Graham Turner will be hoping the extra spice provided by his first return to Edgar Street inspires Shrewsbury Town to three big promotion points – the boss insisting he has the right ingredients to lead the club to a top three finish.
Turner spent 15 years at Hereford United, both as manager and chairman, before heading back up the A49 to begin a second stint as Town boss last summer. And, as keen as he is to play down his reunion with the Bulls, Turner knows it’s inevitable he will be heavily in the spotlight as the countdown continues to Saturday’s big clash (1pm).
“As much as you try to say there’s only three points at stake and try to treat it the same as any other game, obviously when you go back to a former club it adds a little bit of spice to the game,” said Turner, who hopes little winger Jon Taylor will be available after feeling unwell earlier this week.
“In my case it was 15 years there as manager and chairman. As far as I’m concerned, right at the moment, it is putting blinkers on and the only concern is the 90 minutes on the pitch and getting the three points.”
Town will be backed by a travelling army of just under 1,300 fans who quickly snapped up the full allocation of away tickets for a match crucial to Shrewsbury’s promotion ambitions.
It’s part one of a key Easter weekend double header, with Accrington Stanley, one of League Two’s form teams and in the hunt for a play-off spot, heading to the Meadow on Monday (3pm).
Town are currently fourth, one point adrift of Wycombe, with Turner still upbeat about his side’s chances of going straight up into League One, a level they last graced 14 years ago.
“It’s going to be an interesting last three weeks of the season,” stressed the experienced boss. “I think we’ve got the ingredients to see it through and take one of the top three spots, but I would say that.
“I would be confident with the players I’ve got around me that they can do it, but I’m sure Wycombe and Bury are saying the same, and there are also one or two teams below us as well who will still be thinking they could make the top three.”
Turner will keep close tabs on Taylor, the 18-year-old winger who has quickly become a key cog in Town’s attacking armoury. “Jon’s a bit under the weather so we’ll see how he is,” he said. “It could just be down to tiredness because he is a bundle of energy the way he plays. He might be feeling a little bit run down and by the weekend he should be okay.”
Should Taylor be ruled out, Turner has the ideal replacement waiting in the wings in Mark Wright, who scored a hat-trick when Town beat Hereford 4-0 at home in November, and who sat out his first league game of the season when he was rested for last weekend’s 2-0 win over Stockport.
Wright faces a hernia operation at the end of the season, but Turner reckons the ex-Bristol Rovers man could still do a job if required.
“We’re trying to nurse him through to the end of the season but he could play,” said the boss. “It’s gradually deteriorated over the last two or three weeks but he’s barely missed a day’s training.”
Turner added the fans could play a big part in the closing weeks of the season and he’s hoping for big turnouts for the two remaining home games, against Accrington and then against Oxford on May 7.
“It would be nice to see a few more and a little bit more noise,” he said. “That would be appreciated.”
Steve Leslie, the midfielder on loan to Hereford for the rest of the season, albeit with a 24-hour recall clause, will be unable to play against Town this weekend.
by Stuart Dunn