Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Mickey Demetriou, Liam Lawrence (c), Cameron Gayle, Connor Goldson, Jermaine Grandison, James Collins (Scott Vernon, 74), Ryan Woods, Mark Ellis, James Wesolowski (Bobby Grant, 16), Andy Mangan (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 75)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Jordan Clark, Ashley Vincent, Connor Randall
Hartlepool United: Scott Flinders (c), Neil Austin, Jonathan Franks, Marlon Harewood (Scott Fenwick, 69), Jack Compton (Lewis Hawkins, 73), Michael Woods, Dan Jones, Michael Duckworth, Scott Harrison, Rakish Bingham, Aaron Tshibola
Subs not used: Matthew Bates, Bradley Walker, Jon Maxted, Nicky Featherstone, Connor Smith
Referee: S. Stockbridge
Assistants: T. Bramall & G. Law
Fourth Official: M. Amphlett
Attendance: 4,601 (142 from Hartlepool)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
A blistering second half performance from Shrewsbury finally broke the plucky resistance of strugglers Hartlepool at the Greenhous Meadow this afternoon. The returning Andy Mangan struck either side of James Collins’ effort, as the forwards finally found their scoring boots having gone three games without a goal. But once Mangan had put Town in front with a brilliant individual goal five minutes after the restart, there was only ever going to be one outcome.
Micky Mellon was forced into making changes for the match against bottom of the table Pools. Nat Knight Percival’s two yellow cards in the last outing at Luton resulted in a one match ban for the defender, which opened the door for Jermaine Grandison to return to the back-line. And Mangan was considered fit enough to make a first league start since October’s away trip to York. There was also a new face on the bench – young wing-back Connor Randall took his place having joined Town on a month’s loan from Liverpool.
Town got the game started on a bitterly cold afternoon attacking the Salop Leisure Stand, and looking to build on an impressive home record that had seen just four points dropped from a possible 36.
The visitors won a couple of early corners but Shrewsbury went close twice within the space of a minute. Skipper Liam Lawrence saw his effort deflected behind following some neat and tidy passing in the build-up, and from the flag kick Mark Ellis climbed the highest but couldn’t keep his header down.
Two minutes later Lawrence was involved again and when Mangan put a beautifully weighted ball into the path of fellow striker Collins, you expected him to score. But the Irishman wasted the chance and failed to work the goalkeeper.
Mellon’s side were dealt a blow after quarter of an hour when James Wesolowski went down off the ball and was stretchered off with Bobby Grant on to replace the stricken midfielder. Within a minute of the change, the ball was in the Hartlepool net. Ryan Woods took a free-kick spotting an excellent run from the predatory figure of Mangan. He took one touch to kill the ball before a slide rule finish in off the base of the post. Sadly for the home side, the upraised flag on the far side quickly curtailed the celebrations and the ‘goal’ was chalked off. The quality and composure shown though by likeable Scouser Mangan, was plain for all to see.
But United came close themselves just before the half hour when Jonathan Franks wriggled himself into a shooting position on the edge of the box. The shot carried plenty of power but it faded wide of goal with Jayson Leutwiler rooted to the spot.
Town responded by winning a corner and although Scott Flinders punched Lawrence’s corner clear it was picked up by Grant. He put a great ball back into the mix which Connor Goldson headed down and Mangan was a whisker away from applying any kind of touch to break the deadlock. And Grant was involved again moments later with a scuffed shot that Collins deflected wide.
Back came Pools and it took a flying save from Leutwiler to deny Michael Duckworth, with Dan Jones heading a decent chance wide from the corner. As the ball swung to the other end, Mangan was a yard or so wide with a low effort from outside the box, but he was certainly looking sharp and the most likely to breach a stubborn away defence.
In the 40th minute came a historic moment when Mangan was fouled for a free-kick within sight of goal – a first ever appearance at the Greenhous Meadow for the vanishing spray before Grant fired straight at Flinders.
Before the spray had vanished, Marlon Harewood went into the referee’s notebook for a clear foul on Goldson but the skipper’s free-kick was headed clear.
In the first of three added on minutes Rakish Bingham let fly from 25 yards which went narrowly over as Hartlepool looked to stun the majority of the crowd with chances of their own. And Woods brought a fairly routine stop from Flinders as the half drew to a close.
Half-Time: Town 0 Hartlepool United 0
There was a lengthy stoppage at the beginning of the second half with Neil Austin requiring treatment after he got in the way of Cameron Gayle’s shot.
With results elsewhere mostly favouring Shrewsbury, any kind of win against a side that had their first win in thirteen last week would be greatly beneficial. And the foundations were lain on 50 minutes when Mangan scored a goal out of nothing. A long ball forward actually hit Town’s number 19 as he ran into position. But he retrieved it, turned the right back inside out with a clever turn, and was off and running into the danger zone. Once there, despite the acute angle, he fired beyond Flinders and into the far corner to ease the nerves a little. It was a goal he richly deserved but he wasn’t finished as he was soon involved in the second.
A cynical foul on Grant by Austin with Town in a great attacking position brought an obvious yellow for the full-back and although Lawrence skewed his effort wide, Town soon doubled their advantage. This time it wasn’t down to individual brilliance. Gayle swung over an inviting cross which Collins headed into Mangan with back to goal. His immediate lay off back to Collins was swiftly despatched into the net for a first since Boxing Day for Town’s top scorer.
Town were buoyant and Grant’s introduction hadn’t done them any harm. His corner looked certain to bring a 67th minute third but Goldson’s header brought a terrific stop from Flinders. Within a minute though, the United net was bulging and it was all too easy. Grant with the cross, Mangan with the execution with one flick of the head. Simples.
Goldson was again denied by Flinders following an exceptional burst forward, before Mellon changed his hard working front pair in straight swaps for Scott Vernon and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
The outstanding Goldson headed arguably his best chance wide and Vernon had strayed offside before finding the net with a cute shot across Flinders. You had to feel for Hartlepool. Ronnie Moore’s lads had put up a great fight in the first 45 but had been royally turned over by Town in a one sided second.
Akpa Akpro wasted an 87th minute chance to make it four when Grant’s 40 yard punt upfield put the sub in on goal, only for Flinders to win the personal duel without a teammate in sight to offer any kind of protection.
Flinders saved again from Lawrence as Town went in search of another, but the victory was enough to take Salop back into the automatic promotion places. And another clean sheet at the Fortress for a superbly well-drilled Town defence, with the last goal scored here by an opposition player, from a certain Didier Drogba Esquire almost three months ago.
Full Time: Town 3 Hartlepool United 0