Shrewsbury Town 0 - 1 Rotherham United | League One | 17/02/2018

Mid-week, Shrewsbury had returned to the summit of League One with victory over Fleetwood Town, but they return to the Montgomery Waters Meadow to face in-form Rotherham United. Rotherham arrived having won there last five games and were unbeaten in eleven.

Shrewsbury started the game with a very familiar line-up continuing the consistent team that has been selected for most of the season. Jon Taylor was the only recognisable name on the Rotherham team sheet, but he only made it on to the bench.

HendersonBolton, Nsiala, Sadler, Beckles; Godfrey; Whalley, Ogogo, Nolan (Payne 68), Thomas (Rodman 84); C Morris (John-Lewis 74)

Subs: MacGillivray, Lowe, John-Lewis, B Morris, Hendrie, Rodman, Payne

Rotherham United: Rodák, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Wood, Ihiekwe, Forde (R Williams 63), Towell, Ball (Laveryat 75), Vaulks, Newell (Palmer 90+2), Smith
Sub: Palmer, Taylor, Price, Yates, R Williams, Cummings, Lavery

First Half
Rotherham's first attack stemmed from a long free kick up the pitch being recycled and flicked on to one of their players who drilled his low shot just wide. They then had two good chances in quick succession, again from a lofted pass out from the back along the left wing found a Rotherham player who jinked passed two Shrewsbury player before unleashing a shot that Dean Henderson clawed away, but only to another Rotherham player. He reacted to the chance, but failed to make any meaningful contact with the ball and Mat Sadler could easily clear the ball.

In a rare Shrewsbury attack, Carlton Morris flicked the ball on to Shaun Whalley who drove towards goal leaving the defence in his wake, as the Rotherham defence had been caught high up the pitch. The goalkeeper came off his line quickly and smothered Whalley's shot.

Rotherham kept on the pressure on and their next chance came from a corner.  As the ball came across, Henderson came to punch the ball but an attacker beat him to the ball and glance his header just wide.

They got the goal their play (probably) deserved on the next attack, again the ball was swung over from a corner as Shrewsbury cleared the ball it ended up back with the corner taker. His returned the ball into the box towards the far post, again Henderson came for the cross and failed to get to the ball, with at least two Shrewsbury players between his and the ball. A Rotherham player nodded the cross back into the six yard box and another was on hand to turn the ball home into the unprotected net, 0-1 to Rotherham.

Second Half
Shrewsbury had the first chance of the second half as Jon Nolan chested the ball forwards but a Rotherham defender headed the ball straight to Abu Ogogo. He pushed towards the centre of the box and unleashed a left footed shot, but it was comfortably saved by the Rotherham goalkeeper.

They also had the next chance, with a John-Lewis playing a pass into the box, which Omar Beckles (don't ask me why he was in the centre forward position) flicked the ball to Nathan Thomas, but his first time shot was blocked by the Rotherham goalie.

Final Thoughts
On the balance of play, Rotherham probably shaded the match and so could claim they deserved their victory. However, Shrewsbury were always in the tie and it could be argued had the better chances through Whalley and Thomas.

The game was in no ways a classic and the performance of the referee was integral to this. He picked up every slight knock and gave free kicks which played in to the match strategy of Rotherham, who made the most of the referee's generosity.  Every free kick they took would be a long ball into the box and then they would play for the second ball, playing off scraps. I would add that Shrewsbury looked panicked when clearing the ball and invariably the ball would be cleared to touch. This played into the second part of Rotherham's plan, which was to launch throw-ins into the box, just like the free kicks.

The Shrewsbury fans were in fine voice, getting behind the team, but there was a nervousness in the team which may have permeated from Henderson's rashness. On numerous occasions he came for crosses and got no where near them.  The team also seemed to be too engaged in playing head tennis rather than get the ball down and play on the deck, which all helped Rotherham's cause. Rotherham's game plan worked, but I can't help but feel with a bit more composure Shrewsbury could have countered Rotherham's play.

Man of the Match - Carlton Morris
At the end of the match I was struggling to pick my man of the match as no one stood out, in a bad way.  Earlier in the season I had plenty of players that were in the recognition, but today was forgettable for most of the team. It was probably between James Bolton, Abu Ogogo and Carlton Morris, but Morris possibly deserved it most as he worked hard and battled the Rotherham defenders for the scraps he was made to play off. He was also involved in creating the best chances when they came Shrewsbury's way.

I could critique each player, but it was a difficult match, against difficult opposition, made worse by a difficult referee.

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