Town: Chris Weale, Cameron Gayle, Joe Jacobson, Darren Jones, Rob Edwards, Chris Porter, Matt Richards (c) Dave McAllister, Steve McGinn, Tom Eaves (Morgan, 78), Paul Parry (Taylor, 71)
Subs: Joe Anyon, Connor Goldson, Luke Rodgers, Luke Summerfield, Jon Taylor, Rob Purdie, Marvin Morgan
Stevenage: Chris Day, David Gray, Lee Hills (Freeman, 58), Darius Charles, James Dunne, Marcus Haber (Beleck, 69), Lucas Akins, Mark Roberts (c), Gavin Mahon, Robin Shroot (Hoskins, 87), Ben Chorley
Subs: Steve Arnold, Anthony Grant, Luke Freeman, Andy Iro, Miguel Comminges, Steve Beleck, Sam Hoskins
Referee: O. Langford
Assistants: J. Clark & R. Merchant
Fourth Official: S. Copeland
Attendance: 4,818 (129 from Stevenage)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Graham Turner made just one change to the side that returned from Birkenhead with maximum points last time out. He opted for a brand new strike pairing with Bolton’s Tom Eaves coming in to partner fellow loanee Chris Porter up top, with Marvin Morgan the man to miss out. Both Eaves and Porter were afforded warm welcomes from the Town supporters as they made their first home starts.
Eaves was soon in the thick of it as Gavin Mahon appeared to tread on the ball, and the youngster dispossessed him before firing wide having been put under considerable pressure from the last defender.
But after a cagey opening it was the visitors who went in front on 20 minutes and Chris Weale in the home goal was powerless to do anything about it. There appeared to be little danger when James Dunne chested the ball down inside the ‘D’ but as it dropped invitingly he lashed his volley plum into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of the Shrews keeper. It was a brilliant goal and somewhat out of context, quality wise, with what had gone before it.
Inside 90 seconds there was a golden opportunity for Stevenage to double their advantage. Tricky winger Lucas Akins jinked into the box and fizzed over a cross that looked to present an easy finish for Marcus Haber unmarked and just six yards, out be he inexplicably headed wide with the goal at his mercy. It was a monster let off for Turner’s side who have been struggling to find any kind of winning formula at home over the past couple of months.
Just past the half hour though, Town levelled when Paul Parry drilled an angled shot beyond Chris Day into the far corner, and the goal came after a sustained spell of pressure from the hosts. For Parry, it brought a first goal since December which coincidentally came during the last home win against Carlisle.
Steve McGinn and Dave McAllister both tried their luck from distance late on but nothing to cause any particular trouble to Day, and the sides went in level with it all to play for after the break.
Half Time: Town 1 Stevenage 1
At the resumption Eaves was so unlucky not to get a direct shot in at goal. He latched onto a long ball forward, simply brushed aside the challenge of a Stevenage defender and appeared to be through one-on-one. But the ball cruelly clipped his heels after taking a bobble and the chance was lost. It was terrific strength and tenacity shown by the forward though and he had shown several classy touches throughout in an impressive debut.
Town were well on top in the first 15 minutes of the second half penning back their opponents for long periods, although it’s fair to say that Day will have endured more difficult afternoons.
Shrewsbury needed a goal while they were in the ascendancy and this was borne out when Darren Jones’ sliced attempted clearance looped up to the back post invitingly for Haber but Weale blocked the header at point blank range.
Almost immediately Porter squandered Town’s best chance by a mile. There was some neat play which brought the ball to the near side and when Joe Jacobson put over a peach of a cross right onto Porter’s forehead it ought to have powered the ball beyond Day for Town’s second. The power was there alright but the direction sadly wasn’t and the header sailed over to let the Londoners off – big time! They might have paid the price too when Darius Charles should have done better than head weekly at Weale with Stevenage’s first attempt of real note since their goal.
The game was still very much in the balance but it looked very winnable for Town who were looking for a win after four draws and a defeat in their last five on home soil. Turner was clearly thinking along similar lines as he threw on Jon Taylor for goalscorer Parry with just under 20 minutes to play in a bid to inject some pace and hopefully land the additional two points.
Almost immediately Cameron Gayle got on the end of a McGinn flag kick but he couldn’t repeat last week’s heroics at Tranmere and headed wide of the target.
With 15 minutes left Town had a lucky escape when Jones appeared to clip the heels of substitute Steve Beleck inside the area but the referee waved away the appeals. The Stevenage bench weren’t happy and neither was Beleck who clashed with Jones as the ball was up the other end of the pitch. But the handbags were soon put away and play resumed after the referee had chastised the pair on the halfway line.
With about 10 minutes left Eaves came off to a decent ovation to be replaced by Morgan with the game in something of a lull and desperately in need of a spark. Could Morgan be the man to provide it?
Town had scored late in the game here last time out but it proved little more than a consolation. But with this game into its closing stages, up popped marvellous Marv to flick Taylor’s cross into the far corner to send the home fans wild with joy.
Stevenage responded quickly and not for the first time Town were lucky to escape with a penalty appeal denied. The ref did blow this time but only to indicate a foul right on the 18 yard line. In real time it looked for all the world to be inside the box but the wall did its job and Shrews went into additional time a goal to the good.
It was nail-biting stuff and Weale had to be at his very best to deny Beleck a leveller with a full stretch save from the big man’s header, which had looked certain to bring the visitors level right at the death.
In a frantic finale Taylor raced half the length of the field only to be denied by Day, and McAllister saw his follow up somehow kept out by a last ditch block from Ben Chorley.
It didn’t matter – that would only have put icing on top of the cake. But what the final whistle did bring was back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
Full Time: Town 2 Stevenage 1