Match Preview: Shrewsbury Town

Last updated : 16 September 2005 By Rob Davies

In April 2005, Notts County made the trip to Gay Meadow with nothing to play for, having secured their League Two survival the week prior.

With Shrewsbury being in exactly the same boat, the two teams proceeded to play out a lifeless 1-1 draw that illustrated perfectly why the two teams were struggling at the wrong end of League Two for much of the campaign.

Less than five months later, and the contrast couldn't be greater. Notts swagger into the infamous Meadow sitting top of the league, with the Magpies yet to be beaten in eight league matches.

The transformation in such a short space of time is remarkable, and is owed largely to the influence of one man: Gudjon Thordarson, appointed exactly a month after Notts last played in Shrewsbury.

Fancy seeing you here
Thordarson, as is widely-documented amongst the Notts support, has installed organisation, hard work and discipline amongst the Magpies that wasn't in evidence last season and those three key qualities have been instrumental in County's surprise rise to the top of the table.

Ofcourse, it is still very early days and Shrewsbury - currently sitting 16th in the table - will fancy their chances of ending the extensive honeymoon period afforded to Thordarson as Notts County manager.

Town themselves contain a good manager in Gary Peters, without whom they would have been in serious trouble of slipping back into the Conference at the first attempt. Despite criticising our playing style before the game's even begun, there can be little doubt that Peters has done a decent job so far at the Meadow.

The Shrews eventually finished in 21st position last season, but the fact the Magpies managed to take 4 points off them in the team's two fixtures speaks volumes as to how bad they were.

Peters, though, is a grafter - and his team's record of just 3 defeats from their opening eight games would suggest that he is stamping more and more of his own mark on the team, after nearly a year in charge.

The Town boss lost key player Luke Rodgers in the summer, but, ofcourse, now possesses Mark Stallard - very popular around these parts - amongst his playing roster.

Though it's clear that injuries have taken their toll on the wily campaigner - who netted a total of 80 goals in two spells at Meadow Lane - Stallard is still a force to be reckoned with, though he has managed to find the net just once this season, with that strike coming in the Carling Cup.

What's the betting that he breaks his league duck for the Shrews tomorrow afternoon?

As many Notts fans may have noticed during 'Stall's' spell on loan at Meadow Lane last season, the forward has now changed his style of play somewhat - with the 30-year-old now prefering to drop deeper, performing a key task in linking-up the play.

That means that the goal-scoring burden has largely fell onto the other strikers on the Shrewsbury books, namely Colin McMenamin (like Steve McManaman but without the glamour) and Kelvin Langmead.

That the Shrews are relying so heavilly on such an inexperienced duo speaks volumes as to the lack of resources available to Peters as he looks to build a team capable of holding its own at this level.

Former Newcastle trainee McMenamin has been playing north of the border for the past three years before signing on a free transfer in the summer. Despite a slow start, the 24-year-old is bang on form, scoring three times in his team's last four matches. The Scot will have to step up a notch on Saturday though, as he prepares to face League Two's meanest defence.

Hurst: Major doubt
Elsewhere, there are few names of note to speak of in the Shrews' squad, with their other ex Magpie Duane Darby carrying an injury that has meant he has been unable to play all season. Tricky left winger Sam Aiston also opted to depart in the summer, leaving the Shrews' with one of the less impressive squads in the division, on paper at least - even if young goalkeeper Joe Hart is earning rave reviews for his performances in the England under-19 squad.

Despite this, captain Kevin Sharp still believes that his team can form a promotion push this season. Though that may be a touch on the optimistic side, there's little doubt that taking tomorrow's opposition lightly would be a grave mistake.

Thordarson knows this, ofcourse, and has prepared his men for a stern test. The Icelandic - who celebrated his 50th birthday this week - has received a double piece of bad news this morning though, with midfielder Lewis McMahon ruled-out after sustaining an ankle injury in mid-week and Glynn Hurst extremely doubtful after pulling up in this morning's training session with a groin problem.

Hurst - scorer of five goals in last five games - will make the trip to Shrewsbury with the rest of the squad but will undergo a fitness test in the morning.

McMahon joins Steve Scoffham on the definate absentees list, with the striker - who had started all of the Magpies' league games this season - starting a three-match ban after his sending off last weekend.

This means that Notts' travelling supporters could be watching a completely different striking partnership to the one that Thordarson has preferred in recent weeks. One place is certain to go to either Andy White or Gavin Gordon, but Thor is unlikely to want to play the two giants together in attack.

This could open the door for winger Jake Sheriden to make his first ever start for Notts, should Hurst lose his battle for fitness ofcourse.

McMahon's place on the bench will go to either Ruben Zadkovich, Stacy Long or even 18-year-old Chibuzor Chilaka - who is yet to feature in a senior squad since signing professional terms in the summer.

Chris Palmer may count himself lucky if he holds onto his left wing slot after a series of poor displays, with Sheriden and Dan Martin on stand-by should Thor opt to drop the out-of-form 21-year-old.

Notts (possible): Pilkington; O'Callaghan, Baudet, Wilson, Ullathorne; Pipe, Gill, Edwards, Palmer; Sheriden, White.

Subs (from): Marshall, Martin, Chilaka, Zadkovich, Long, Hurst, Gordon.

For a full match report on the game, be sure to check back to NCM shortly after the final whistle.