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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big Match Preview - Shrewsbury vs. Stockport

Shrewsbury Town vs. Stockport County
Saturday April 16, 15:00, New Meadow

There's a contest between two teams who may well be both playing their football in different divisions next term on Saturday as Shrewsbury Town play host to Stockport County.

While the Shropshire side are one of a number of sides competing for automatic promotion, their visitors sit rock bottom of the Football League and are running out of games to save themselves.

After coming so close to going of business altogether last year, the Hatters were always expected to be in for a tough campaign, and so it has proved.

Boss Paul Simpson was removed with County just above the relegation zone. However, just 12 points have been collected from the 18 games since his departure.

It's left Stockport propping up the rest and sitting five points from safety with just five games of the season remaining. There's little margin for error left at Edgeley Park.

The Greater Manchester outfit are now under the guidance of former Tranmere manager Ray Mathias, who took over from previous caretaker Peter Ward. He's earned seven points from his three home matches.

More tellingly though, away games under him at Aldershot and Wycombe have proved fruitless and no side has lost more on the road this season than the Hatters with 14 defeats from their 20 away matches.

Key performers for Stockport this season have been midfielders Greg Tansey and Paul Turnbull, with fourteen goals between them. Anthony Elding, in his second stint with the club, is also a threat going forwards.

Graham Turner's Shrewsbury are in the thick of the promotion contest

Their hosts at the weekend came into the game in much better shape, with Town currently lying outside the automatic places in 4th, just three points off third place.

It's been a successful return for boss Graham Turner to Salop, whom he took to promotion to the second tier of English football over 30 years ago. A third promotion at the club is now a distinct possibility.

The experienced boss had been targeting the league title a couple of months ago, speaking bullishly about his team's chances as well as casting doubt over leaders Chesterfield's bottle.

He's been proved badly misguided on both of those fronts, and a poor run of one in six threatened to scupper Shrewsbury's top three chances altogether.

However, they have since recovered and prior to last weekend's 3-0 loss at Aldershot, Turner's side had won three on the spin to improve their automatic promotion hopes.

With just three home defeats and only 18 goals conceded at the New Meadow, they will be tough opponents for Stockport. Midfielder Mark Wright, with 12 goals, is also typical of the many goal threats Salop have going forwards.

This is a match pitting a side flying high and gunning for promotion against a team fighting for their lives as they seek to avoid dropping into the Conference.

It'd be too predictable of me to go for the obvious result of a Shrewsbury win then, surely? However, while strange results can occur at this stage of the campaign, I can't see one here.

Nobes' Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 2 Stockport County 0

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