Town: Chris Weale, Jermaine Grandison, Darren Jones, Luke Summerfield, Jon Taylor, Lee Collins, Paul Parry, Matt Richards (c) (Hall, 78), Joe Jacobson (Purdie, 70), Jeremy Helan, Jamie Proctor
Subs: Gavin Ward, Rob Purdie, Mark Wright, Terry Gornell, Asa Hall, Aaron Wildig, Michael Hector
Colchester United: Mark Cousins, Michael Rose (c), Magnus Okuonghae, Karl Duguid, Jabo Ibehre, Marcus Bean (O’Toole, 74), Ian Henderson (Sears, 84), Tom Eastman, Brian Wilson, Gavin Massey (Watt, 58), Craig Eastmond
Subs: Carl Pentney, John-Joe O’Toole, Clinton Morrison, Freddy Sears, Alex Gilbey, Bradley Hamilton, Sanchez Watt
Referee: J. Simpson
Assistants: R. Johnson & T. Wood
Fourth Official: M. Parry
Attendance: 5,066 (252 from Colchester)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Town produced a stirring comeback late on to stave off a third successive defeat. Colchester looked set to inflict more misery on Graham Turner’s men when they went into a two goal lead at the Meadow. Town conceded before they had chance to break sweat when Craig Eastmond opened the scoring in the time it takes to boil an egg, and substitute Sanchez Watt doubled the lead shortly after coming on as sub just past the hour. But Shrews found an unlikely super-sub hero of their own when Asa Hall’s 78th minute appearance yielded two carbon-copy goals in just three minutes for the axed midfielder.
There were three changes made to the starting eleven following the midweek home disappointment against Yeovil. The two recent signings by manager Turner both lined up to make their debuts having joined on loan from Manchester City and Swansea City respectively over the past 48 hours. Jeremy Helan and Jamie Proctor were joined by Jon Taylor who stepped up from the bench with Hall and Terry Gornell relegated to the sidelines.
The skies might have been blue at kickoff and the sun was doing its best to break through, but there was a bitter wind swirling around the Meadow with winter woollies the order of the day.
Bang on three minutes Town’s tendency to start slowly blighted them again. A short free-kick routine by Karl Duguid gave team mate Eastmond the ball but there appeared to be very little danger. The number 33 easily brushed aside Matt Richards before firing across Chris Weale from outside the box via an upright to give the Essex side a dream start.
Turner had been angry with the way his team had conceded so early against Yeovil and felt that it had contributed to the side’s lethargic showing during the 3-1 defeat. This was the fourth time this campaign that Town had shipped a goal inside the opening five minutes and they had lost the previous three without the opposition needing to add to their tally.
As Shrews looked for a response, Helan stretched his legs with a powerful surge to the byline and although he couldn’t pick out a colleague, it at least demonstrated his obvious pace and gave the home fans something to cheer. The fans were in good voice despite the early setback and Helan was showing plenty of early promise in the first ten minutes or so.
There followed an intense lull and it was almost at the half hour point before some meaningful action when Taylor went on a run which took him in a straight line from the right wing to the centre of goal 18 yards out. His left foot shot deserved far better than to land a few feet wide of the left hand post and the effort was rightly applauded as it was manufactured from nothing.
Taylor was certainly the stand-out performer from a Town perspective and a jinking run with probing cross almost caused problems for Mark Cousins who had to back-pedal to palm away the danger. The ball fell for Helan but not all that kindly as he skied his shot well over the top.
This was Shrewsbury’s best spell of the game and it offered some encouragement despite the hosts still trailing and on the back of four defeats in the last six outings on home soil. Mind you, if the form book were anything to go by, Colchester weren’t exactly upsetting it after three successive wins without conceding.
Paul Parry headed over another Taylor cross but it was the U’s who came within a whisker of doubling their lead seven minutes before the interval. Brian Wilson’s attempted curler just drifted wide with Weale rooted to the spot and moments later, goalscorer Eastmond cut a swathe through a whole host of defenders to fashion an outstanding chance for himself, but he over-egged the pudding and tripped himself up at precisely the moment he should have been pulling the trigger.
Town were still in the contest but Cousins was more of a spectator than a participant, with chances very much at a premium in a bitty first half display from a Salop team seemingly low on confidence.
Half-Time: Town 0 Colchester United 1
The sun was still out at the resumption and the though the lights were on, the pitch was still largely bathed in sunshine but my, the temperatures must have been nudging freezing!
The first effort on goal came from Parry but he didn’t make the best connection in the world and it had neither the pace nor the direction to trouble Cousins.
But Cousins did earn his corn a minute later when Town came closest to a leveller. Proctor put Joe Jacobson in the clear and the defender was only denied his second goal in a Town jersey thanks to a smart block from the United keeper.
Shrewsbury’s early pressing resonated amongst the supporters as they rallied their side for a sustained period. And they were almost rewarded after 54 minutes when Taylor’s excellent curling strike from 20 yards almost found the corner with Cousins this time struggling to make up the ground.
Then Helan showed tight control to beat his man but he was leaning back when he took the shot on so the end result was hardly surprising with the ball landing somewhere close to row Z.
It was miles better from the home side and Joe Dunne made his first change by bringing on Arsenal loanee Watt in a bid to put his men back on the front foot. It proved to be an inspirational decision because as soon as Jacobson lost possession on the halfway line, Watt was onto it like a flash and set off for goal. Richards did his best to catch him up but it was a no-contest and the finish was high beyond Weale and rippled the North Stand net in front of the 250 travelling fans.
Colchester had soaked up all the early pressure and countered superbly at the earliest opportunity, with Jacobson’s slip punished in the most clinical fashion.
But Town were guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance of their own six minutes after Watt’s goal. Taylor’s beautiful free-kick fell perfectly for Proctor unmarked in the box but he barely made a connection on the ball with a brush of his head and it drifted aimlessly wide.
Jacobson cut a forlorn figure as he made way for Rob Purdie with 20 minutes to go. He might have been a hero had he managed to beat Cousins earlier in the half but ended rather more a villain after the costly error which led to the visitors second 10 minutes later.
Duguid bent an effort just wide before another Taylor cross landed on a team mates head – this time Richards’ with the end product frustratingly familiar. Richards was replaced by Hall for the last 12 minutes and immediately Town halved the deficit. Taylor’s corner was met by the head of Hall and it found its way into the net via a deflection.
Incredibly, there was a repeat dosage served up a couple of minutes later with Hall’s header from Taylor’s flag kick this time crossing the line before any opposing player could react. 2-2! What a turnaround!
Taylor had the chance to wrap up the points a minute from the end after hounding down Eastmond in the left-back position. Helan pounced and got to the dead-ball line before putting a chance on a plate for Town’s clear man-of-the match. But he blasted over with the goal gaping and everyone held their heads in their hands. It would have completed the unlikeliest of comebacks but he opted for spectacular over simple and missed out on the winning goal that his endeavours deserved.
Michael Rose arrowed a stoppage time free-kick towards Weale’s top corner but the keeper made a vital flying save to preserve a point.
And there was more drama to come when the referee waved away claims for a pen when Proctor’s shirt was clearly pulled in the area right at the death. The whistle sounded 10 seconds later and the sides had to settle for a point apiece when both could perhaps have laid claim to deserve more.
Full-Time: Town 2 Colchester United 2