Town: Chris Weale, Cameron Gayle, Joe Jacobson (c), Connor Goldson, Yado Mambo, Akwasi Asante, Dave McAllister, Steve McGinn, Aaron Wildig, Jon Taylor, Tom Bradshaw
Subs: Joe Anyon, Matt Richards, Paul Parry, James Hurst, Ryan Woods, Luke Summerfield, Rob Purdie
Colchester United: Sam Walker, Magnus Okuonghae, Freddie Sears (Smith, 78), Andy Bond, Jabo Ibehre, Tom Eastman, Brian Wilson (c), Gavin Massey (Wright, 75), John White, George Porter, Billy Clifford (O’Toole, 84)
Subs: Mark Cousins, Bradley Garmston, John-Joe O’Toole, Kimel Izzet, Marcus Bean, Michael Smith, Drey Wright
Referee: H. Webb
Assistants: M. Mullarky, D. Cann
Fourth Official: H. Lennard
Attendance: 5862 (461)
Martin Wild reports from Weston Homes Community Stadium
Town were forced into a change at Colchester with striker Tom Eaves having returned to his parent club Bolton Wanderers on Monday. But manager Graham Turner decided to make a number of other alterations to his starting XI – six in total – with Shrews virtually assured of safety after Scunthorpe’s midweek defeat at Gigg Lane. Cameron Gayle recovered from his hamstring injury to replace James Hurst and Connor Goldson came in for Jermaine Grandison at the heart of the defence. In midfield, skipper Matt Richards missed out on a start and that opened the door for both Dave McAllister and Aaron Wildig, with Luke Summerfield also dropping to the bench with a slight knock. And up front there was an experimental pairing with Akwase Asante and Tom Bradshaw leading the line for the departed Eaves and Marvin Morgan. Joe Jacobson took on the captain’s armband and led out the side in their away colours of red and white.
World Cup Final referee Howard Webb took charge of the match with his linesmen from that game in South Africa between Spain and Holland, joining him.
It was a bright and sunny day in Essex with a good turnout from Shropshire housed in the stand away to our left, and the rest of the stadium was well populated with United expecting their best crowd of the season.
There was an early shout for a Town pen when Bradshaw tumbled in the box under a challenge from Magnus Okuonghae, but Mr. Webb wasn’t interested and there were few complaints with the decision.
Colchester spurned a decent opportunity to go in front after 12 minutes but former West Ham protégé Freddie Sears fluffed his lines screwing his shot horribly wide from around the penalty spot.
It looked like a difficult surface on the evidence of the opening quarter hour with the pitch quite lively and the ball bobbling around all over the place.
The better chances were being created by the home side, and Jabo Ibehre ought have done much better than shoot weakly at Chris Weale when he got into a good position midway through the first half. But his left footed effort lacked any power and the angle ultimately proved too difficult for the U’s striker.
Steve McGinn shot across the face of goal as Town mounted a rare attack and then Jon Taylor had the first Shrewsbury shot on target but it was a tame effort and was directed straight at home keeper Sam Walker.
At the other end Goldson did brilliantly to deny Sears and there were one or two timely blocks from the Town defence as Colchester enjoyed a brief purple patch 10 minutes before the interval.
Shrews constructed their best move of the match involving a number of players and some pretty one touch stuff, but McAllister couldn’t finish things off when Taylor finally teed him up on the edge of the box, firing wide of Walker’s left hand post.
In terms of goalmouth action, the first 45 was pretty forgettable but Town had defended really well and that might be the biggest positive for Turner as the sides went in level.
Half Time: Colchester United 0 Town 0
Town had the first effort of the second half and it was a good one, with Wildig’s curler bringing a decent save out of Walker who had to go full stretch to gather at the second attempt.
Walker was sporting a baseball cap with the sun in his eyes but the shadow cast on the press box made the temperatures feel like winter!
Taylor did well to keep the ball in from Goldson’s pass and he did even better to skip past a defender to get in by the touchline, but he opted to shoot from the narrowest of angles and the keeper saved at his near post.
Walker saved superbly from McAllister’s piledriver throwing himself high to his left to push the ball over as Salop continued to set the pace in the second half.
But they had a warning on 63 minutes when Billy Clifford volleyed just wide and moments later there were red bodies being thrown in all directions to keep the hosts at bay.
The sides were evenly matched with Goldson and Yado Mambo particularly impressive at the back for Shrews. Colchester made three quick substitutions with the game into the last 15 minutes and boss Joe Dunne possibly mindful of Scunthorpe’s shock lead at MK Dons.
In the middle, one would have to concede that the standard of officiating was exemplary with Mr. Webb almost invisible and no contentious moments at all.
Towards full time Taylor broke clear and Asante turned his man to create a shooting chance but he hurried his shot and dragged it wide.
With just two minutes added on for the home substitutions, Bradshaw set up McAllister whose goalbound shot was blocked and even though Taylor looped home a header right at the death, a linesman’s flag indicated the ball had gone out of play and the ‘goal’ was chalked off.
Town secured First Division safety with this point but Colchester go into the last game needing to match Scunthorpe’s result to stave off the threat of relegation.
Full Time: Colchester United 0 Town 0