Town: Leutwiler, Grandison, Demetriou, Goldson, Knight-Percival, Lawrence (c) (Mangan, 57), Wesolowski, Woods, Gayle (Clark, 56), Collins (Vincent, 70), Akpa-Akpro
Subs not used: Halstead, Vernon, Griffith, Ellis
Southend United: Bentley, White (c), Thompson, Prosser, Weston (Bolger, 90), Hurst (Atkinson, 63), Clifford, Coulthirst, Payne (Corr, 74), Deegan, Williams
Subs not used: Smith, Ibenfeldt, Barnard, Bridge
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 6,951 (236 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Roots Hall
Ten-man Shrewsbury fell to a fourth consecutive away defeat at Roots Hall this afternoon. Shaq Coulthirst grabbed the game’s only goal as the Southend forward caught Town cold to head the winner inside of two minutes. And Town’s misery was complete when sub Andy Mangan received a second yellow card five minutes from time to make it a miserable trip to the seaside.
Unsurprisingly, boss Micky Mellon left well alone with his starting line-up and bench, after the superb victory over high-flyers Norwich in midweek, a result which set up THAT game.
Town, wearing their change colours of yellow and black stripes, kicked off defending the end where their small but, hardy bunch of travelling supporters were gathered.
And 92 seconds into the game, the hosts scored what turned out to be the decider, with the first attack of the match. Myles Weston found some space out wide and his deep cross was superbly headed home by Coulthirst, who gave Jayson Leutwiler no chance whatsoever.
Town responded well and James Collins’ volley from a Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro lay-off wasn’t that far away, with Daniel Bentley struggling to get across his line to cover. A few feet the other side of the post and we would have been back level with barely five minutes played.
But after 10 minutes, Coulthirst headed towards goal again after finding room in the box to meet Kevan Hurst’s delivery, only for Leutwiler’s positioning to deny the striker – on loan from Tottenham - a quickfire double.
Incredibly, Salop went right up the other end and the hosts got lucky when Akpa Akpro’s snap shot struck an upright, and rebounded onto an unsuspecting Bentley before a flag came to the Shrimpers rescue.
It was end to end stuff with both sides trading toe to toe in this table-topping clash. Liam Lawrence tried his luck from distance but highly rated Southend keeper Bentley wasn’t going to be beaten from 25 yards, and then Mickey Demetriou was denied by a terrific block from Luke Prosser as Shrewsbury continued to press for a way back into the game.
United looked dangerous almost playing on the counter, and when they were defending, they did so in numbers to keep out a Town side that had seen more than their equal share of the ball.
Lawrence received a yellow card for a high challenge on Bentley in the last minute of the opening period, and the Essex side came close again through that man Coulthirst only for Leutwiler to cover the angles again.
Half-Time: Southend United 1 Town 0
At the resumption Prosser nearly had his head removed choosing unwisely to put it in the way of a Woods’ howitzer. But, as is the norm these days, a 99p sponge soon cured the dizziness.
Weston saw his shot beaten out in Continental-stylee by Swiss stopper Leutwiler, and Akpa Akpro and Adam Thompson received a ticking off from the ref after some halfway line handbags.
Mellon decided to shake things up a bit as he brought on Jordan Clark for Cameron Gayle and Mangan for skipper Lawrence in a double change just before the hour.
Jerome Williams put in a teasing low ball that flashed beyond everyone in the six yard box, and the same player headed just wide from Hurst’s long punt forward as Southend threatened. Phil Brown’s side had looked the likeliest side to score since the turnaround, with Collins’ name being entered into the official’s notebook for what looked like an innocuous aerial challenge with Thompson.
Demetriou and Clark were both wayward with speculative efforts outside the box before Mellon made a third change with Collins replaced by Ashley Vincent.
Within a minute, Town had their clearest sight of goal for some time. Clark’s cross was met by Frenchman Akpa Akpro but his 71st minute header was a yard too high.
Town were still chasing that elusive away goal, with three consecutive blanks on their travels looking increasingly likely to stretch to four. Substitute Barry Corr had barely been on the field a minute before he pulled off a defender only to head Weston’s cross straight at Leutwiler. A goal then would have ended this contest early, as would Weston’s left foot drive that rippled the side netting moments later.
Truth is, Shrews had failed to replicate their efforts in the first half and this was a much more subdued Mellon outfit in the second 45.
Substitute’s Mangan and Vincent were both cautioned in challenges that for me elevated the referee to “look at me” status, and he had little choice but to send Mangan off with time running out as he’d already set the trend. Was Mangan’s challenge on Bentley bookable? Debatable but Mr. Johnson at least demonstrated consistency, so early bath time it was for the joint leading goalscorer.
Six minutes of stoppage time were added and Town had the bulk of play, but Southend hung on for a vital three points to keep them in the play-off zone as Salop’s away day blues continued.
Full-Time: Southend United 1 Town 0