Town: Chris Weale, Tamika Mkandawire (c), Connor Goldson, Joe Jacobson (Bradshaw, 90), Dave Winfield, Adam Reach, Nicky Wroe, Aaron Wildig (Woods, 82), Luke Summerfield, Liam McAlinden, Gozie Ugwu
Subs not used: Joe Anyon, Darren Jones, Dave McAllister, Jon Marsden, Alex McQuade
Port Vale: Chris Neal, Adam Yates, Chris Robertson, Carl Dickinson, Doug Loft, Jennison Myrie Williams (Burchall, 74), Tom Pope, Chris Lines (Dodds, 89), Ben Williamson (Hugill, 79), Anthony Griffith, Richard Duffy
Subs not used: Sam Johnson, Gavin Tomlin, Chris Shuker, Lee Hughes
Referee: C Boyeson
Assistants: M Salisbury & N Smith
Fourth Official: F Graham
Attendance: 6,547 (579 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Vale Park
Shrewsbury’s away day blues continued with a 3-1 defeat in Staffordshire at the hands of Port Vale. Liam McAlinden’s 59th gave Town hope but Chris Robertson, Jennison Myrie Williams and Jordan Hugill efforts enough to seal victory for the Vale Park side. Town were a much better unit after the break but would ultimately rue a gilt edged chance to get back into the game bang on half-time.
There were three changes to Graham Turner’s side after the disappointing FA Cup exit at Walsall last time out. Joe Jacobson returned to the side after recovering from injury with Ryan Woods rested to the bench. McAlinden started up top after missing the cup tie and he was joined by Gozie Ugwu who came in on loan from Reading until January. Tom Bradshaw was named amongst the substitutes but Jon Taylor had to sit out the game with a knee injury.
Town were first to show when a well executed free kick from Adam Reach on the near touchline found the head of Ugwu but the new boy headed wide. Vale responded and it took a decent save low to his left by Chris Weale to stop Ben Williamson’s shot from putting the hosts in front inside five minutes. The Shrews stopper performed heroics to push away Dave Winfield’s attempted clearance from a huge throw in with the defender’s header destined for the corner of the net.
It was certainly a high tempo start to the game with the home side committed to every challenge and running into the channels to keep Town on the back foot. To be fair to Salop, they were passing the ball around nicely with way more cohesion than was on display further down the M6 last Saturday.
Winfield was soon in action again with play held up while he was seen to by the physio after a clash of heads in the Vale penalty area. He returned to the field with a bandage applied to the wound and looked set for a busy afternoon. Chris Skitt was even busier when called upon again after 19 minutes when Aaron Wildig went down with a heavy shoulder knock and with play once again halted, the locals were extremely quick to voice their displeasure at the second stoppage in quick succession.
Midway through the half Vale went ahead. No-one in a blue shirt closed down from a throw-in and Chris Lines was allowed acres to put a great delivery into the back stick. There was Robertson minute goal proved to be merely a consolation for Salop with unopposed to plant his header beyond a stranded Weale. Vale’s secret weapon had been demonstrated several times before the goal. They had put in some mammoth throw-in’s from either flank and perhaps Shrews were set up for another one and momentarily switched off. Whatever the reason behind it, they had been punished clinically.
On the half-hour, it was two and although there was no denying the quality of Myrie Williams’ finish, the goal was clouded in controversy. McAlinden was felled right on the 18 yard line but the referee wasn’t interested. It was a free-kick all night and all day but when Vale cleared their lines Myrie Williams had only one thought in his mind. He ran 30 yards before curling an absolute beauty just past the despairing clutches of Weale.
Town’s frustrations were clearly evident when Reach was carded for failing to retreat at a free-kick but by now, Vale – and their supporters – were starting to enjoy themselves. Robertson should have made it three with a free header from the set piece but he directed it straight at a grateful Weale.
Shrews’ first shot on target came a minute before the break and although Ugwu’s 35-yarder showed plenty of ambition, it lacked any kind of power to go with it. In first half stoppage time McAlinden got in behind and had a fantastic chance to bring Shrewsbury back into the game. He chose to take it early though and missed horribly with Chris Neal not even called into action. The former Town goalkeeper had had a very comfortable 45 minutes.
Half Time: Port Vale 2 Town 0
Town were thrown a lifeline just before the hour when McAlinden powered home from 15 yards following a good break from Luke Summerfield and possibly one or two favourable bounces of the football. No matter, Salop were right back in the game with plenty of time left to potentially salvage something from what looked like a lost cause at the break.
Shrewsbury were definitely moving the ball around a lot quicker and buoyed by the goal, their 579 supporters tried to play their part sensing their side had gained some confidence from halving the deficit.
Town were having easily their best spell of the game finding plenty of room in the centre of the park and finally making more right choices than wrong ones in terms of passing options. McAlinden shot weakly at Neal but there was plenty to admire in the build up to the chance and the striker saw another shot deflected wide of the near post as Town kept their foot on the gas.
Tom Pope – usually very reliable in front of goal – missed a great chance to put daylight between the two sides again and how Tamika Mkandawire avoided conceding a 71stWilliams’ low ball across the 6 yard line is anyone’s guess.
Reach again tested Neal with Shrews still believing there was something in this game for them and Ugwu nearly brought them level with a snap shot from the edge of the box that went just the wrong side of the upright. At the other end Pope’s header looked set to end the contest but it found the base of the woodwork with 10 minutes left.
Vale had already made two changes before Woods replaced Wildig and soon after, Summerfield brought a good reaction save from Neal with a fierce drive from the edge of the box. The game was still in the balance with Vale’s lead looking more precarious by the second although time very much favoured the Valiants with just four minutes of stoppages to see out. Doug Loft stung the palms of Weale but in the dying seconds substitute Hugill secured the points for Micky Adams’ side with a breakaway third after a Town corner came to nothing.
Full Time: Port Vale 3 Town 1