PNE’s cup opponents on the up

Jean-Louis 'Akpa Akpro scored Shrewsbury's winner against Burton 'last week

Jean-Louis 'Akpa Akpro scored Shrewsbury's winner against Burton 'last week

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Shrewsbury switch focus to the FA Cup this weekend after their return to the League Two automatic promotion mix.

Micky Mellon’s side head to Preston on the back of a 1-0 victory over Burton last Saturday, a result which saw them move into the top three.

It got them back to winning ways after a 3-2 defeat to Exeter, a game in which they surrendered a 2-0 lead.

The Shrews’ form has been very good over the last couple of months.

They have lost only twice in 11 games, one of those defeats being against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup.

Little wonder then that the Shropshire outfit head for Deepdale in confident mood.

Shrews boss Mellon, who previously managed in Lancashire with Fleetwood, said: “We will go up there to try and beat them.

“First and foremost, we will try and win the game.

“We won’t be going up there to stay in it or for damage limitation – we think we are good enough to go up there and beat them.

“We will have a massive support and we will be roared on by them.

“With the confidence in my players, they back each other to win every game.

“Then it is in the hands of the gods who we get in the next round.

“We know it will be a tough game for Preston because we will go up there and enjoy it.”

Mellon was delighted with the way his side bounced back from defeat at Exeter to beat Burton.

In particular, the display of his back three pleased him.

Said Mellon: “What we don’t do is hold back here over what we believe has gone wrong, or what we believe we should have done better. If we fall below our standards, then people get told.

“But they took it in the right way and the three centre-backs defended absolutely fantastically when they needed to.”

This is Shrewsbury’s second visit to Preston this season, the sides having met in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in September.

North End came out on top that night, Jordan Hugill bagging the contest’s only goal. The Shrews’ win over Burton last week came courtesy of a late goal from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, which was the ex-Tranmere and Rochdale striker’s fifth goal of the season.

It won him praise from team-mate Connor Goldson.

“Jean-Louis does a lot of work for the team that goes unnoticed,” said defender Goldson.

“He is strong, powerful, wins headers for us when we have to go long and he’s a good outlet for us.

“I think any defender in the league would tell you that he is hard to play against.”

Akpa Akpro is the Shrews’ joint second highest scorer in the league with Andy Mangan.

Their top scorer is Jim Collins, who has eight league goals to his name and two more in the cup competitions.

This is Collins’ second spell at the Shrews. He played for Swindon and Scottish side Hibernian in between.

The 24-year-old Irishman is certain to provide a threat in the air, with Akpa Akpro playing off him.

North End boss Simon Grayson expects a tough game from the visitors and is taking little 
notice of the division’s gap between the teams.

Grayson said: “Shrewsbury are a strong, powerful team.

“They pass the ball quickly, have energy about them and have one or two goals in them.

“There are some good experienced players in the midfield – Liam Lawrence and James Wesolowski.

“They have a strong defence. I expect them to play a 3-5-2, which they have used a lot this season away from home.

“I think they have many threats – they aren’t at the top end of League Two for no reason.

“Over the summer they spent wisely, recruited a lot of players who have good experience. It will be a tough game.”

“It is a few months since we played them in the JPT, 
so I don’t think that is a big factor.

“We are probably slightly different now to how we were then.

“We have watched Shrewsbury three or four times as we always do with our opposition.”