What an absolute, unmitigated disaster that was…
• What to do about a problem like McCullough? Whilst the obvious option was to drop the Northern Ireland defender entirely and recall Andy Butler, Darren Ferguson instead opted to change the formation to a 4-1-3-2 with McCullough in front of the defence.
• McCullough was able to utilize his passing range without the need to position himself in a place vaguely appropriate to stop the ball bouncing over his head. I have been McCullough’s
fattest biggest critic this season but he was much improved in a different role. Surely Paul Keegan will return to the side when fully fit however.
• The change of formation also allowed Taylor-Sinclair to play in his actual position. Lo and behold he was just as awful at left back as he has been all season at centre back. If Rovers don’t sign a better defender before the end of the season, they will go down. It is as simple as that.
• In midfield Lynden Gooch and Riccardo Calder were direct and lively, particularly in the first half but Conor Grant seemed lost and struggled to make any impact on the game. The young midfielder has started at every available opportunity since joining from Everton and is perhaps in need of a rest.
• Rovers biggest problem (aside from the comical goal) was in attack. Stand in skipper Nathan Tyson said it was time for his team mates to ‘stand up and be counted’ in the run up to the game but he was anonymous throughout. Liam Mandeville didn’t fare any better and Andy Williams succeeded only in missing Rovers best chance.
• It is not just the attack that failed to make a mark however, the entire team were outfought and out thought throughout a lacklustre second half. At no point did Rovers look like a side scrapping for points. The late siege you would expect from a home team in need of a victory never materialized with Shrewsbury remaining the more likely to score in the closing stages.
• Shrewsbury lost the experienced Zak Whitbread after 27 minutes to injury but 20 year old Dominic Smith (who only made his début last October) was hardly tested as Rovers struggled to create a meaningful chance.
• On a day when Rovers lacked creativity it was galling to see Harry Forrester score his third goal in as many games for Rangers. Letting such a talented player leave seemed odd when in mid table, it looks downright ludicrous for a team struggling just outside the relegation zone.
Richie Wellens – He won’t care about the mixed reception but he will deeply cherish a hugely important win for Shrewsbury.
Luke McCullough – Answered his growing critics with an assured performance. Still deserves to be nothing more than back up to Paul Keegan though.
Andy Butler – Finally recalled to the squad and gave a solid performance to confirm what all Rovers fans already know. Andy Butler is undoubtedly our best defender. When fit he has to start.
Thorsten Stuckmann – The simple fact is without Stuckmann, Rovers would probably be bottom now. He has produced some vital saves in big games and whilst his distribution is poor he has to go down as one of Paul Dickov’s better signings. There is no excusing his howler for Shrewsbury’s goal however. We had a goalkeeper at school who once conceded twice directly from a corner in one game. He used to eat glue.
Rovers Strikers – Whilst the midfield has to take some of the blame, Rovers have now scored 3 goals in 8 games. 2 of those goals came in matches we lost anyway. That is not just relegation form, it is bottom of the league form. Tyson, Williams and Gooch have now gone a combined 19 games without scoring. Horrific.
Darren Ferguson – After 9 winless games, Fergie finally changed the formation against Shrewsbury and the result was yet another miserable defeat. Paul Dickov’s worst run as Rovers manager was 9 games without a win, DF has now surpassed that but remains largely free of pressure. If Rovers are to change their manager with a view to saving their season, it has to be now. It is time to stick or twist. 5 of the players who featured against Shrewsbury were signed by Ferguson and another was given his first league start.
Those players aside this is pretty much the same group of players who finished 13th last season plus a better goalkeeper in Stuckmann and a goalscorer in Andy Williams. Our current league position is quite frankly a fucking disgrace.