an incredible six-game win streak just before their season fell apart, picking up just four points in their last 10 games.
Unfortunately, this run of form seems to have continued into pre-season as they were unable to pick up any victories, however, a draw with Championship side Coventry City will certainly be a confidence booster.
Shrewsbury constantly switched between a 5-3-2 and a 4-2-3-1 set-up last season, we should see Taylor opt for the former but he did deploy the latter at his previous managerial role with Walsall. Under a new boss, it is always interesting to watch the tactical approach but seeing as the Shrews are at home, they should take the game to Cheltenham.
Similarly to Shrewsbury, Cheltenham concluded the season in 16th place, just five points below their next opposition. However, they enjoyed a slightly better end to the campaign and only lost twice in their final ten games. Away from home, the Robins performed to quite an average standard but they struggled in front of goal and recorded the fifth worst goal scored per game ratio in League One (0.97), but they didn’t perform terribly defensively in terms of goals conceded per game (1.33).
Preparation for the League One campaign has also gone rather well for boss Wade Elliot and his side, winning four games which includes a 1-0 victory over West Brom, whilst also putting two goals past Birmingham City and holding Bristol City to a 1-1 draw. There are plenty of positives to take from the end of last season and this pre-season which the Robins fans should be content with.
In addition, it seems that Elliot will stick with his trusty 3-5-2 hybrid that has proven to be difficult to play against in recent months and Cheltenham will be full of confidence after three brilliant results against higher opposition. With Aidan Keena’s recent form also, they’ll fancy their chances in front of goal despite losing their top goal scorer and best player last season, Alfie May.
This tie will be close, with both managers desperate to see a performance that the players and the fans can be proud of. It is important to start the season in the right manner and I expect both teams will give their all to avoid a defeat.
This contest has also been quite physical over the last four meetings with four red cards shown which perfectly portrays how the game will unfold. Either side could narrowly steal all three points but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game end in a 1-1 draw.