Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Mickey Demetriou, Liam Lawrence, Connor Goldson (c), Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Josh Passley, James Collins, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Andy Mangan, 63), Ryan Woods, Bobby Grant (Anthony Griffith, 89), Mark Ellis
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Scott Vernon, Ashley Vincent, Jordan Clark, Cameron Gayle
Morecambe: Scott Davies, Sean Beeley, Ryan Williams (Jack Redshaw, 78) Alex Kenyon (Alan Goodall, 57), Mark Hughes (c), Ryan Edwards, Kevin Ellison, Paul Mullin (Padraig Amond, 60), Stewart Drummond, Laurence Wilson, Andy Parrish
Subs not used: Andreas Arestidou, Jack Redshaw, Aaron McGowan, Tom McCready
Referee: Mick Russell
Assistants: Mark Astley & Danny Gratton
Fourth Official: Andy Hendley
Attendance: 4,708 (129 from Morecambe)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
They say that patience is a virtue and for the second home game in succession, Town had to wait until the closing minutes to seal a tenth victory in eleven league games at the Greenhous Meadow. Morecambe put in so much effort to try and nick a point but they were on the backfoot for 95 minutes and simply couldn’t stop the barrage.
Ultimately, they paid the price when substitute Andy Mangan struck to plunder a late winner - just when it looked like the Shrimps would become the second side to pinch a point here since Micky Mellon was appointed in the summer.
Mellon named an unchanged squad from the one that dominated for large parts of last weekend’s scoreless encounter at Cambridge. Morecambe made a late change with former Shrewsbury loanee Jamie Devitt replaced in the starting line-up by Ryan Williams with Devitt having initially been named in the starting XI.
The game was held up with just nine seconds on the clock, when a clash of heads between Connor Goldson and Alex Kenyon forced both their respective physios into early action.
Town had an early chance when Liam Lawrence played a ball into Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro who rolled it into the path of Bobby Grant, but out dashed Scott Davies to smother the danger.
But Morecambe came within a whisker of taking the lead after just six minutes when Paul Mullin out-muscled Mark Ellis before arcing a shot towards the far corner. With Jayson Leutwiler beaten, Town were relieved that the enterprising effort lacked a touch more bend or they would have been behind.
It was a bright start to the match and James Collins and Goldson both saw headers routinely saved by Davies, while Akpa Akpro headed a difficult opportunity wide. Morecambe had plenty of men behind the ball and seemed content to let Shrewsbury dictate the play, but they were making it difficult to play the killer ball with lots of willing red shirts in the way.
Midway through the half, Town constructed a glorious move and when Mickey Demetriou picked out Collins in the box, the striker hit a fierce left foot shot that flashed narrowly the wrong side of Davies’ right hand upright. It deserved a goal but Salop’s luck in front of goal had deserted them in recent weeks and the visitors were proving a tough nut to crack.
The woodwork had intervened twice last week at The Abbey with Grant one of the players denied. And the midfielder’s cultured left boot almost brought about an opener on the half hour. More intricate passing created the chance for the number 24 but his deliberate curling shot from 15 yards rattled against the post, as once again Lady Luck turned her back on Mellon’s team.
The manager had been openly critical of the Greenhous Meadow pitch and there were clear signs again of the playing surface cutting up quite badly. Not that it was affecting Salop’s passing game too much. As you might expect from a side that had yielded a 28 point return from the 30 on offer so far, there was only one team carrying any real threat with less than 10 minutes to play before the interval.
But the Shrimps were well in tact with their obvious game plan of coming to contain bang on track. And, but for a wonderful save low down by Leutwiler after uncharacteristic errors at the back, Mullin would have given the Lancastrians an undeserved lead.
There was much to admire and in the next attack, NKP was upended right on the edge of the box after a marauding run forward. With all eyes on the referee, he promptly pointed to.... the corner flag – much to the amazement of everyone else inside the stadium.
At the other end and in stoppage time, Leutwiler stood tall to protect his near post from Kevin Ellison’s shot and the half ended goalless.
Half-Time: Town 0 Morecambe 0
Goldson did have the ball in the net from Lawrence’s 47th minute free-kick but the defender was one of about half a dozen Town players who had strayed beyond the Morecambe defence. There were few complaints. Moments later Davies flew high to his left to claw a Collins piledriver away from the top corner, before Ryan Woods became the recipient of the game’s first yellow card.
Shrews were certainly ramping up the pressure but the away team continued to soak it all up, hoping to punish a Town team committed to all-out attack in pursuit of the additional two points.
Just past the hour, Collins once again brought the best from Shrimps’ stopper Davies who acrobatically pushed the Irishman’s 25 yarder behind. Before the corner – which was wasted – could be taken, Mellon threw on Mangan for Akpa Akpro hoping for a change of fortune in front of goal for his side. What an inspired change that was to prove.
It was a touch more even this half with Town’s fluency at times interrupted by the pernickety match official. And when they did get into dangerous areas, the two centre backs from Morecambe headed everything clear. Any time they managed to breach that well organised Morecambe rearguard, they were met by the seemingly impenetrable figure of Davies who denied Collins for a third time. The Shrimps’ luck held again when Grant’s superb corner ricocheted into the grateful arms of Davies just as it seemed Town would make the breakthrough. Somehow, they survived again when Lawrence’s shot was charged down and if this was a boxing contest, then surely the towel would have been chucked in by now? Town were relentless but they just couldn’t knock out their opponent. The crowd cranked up the noise levels sensing an opening goal and Morecambe were taking as many opportunities as possible to take the sting out of the game, soaking up precious seconds with a very creditable draw within their grasp. It wasn’t the prettiest but it was mightily effective.
The goal frame was clattered once more with Collins again the man to suffer. Just as it had conspired to twice deny Town the win in Cambridge, the woodwork looked set to blight on home soil.
How it was 0-0 was anyone’s guess, but the team who had systematically put Luton to the sword seven days ago, had certainly come up against a much sterner test this week. Collins alone with a touch more fortune might have had two matchballs to put on his mantelpiece this evening.
Finally, and at long, long last, Collins was involved in the match winner. Davies flew across his goal to deny Town’s top scorer for the umpteenth time, but there was predatory poacher Mangan to pounce on the loose ball to turn it home from close range on 84 minutes. The players to a man raced towards Mellon’s technical area for a group love-in and boy, was their lead richly deserved.
As the game reached its conclusion Mangan was denied what looked a sure fire penalty but the ref stayed consistent and gave nowt. It mattered not. Punch drunk Morecambe weren’t just on the ropes. They were flat on their backs. Town are up to second in League Two and look unbeatable here. Merry Christmas!
Full-Time: Town 1 Morecambe 0