After Saturday’s disappointing (if unwarranted) demolition, the Dale face another difficult challenge in the shape of nouveau riche Shrewsbury Town. The Shrews unsuprisingly sit in the playoff places with a handy goal difference to boot – largely down to ex-Dale hero Grant Holt, who joined the Shropshire club ahead of Dale in the summer (the football world is run by money; and they have more than us). Holty has scored ten times for the Shrews in the league so far, and scored an incredible five in one game in the League Cup. Shrewsbury’s goals don’t all come from Grant Holt however, captain Ben Davies has eight himself and he’s not even a striker.
Recently though, the Shrews haven’t been scoring many; they’ve only managed to find the net once this month by way of Holt’s winner against Rotherham. Compare that with Dale’s recent goalscoring record (not scored more than one in a single game since over a month ago) and you might think that 0-0 or 1-1 would be a good bet.
It would probably be a good result too, given Shrewsbury’s comparative quality in this league. Paul Simpson’s side can boast such talents as Shane Sherriff, Richard Walker, Glyn Garner, and Michael Jackson (chamone!), all of them enticed from the leagues above the fourth tier and all of them still able to play at that level too. Simpson himself has lowered himself to this level in search of an inflated wage packet – while his last days at Preston were disappointing, he still proved himself to be a decent manager there, and at Carlisle too. Of course, Dale fans all know him as that guy who nearly managed to relegate a promotion-chasing team, but on the whole his forays into management has been mostly successful.
So what of Shrewsbury Town as a team? They should find themselves in the top seven come the end of the season through individual strength alone, but collectively they can struggle to overcome a determined, battling side (recent losses against non-league Blyth Spartans and struggling Grimsby Town attest to this). You could argue that this is understandable given that this is the first season these big-spenders have spent together; you could also argue that Peterborough United found no such problems last year given a huge cash injection.
On the injuries front, Dale are set to miss Gary Jones once again; the captain has tweaked himself in training and will be out probably until the New Year. Lee Thorpe won’t play; indeed rumour has it that he might never play again for the Dale, which would be a massive shame. Lee McEvilly or Jon Shaw will start in place of Thorpedo depending on Hillcroft’s assessment of the former’s fitness. Scotty Wiseman will miss the match after getting sent-off against Exeter; Stanton will return to the team after serving his one match ban in that same match. Mark Jones is available (believe it or not he has been for about two months now), and surely must start; after all, why play cotton when you can play silk?
Possible Dale lineup: Russell, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley, Toner, M. Jones, Rundle, Shaw, Dagnall
Subs: Spencer, Holness, Keltie, le Fondre, McEvilly
– Written by Matt Boothman on 23rd Dec 08