Town: Joe Anyon, Dominic Iorfa, Joseph Mills, Ryan Woods (Parry, 83), Connor Goldson, Tamika Mkandawire (c), Joe Jacobson, Asa Hall, Aaron Wildig (Taylor, 54), Shaun Miller (Atajic, 54), Sam Foley
Subs not used: Chris Weale, Dave Winfield, Tom Bradshaw
Walsall: Richard O’Donnell, Andy Taylor, Andy Butler (c), Adam Chambers, Sam Mantom, Craig Westcarr, Paul Downing, James Chambers, James Baxendale (McQuilkin, 86) Romaine Sawyers (Ngoo, 89), Febian Brandy
Subs not used: Ben Purkiss, Nicky Featherstone, Mal Benning, Liam Roberts, Troy Hewitt
Referee: Robert Madley
Assistants: Richard West & Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Chris Sarginson
Attendance: 4,222 (503 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Banks’s Stadium
Shrewsbury remain in deep trouble after a 1-0 defeat at local rivals Walsall. Craig Westcarr’s early goal was enough to separate the sides in a low-key encounter at the Banks’s Stadium with both sides ending the game with 10 men.
Joseph Mills was first to see red on a forgettable afternoon for the blues after a foul on James Baxendale, and Westcarr followed 10 minutes later for a headbutt on Sam Foley.
Jermaine Grandison, Tom Eaves, Jon Taylor and Paul Parry all dropped out of Town’s starting XI as Mike Jackson rang the changes following the goalless draw at Carlisle in midweek. Grandison’s injury saw him sidelined and Eaves sat the game out due to the loan rule - which restricts any club to five loan signings in a named eighteen. Taylor and Parry resided on the bench with Dominic Iorfa, Joe Jacobson, Aaron Wildig and Foley all handed starts as the side showed four changes.
Walsall’s top scorer Westcarr made sure Shrews got off to the worst possible start with a fifth minute opener from outside the box. Town got caught in possession after a catalogue of errors at the back where they failed to clear their lines on a number of occasions. Westcarr took aim from 25 yards and found the corner, with precision and not power beating Joe Anyon to give the Saddlers a dream opening.
Salop responded well and a Mills corner was headed on by Wildig, but Connor Goldson skied his effort when he looked well placed to provide a quickfire equaliser.
Baxendale dragged an effort wide after some decent enterprise but that was all we’d had of any note and we were midway through the half. It was far from entertaining with Shrews labouring a bit and not showing too many signs of scoring a first away goal in five attempts. Walsall weren’t particularly threatening either and the match was lacking any real kind of quality in front of a meagre crowd for a local derby. The atmosphere was as flat as the proverbial pancake and supporters of both sides sat in almost abject silence just waiting for something to happen.
Mills tidied up another Town defensive error – at the second attempt – to eventually concede a corner, which was arguably the worst in the history of Association Football by goalscorer Westcarr. The less said about it, the better.
At the other end, Paul Downing did well for Walsall to get in the way of a Shaun Miller shot which would have at least forced Richard O’Donnell into a save, but for the intervention of the central defender.
Overall though it was pretty turgid stuff with Town guilty of surrendering possession all too often and the front players starved of any service whatsoever.
Westcarr almost doubled his account five minutes before half time with a twist and turn which ended with the striker’s left foot drive clipping the outside of Anyon’s post. Asa Hall fired wide from distance, and then skipper Tamika Mkandawire failed to get goal side of Westcarr and ended up with a yellow for the inevitable foul a yard outside the box. Thankfully, Anyon parried away Andy Taylor’s free kick to ensure the score stayed at one-nil at the halfway stage.
Half Time: Walsall 1 Town 0
Walsall got us back under way with Town attacking the end where the away support was gathered – with just 500 having made the short journey from Shropshire.
Jackson made a double change 10 minutes into the second 45 with Taylor and Bahrudin Atajic introduced for Wildig and Miller, with Town needing fresh legs and fresh ideas to turn this game around.
Iorfa was booked for the cleanest tackle you’ll ever see which brought howls of derision from Town fans but it would get worse. Referee Mr. Madley pulled a red card from his pocket and ended Mills afternoon when the Shrewsbury player went in hard on James Chambers just past the hour. It looked harsh but when your lucks out....
Atajic went down in the box from Taylor’s free-kick but the ref wasn’t interested and that elusive first penalty of the season for Salop remained, well, elusive.
Walsall would have made it two without a brilliant stop from Anyon to deny Febian Brandy, who beat the ground in frustration knowing that a second goal would have ended this contest.
There was a flashpoint after 71 minutes with the numbers evened up. Westcarr was left in a heap following a bone crunching – but legal – challenge on the far side by Jacobson. But when he got up, he flashed a headbutt towards Foley and that was the signal for him to get in the bath before anyone else.
Goldson blocked superbly to keep out a certain goal for Sam Mantom as Walsall continued to make better use of the football than Jackson’s men. Once again, the endeavour was there but sadly O’Donnell hadn’t been called into action once all afternoon as a fifth consecutive blank away from home loomed ever nearer.
Parry replaced Ryan Woods for the last seven minutes but apart from one poor cross contributed little.
If ever a game petered out with a whimper, it was this one and Shrews will now look towards a vital clash with fellow strugglers Stevenage in seven days time.
Full Time: Walsall 1 Town 0