Prominent U.S. writer and podcaster Bill Simmons has written a famous and many times revised article on the Levels of Losing. In his Levels of Losing, he rates games based on how heartbreaking the loss was by a team to its supporters. One of those levels is a stomach punch game. This basically breaks down to a game where your team snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, and leaves fans feeling like they have been punched in the stomach. This would be similar to a boxer going for a knock-out blow to finish off the fight, only to get surprised it a hard gut shot. While Simmons's levels apply to games of a much greater magnitude than an early season EFL League One match between Accrington Stanley F.C. and Shrewbury Town F.C. on a Tuesday night. Accy supporters certainly left WHAM Stadium feeling as if they had been punched in the stomach on a night that turned against them around the same time the rain began to fall in the Hyndburn District of Lancashire.
Accrington Stanley vs Shrewsbury Scoring Recap
The first half didn't see a tremendous amount of action offensively, especially for The Shrews. Coming into the match, Shrewsbury had just 3 on target shots all season, and they didn't manage any in the first half of this match. Their best chance came in the 18th minute when Shaun Whalley set up David Edwards with a nice cross into the box, but the header by Edwards was off target. Accy had 5 shots on goal, but were unable to capitalize on any of them. Their closest chance came on a blast from just outside the box by Sean McConville in the 34th minute, but Shrewsbury goalkeeper Max O'Leary.
In fact, for the first 66 minutes, things went just as you would expect from a pair of clubs who had scored 2 combined goals in a combined 5 League One matches so far this season. However, as mentioned in my match preview article, strange things happen on Tuesday nights in England, and happen they did on this evening. Scoring got started with a goal from the penalty spot by Accrington's Colby Bishop, and by the time the dust settled 24 minutes plus stoppage time later, the two sides had combined to put the ball in the back of the net 4 additional times. The penalty was one of many questionable calls by referee Scott Oldham, on the night. Every official has their own interpretation of what should be a penalty, but it was a surprising call after Oldham has given Stanley's Jordan Clark a yellow card for diving just 10 minutes earlier on a play that looked more like an accidental trip than an embellishment. When Dion Charles registered his first club goal in his first League appearance for Stanley in the 72nd minute, it looked bleak for The Shrews.
However, the game quickly turned in the 77th minute when Accrington goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov cleared the ball, only to have it take an unlucky bounce off defender Mark Hughes's knee, and directly into the back of the net. The Shrews subbed on Fejiri Okenabirhie for Steve Morison in the 79th minute, and just 6 minutes later, he got the equaliser to make it 2-2 in the 85th minute. The complete collapse by Accrington was complete by the 89th minute, when O'Leary caught Accy out of position on defense with a deep goal kick. Joe Maguire was the only man back for Stanley, but he wildly misjudged the ball in the air. That left it to drop right into the lap of Shrewsbury striker Daniel Udoh, who had subbed on for Whalley in the 79th minute. Evtimov had aggressively come out to edge of the 18 yard box to try and cut down the shot, but the ball took a high first bounce that Udoh was able to corral, then dribble right, and fire past Evtimov for the game winner. You have to credit Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts for making the right changes to impact the game, and getting goals from two different substitutes.
Five Takeaways From The Match
Speaking of substitutes, Accrington also had a goal from a substitute in the game, although this one came because of an injury. I had written in my match preview that I expected Dion Charles might actually start this game in place of Courtney Baker-Richardson (who we call CBR). Part of my reasoning for this was that some folks had told me they thought CBR had looked like he was tiring in the 2nd half of the Wimbledon game. Considering that he is a guy who played less than 500 minutes all of last season, it stands to reason that perhaps he will need a bit of time to get used to playing 90 minutes on a regular basis. With today's game coming on only 2 days rest, I had assumed that he might be a guy to get the day off. As it turns out, that may have been the thing to do as he had to leave the game with a hamstring injury in the 27th minute. When you are having a hard time scoring to begin with, it is hard to rest guys who have been effective like CBR. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury is just exactly the type of thing that comes from a lack of match fitness. Hopefully, he won't be sidelined long, but this will likely result in Coleman having to limit his minutes until his body gets used to the grind of being a full time starter.
My Man of the Match for Shrewsbury today was Ryan Giles, this kid is just 19-years-old, and in his first pro season. He had scored The Shrews only goal on the season until today, when he tallied in his first career match against Portsmouth F.C. on opening week. That goal ended up being a game winner. Today, he didn't have any goals but he did just about everything else. An absolute amazing talent, he is just 3 games into his career and really controlled the game from the midfield today. He is a guy who not only creates chances with his passing and dribbling, but his quickness and hustle as well. He also seems to have a knack for winning corners. Shrewsbury is a team that struggled last season offensively, and through the first 3 games of this season. When I was writing my match preview, I struggled to find a player on their roster who was going to be a difference maker for them offensively. After watching this match, it is clear that this guy could be that player for them.
In order for a player like Giles to be a difference maker, he is going to need a reliable striker in front of him to cash in on the chances he sets up. Shrewsbury is a club that has been trying, but not really succeeding at finding a guy like that. Steve Morison is a guy who they brought in this year that has a tremendous amount of experience, and a Premier League pedigree. However, at 35-years-old he is well past his prime, and seems to be a step or two slow, even for League One. A solid argument can be made that he was the worst player on the field for Shrewsbury today, and at this stage in his career is going to be the kind of guy whose only value on the pitch is going to be if he scores. So far through 4 games he hasn't scored yet, and today the club looked like a different team as soon as he came off the pitch. The hometown iFollow announcers for Shrewsbury were very quick to point out how much more confident of a finisher Okenabirhie, who was their leading scorer last season with 10 goals, was compared to Morison. They seemed very clearly in favor Okenabirhie starting over Morison going forward. The goal for Udoh came in what was his first appearance of the season today. It was also the first in the career of the 22-year-old Nigerian, who had played all of 43 minutes in 15 career League appearances for today. Perhaps it is time for Ricketts to take a shot at giving some playing time to the untested, young Udoh.
There are things that I mention in my articles from time to time as observations of things that could be a coincidence of a troubling trend. Today's came, interestingly enough, in many way was decided by a pair of trends I have I written about or talked about at length on the podcast. The first being what was ultimately the turning point in the game, and that was the own goal. I had written about Evtimov's tendency to try to clear the ball before his teammates were ready from time to time. Today, it was exactly this that lead to the own goal when he cleared the ball right into the knees of Hughes who was still tracking back on defense at the time. Evtimov is an elite talent at making save, and he can do some things in terms of handling the ball that a lot of other goalkeepers can't. However, the biggest change he needs to make to his game is just to stop, hold the ball, and survey the field for 2 seconds before clearing the ball. Also, I love his aggressiveness, but on the Udoh goal, he was so far out of the net that he was never in position to try to make up for Maguire's mistake. Sometimes a keeper needs to sit back in his net and give the opposing attacker a chance to beat themselves.
This is exactly what happened a bit earlier in the game, when the second concerning trend reared its ugly head yet again. That being Colby Bishop's failure to cash in on easy opportunities. You can only ride the at least he is getting in position to get the opportunities train for so long. Once it starts getting to be an every game thing, then it is a concern. Today, Bishop had a break away opportunity in the 83rd minute, very similar to the one that Udoh would have a few minutes later. It end with O'Leary turning away an attempt that just looked uncomfortable coming off of Bishop's foot. This isn't trying to take away from the good things he has done, including converting on both penalties he has attempted this season, and of course the equalising header against AFC Wimbledon. However, the general consensus is that most players should roughly convert upwards of 60% of "big chances". Those being where the player has a close, one-on-one opportunity with the goaltender. It's those chances that Bishop is converting at an alarmingly low rate with a growing sample size.