Having recruited shrewdly over the summer, Shrewsbury Town’s defensive line will be a brick wall difficult to topple over the coming season.
Ethan Ebanks-Landell (26) and Aaron Pierre (26) were both acquired during the window from Wolves and Northampton Town respectively, vastly improving a defence breached almost 60 times last season.
Ebanks-Landell comes in having had League One experience with Sheffield United, MK Dons and Rochdale. At Bramall Lane, EEL was part of the promotion-winning squad that accumulated an eye-watering 100 league points. A stalwart in Wilder’s defence, the loanee also contributed with a handful of goals to promote the now-Premier League outfit.
But at MK Dons, on the other hand, his fortunes were polar opposite – suffering relegation with the side managed by Robbie Neilson and then later Dan Micciche.
During his time at MK1, Landell proved himself to be a liability at the back. Mistake prone and often making rash decisions, the 6″1 defender was part of a back line repeatedly toppled – hit for at least four four times that season, including a 5-1 thumping at Wigan.
But whilst his time at MK won’t be appreciated by the fans, Blades and Rochdale will nevertheless remark him as being a top player at this level.
Eubanks-landell signing for Shrewsbury has ruined my day ? why can’t we sign players like that on permanent deals when it was always on for him to drop to this league #RAFC
— Nathan Butterworth (@nathantoothy90) May 29, 2019
— Aaron Outram (@azzle94) December 4, 2016
Last Xmas I gave u my heart, but the very next day u gave it away. This year, to save me from tear, I'll give it to Ebanks-Landell ? #sufc
— Ross George (@designedbyross) November 22, 2016
Pierre also comes with a reputation as one of the more able defenders within the lower two divisions.
Last season’s Northampton Town Player of the Year found the net 8 times in all competitions – the third highest at the East Midlands club– to earn his move up a division. Add on his physical yet effective defending, Ricketts has certainly made a shrewd move to bring in the Grenada international.
The pair, alongside academy graduate Ro-Shaun Williams, kept promotion favourites Portsmouth at bay on Saturday during the Shrews’ opening day 1-0 victory.
The question for MK Dons manager Paul Tisdale: how will he be able to break down this tough line?
With marquee forward signing Rhys Healey still out after having struggled to keep his fitness up during contract negotiations, alongside creative midfielder Alex Gilbey, onus will likely be left to Kieran Agard, Jordan Bowery and new recruit Ben Reeves.
Physicality not being a strength for any of the above mentioned, the Dons will likely be forced into keeping the ball ground if they stand a chance of defeating Ricketts side. As Portsmouth demonstrated last weekend, pumping balls into the box is not going to be an effective tactic against such a physical Shrews back line.
Provided he is fit enough to feature, will Ben Reeves be able to be the creative outlet needed for the Dons to take three points in their opening fixture?
It will certainly be a challenging test for Tisdale’s men on the opening day.
With the Dons lacking some of their main outlets in Healey and Gilbey, it is difficult to see them being able to break down this Shrewsbury defence. That being said, the Dons themselves have a solid back line against an ageing Shrewsbury attack. Provided George Williams is able to keep the electric Ryan Giles quiet, I can see the Dons being able to get a win here.