Fitness and form.
In spite of Argyle having not yet signed the free agents that Derek Adams said may be forthcoming after the January deadline day sale of Jake Jervis to Luton, the squad that Argyle do have has received a clean bill of health. There are seemingly no new injury concerns for Argyle to worry about, having had almost all of their previous absentees return to the team. Simon Church went off with a slight niggle after less than half an hour in midweek’s reserve fixture, but Derek Adams has confirmed he should be available to play and as such Argyle should have almost all of their outfield players to pick from (with only long-term absentees Edwards, McCormick and Te Loeke remaining unavailable). Argyle’s form continues to be remarkable- the greens having obtained a hugely impressive 37 points from the 19 games that has passed since Argyle last faced their Shropshire opponents.
Like Argyle, the Shrewsbury side is almost entirely injury free with no players from their first choice eleven unavailable. Shrewsbury too are in decent enough form, having only lost one fixture since the start of December: a 3-1 defeat to their promotion rivals Blackburn. Many would have expected the shock early pace-setters to fall away by now but they are maintaining their excellent form well beyond the wildest expectations of their fans. It promises to be a scintillating game between two teams whose sets of fans are dreaming of the Championship.
It would be a surprise if Argyle did not go unchanged from the eleven that secured such an excellent victory against Blackburn last week. Antoni Sarcevic, Ruben Lameiras and Ryan Taylor have been post-Christmas revelations for Argyle, all three of them missed large portions of the first half of the season for one reason or other. Jamie Ness whilst not yet reaching the heights of Toumani Diagouraga’s quality is beginning to find his way into a steady rhythm, meaning Moses Makasi may have to wait awhile yet before he gets his debut.
4-3-3: Matthews, Threlkeld, Vyner, Bradley, Sawyer, Fox, Sarcevic, Ness, Lameiras, Carey, Taylor.
Shrewsbury had an excellent January transfer window, being backed well to sign the players who gave them the depth they will doubtless require to see their promotion campaign through to the finish. One of those players was former Argyle man Nathan Thomas who joined the Shrews on a loan deal for the rest of the season. A consequence of this was the dropping of Alex Rodman who had up to that point been having an excellent season. Last Saturday, Rodman replaced Thomas with a quarter of an hour to go and ended up creating the winning goal, perhaps proving a point to his manager that he had been dropped too harshly. It would not surprise us to see Paul Hurst make the most of his depth and put Rodman back into the team.
4-3-3: MacGillivray, Bolton, Nsiala, Sadler, Beckles, Godfrey, Whaley, Ogogo, Nolan, Rodman, Morris.
Argyle have won 15 times, drawn 19 times and lost 14 times against Shrewsbury.
Argyle’s recent record against the Shrews is superb, winning thrice and drawing twice out of the last five encounters.
The highest scoring game between the two sides was a 4-4 thriller back in 1970.
I’m torn between head and heart here. We look in really good shape at the moment, not only getting results but doing what we failed to earlier in the season and producing quality football to boot. However, the opposition are no mugs and are second in the league for a reason. The league has underestimated them all season and I’m not about to start now. I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.