Shrewsbury unlikely to sustain promotion push
"This point edges us closer to that first target," said Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst after the 1-1 draw at MK Dons, and it is easy to forget their primary ambition for this season was to survive in Sky Bet League One by reaching the magical 50-point mark.
Salop are still second, sandwiched between big boys Wigan and Blackburn, which is some achievement for a side rated relegation favourites in the summer and 40-1 for promotion.
However, on the evidence of this draw it seems unlikely that Shrewsbury can sustain their automatic promotion push and you'd much rather be a layer than a backer at 1-3 about the Shropshire side making the top six.
"We've got some players who are not at the top of their game," admitted Hurst, who has seen Shrewsbury collect four points from their last five matches.
It would have been worse for the Shrews but for a sensational long-range Shaun Whalley thunderbolt into the top corner which saved the visitors late on in Milton Keynes.
The stats show that Shrewsbury won the shots-on-target count 5-2, although they rarely threatened, particularly in the second half until Whalley's worldie rocked MK Dons.
Stefan Payne possibly should have done better in an even first half when he blazed over but it needed a wonderful stop from Dean Henderson to deny Osman Sow, while Ethan Ebanks-Landell saw his header cleared off the line.
Henderson, the Manchester United loanee, looks a real class act for Shrews. He commands his box well and the save from Sow denied the Dons what appeared to be a certain opener.
Hurst makes sure his team are defensively solid in a 4-1-4-1 formation - they have conceded only 14 goals this season - with aggressive centre-back Aristote Nsiala looking robust and Ben Godfrey's job is to shield the back four.
Team in focus
In terms of attacking inspiration most things go through playmaker Jon Nolan, while the energetic Abu Ogogo makes sure Shrewsbury can press in midfield.
Payne, who did not get a huge amount of support, has scored some hugely important goals this season with winners against Rotherham, Rochdale and Wigan, but he was isolated at times and maybe Hurst could go shopping for another striker in January.
Without strengthening Shrewsbury look set to fall short of promotion which is not overly surprising given they were ante-post relegation favourites.
This was a relatively tight match but if anyone deserved to win it was the Dons, who broke the deadlock through Peter Pawlett and wasted situations on the counter to put the game to bed. However, there was nothing which could have been done to stop Whalley's equaliser.
It's a congested table with only five points separating 17th-placed Dons from Oxford in eighth and somewhere bang in mid-table is probably where MK Dons belong.
Fitness issues have dogged Sow, who could manage only 55 minutes, which is a problem for Robbie Neilson even though young speedy replacement Sam Nombe looks lively and is somebody the Dons believe is capable of making a major first-team breakthrough.
They were solid enough in their 4-2-3-1 formation and it will be interesting to see if the Dons become a greater scoring threat with Chuks Aneke just off Sow on a regular basis.
Saturday was the first time the pair have started together this season and there could be some improvement to come in the second half of the camapign.
MK Dons 4-2-3-1: Nicholls; Williams, Walsh, Ebanks-Landell, Golbourne; McGrandles, Upson; Agard (Ariyibi 90), Aneke, Pawlett; Sow (Nombe 55).
Shrewsbury 4-1-4-1: Henderson; Bolton, Nsiala, Sadler (John-Lewis 80), Beckles; Godfrey (Dodds 72); Whalley, Ogogo, Nolan, Rodman; Payne (Morris 90).
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport
Like us on Facebook RacingPostSport