• Adam Stubbings

Opposition Talk: Shrewsbury (H)

Doncaster Rovers are searching for a fifth straight league win when they take on Shrewsbury Town, and will go top of the League One table if they can pull it off. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Ollie Warner from Shrews podcast Salopcast in order to get his thoughts on the clash and his team.

ITEN: Shrews find themselves in the relegation zone at present but look to have turned a corner. How do you view the season so far?

Ollie: Watching Shrewsbury under the management of Sam Ricketts was a painful experience; we came out of the summer ill-prepared for the new season. Recruitment was poor and when the games started it quickly became apparent that we were unfit, lacking organisation and creativity. We went into games unprepared, but to make matters worse I never saw Ricketts influence the game in our favour.

We were destined for relegation until the board finally made the decision to sack the manager, it took them far too long as far as I am concerned. I had major concerns going back to February last season.

Steve Cotterill is a manager who has achieved success at this level before, although he does have a reputation for being somewhat belligerent. What are your thoughts on Cotterill, and how has he changed the team since arriving?

I was keen for an experienced manager given we had only one won once in 13 games, the squad is very large (so changes in January could be limited) plus the crazy fixture list, and getting relegated would be dreadful financially. Cotterill comes with a mixed reputation: Bristol City fans love him, Birmingham City fans less so, but he has been a breath of fresh air for us and the results on the pitch are remarkable.

Cotterill has tweaked the formation, given the players clear instructions and worked on the major faults in the team that were apparent to all the fans. Improved performances against Stanley and Charlton gave the team confidence and led to the wins over Lincoln and Hull.

If you can get out of the drop zone over the next few weeks, how high up the table do you think Shrewsbury can go in 2020/21?

While the squad is unbalanced, there is enough quality to avoid relegation. Eight points from twelve has given the fan base hope we can survive, especially as we have been getting results against teams higher up the table. With a few additions and departures in January, I think we could achieve a mid-table finish. The league is even odder than normal this year, so we could even be out of the relegation zone by January if the ‘new manager bounce’ continues for a few more weeks.

Who have been the stand-out players for your side this term?

No one has stood out over the course of the season, in recent weeks however Sean Goss has impressed. He was sent to train with the kids but Cotterill started him in his first game against Oxford City in the FA Cup, and he was then registered for the league and has put in some top-class performances. Goss is another example of poor management by Ricketts.

Fejiri Okenabirhie hit his seventh league goal of the season on Saturday, underlining his importance to Rovers since moving from Shrewsbury in January. What are your thoughts on him as a player?

Another example of poor decision making by Sam Ricketts. In 2018/19 Okenabirhie scored double digits, but Ricketts didn’t fancy him. Last season we scored less than a goal a game, and this season it was even worse at 0.66 goals per game under Ricketts. The decision to let Okenabirhie go looked foolish at the time and has been compounded every time he scores for Doncaster Rovers. We should have built a side around him. Fejiri Okenabirhie is player who will always get a round of applause from the Salop faithful.

Aside from Okenabirhie, who in the Doncaster Rovers squad catches your eye?

James Coppinger stands out, but I like the look of Josh Sims (Editor’s note: Ollie was relieved to hear Sims is injured).

The most eye-catching person at Doncaster Rovers though is our former Head of Recruitment, Adam Henshall. Sam Ricketts was given full control of Shrewsbury and out went player legends, long-serving backroom staff and Henshall. Apparently, Ricketts didn’t need a head of recruitment since he would do it himself using contacts! That didn’t work out.

It is fascinating looking at the number of young players with a good number of minutes at Rovers. Your recruitment looks good. I’m not bitter, honest.

Finally, how do you see this game panning out?

I expect a draw but I wouldn’t be surprised if either teams wins. Whoever makes the least number of errors will win.

Many thanks to Ollie for the interview - check out his coverage of the Shrews @Salopcast on Twitter, and listen to the podcast at the link in the introduction. Doncaster Rovers host Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday 22nd December, kicking off at 7.45pm and looking to go top of the League One table for the first time this season. We will have live coverage on our social media channels throughout the night, accessible via the icons at the top of the site.