Town: Leutwiler, Grandison, Demetriou, Goldson (c), Knight-Percival, Grimmer, Wesolowski (Clark, 77), Woods, Akpa Akpro, Collins (Mangan, 70), Grant (Lawrence, 74)
Subs not used: Halstead, Ellis, Vernon, Griffith
Portsmouth: Jones, Devera, Chorley (c), Wallace, Holmes (Agyemang, 79), Storey (Atangana, 70), Robinson, Shorey, Westcarr (Taylor, 59), Dunne, Hollands
Subs not used: Barcham, Ertl, Poke, Agyemang, Butler
Referee: D. Whitestone
Attendance: 5,515 (835 from Pompey)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury recorded a seventh win in eight league games at the Greenhous Meadow this afternoon against Portsmouth. But they had to come from behind to finally land the points after making a dreadful start. Micky Demetriou’s handball gave Jed Wallace the chance from 12 yards which he emphatically put away, but Town levelled 10 minutes later when James Wesolowski netted for the first time in blue and amber. And Connor Goldson got lucky – make that very lucky – when a wind-assisted punt forward found the far corner after 73 minutes to seal a hard-earned victory.
Unsurprisingly, after the five goal demolition job on Bury in midweek, Town chief Micky Mellon decided to put out an unchanged XI. There was a welcome return – albeit on the substitute’s bench – for club captain Liam Lawrence.
The match kicked off in bright sunshine with the hosts defending the Salop Leisure Stand, which had seen temporary seating installed in the East and West corners ahead of THAT game.
Shrewsbury don’t concede many here – two all season prior to today – but they started the match poorly. After just 53 seconds, Ricky Holmes was afforded far too much space down the left and his pin-point cross was directed goalwards by Paul Robinson, only for a quite magnificent stop from Jayson Leutwiler to prevent a certain goal. But, from the resultant corner, Demetriou was penalised for handball after a good spot from referee Dean Whitestone. Wallace thumped the ball past Leutwiler to give the visitors a third minute lead from the penalty spot.
The goal buoyed the 800 strong away support who were terrifically vocal for a good ten minutes, but they were drowned out by home cheers when Town levelled after 13 minutes. Wesolowski was fouled around 30 yards from goal and from the free-kick - which was initially cleared - the ball fell kindly for the midfielder. He had a lot to do but kept his composure to blast hard and low through a mass of bodies and past an unsighted Paul Jones.
It was game on and Shrewsbury’s customary range of slick passing was fully evident. Bobby Grant did well to pick out Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro just after the goal, and the midweek hat-trick hero did likewise to lift the ball over the advancing defender. But Jones sprung from his line to snuff out any danger.
The game underwent something of a lull after that frantic opening spell, before Akpa Akpro got on the end of a Jack Grimmer cross in the first chance fashioned by either side for 20 minutes or so. But the Frenchman failed to direct his header on target, although it deserved the warm applause it drew from three sides of the ground.
Half-Time: Town 1 Portsmouth 1
James Dunne flashed one wide from way out 90 seconds after the restart and Town wasted a corner, before Goldson’s indecision set a few nerve ends jangling amongst the home supporters. The defender lost possession on the touchline trying to shield the ball behind, but he was bailed out by his covering teammates before Pompey could prosper.
Jones made his first save of the afternoon just past the hour when Grant’s 25 yard free-kick landed awkwardly in front of him, and the angle was too tight for James Collins to profit from the rebound.
Town’s performance hadn’t been anywhere near the heights of midweek, but they were still chipping away at a resilient Pompey side who had been beaten 3-0 by Bury just a week ago.
Andy Mangan was introduced with 20 minutes left in place of Collins, and moments later, Ryan Woods shot straight at Jones, but Town went in front in fortuitous circumstances with 17 minutes left. Goldson’s second goal in five days owed more to good fortune than good judgement, when his 40 yard ball forward from out on the far touchline sailed over the head of a frantically back-pedalling Jones, to dip just under the bar and into the net. Fluke or no fluke, it came at a vital stage in proceedings and Mellon moved quickly to put fresh legs on and protect what he had.
Lawrence replaced Grant before Jordan Clark came on for Wesolowski minutes later.
Akpa Akpro blazed wildly over when well placed to make it 3-1 on 80 minutes and Mangan lifted a free-kick a yard over from another decent position.
Pompey pressed hard in the closing stages with Lawrence popping up on the line to head clear after a bout of head tennis nearly brought a dramatic late equaliser for the Fratton Park side.
Town saw out the additional four minutes to secure a vital victory, completing a fantastic fourth straight win for Mellon’s promotion chasers.
Now we can start talking about taking on the Premier League Leaders inside the Fortress. Bring on Chelsea!
Full-Time: Town 2 Portsmouth 1