Shrewsbury Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Jermaine Grandison, Mickey Demetriou, Mark Ellis, James Collins (Vernon, 84), Liam Lawrence (c), Cameron Gayle, Keith Southern, Jordan Clark (Mangan, 84), Bobby Grant, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Barnett, 84).
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Mikael Mandron, Rhys Sharpe, Josh Ginnelly.
Goals: Akpa-Akpro 18, 73; Collins 61; Barnett 90’1
Bookings: Grandison, 71
Exeter City: James Hamon, Craig Woodman (Morrison, 60), Scott Bennett, Christian Ribeiro, Liam Sercombe, Matt Oakley (c) (Nicholls, 67), Aaron Davies, Jamie McCallister, Lee Holmes, Graham Cummins (Wheller, 60), Ryan Harley,
Subs not used: Danny Butterfield, Jimmy Keohane, Jordan Tillson, Christy Pym.
Assistants: S. Copeland & P. Dermott
Fourth Official: J. Collin
Attendance: 5442 (445 from Exeter)
Shrewsbury Town took another huge step towards promotion to League One with a convincing victory over Exeter City at Greenhous Meadow.
Town were the dominant team throughout the 90-minutes and after Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro had given them a first-half lead, their superiority was rounded off with goals from James Collins, Akpa Akpro’s second and a thunderbolt from substitute Tyrone Barnett.
With influential ever presents Connor Goldson and Ryan Woods suspended following their accumulation of yellow cards, manager Micky Mellon opted for a change of formation. On-loan Keith Southern came in for his first start in eight games and Jordan Clark was given the opportunity to impress in a 4-4-2 formation.
Exeter were looking to do the double over Town following their 3-2 victory back in November but had to make do without their 14-goal top-scorer Tom Nichols, who served the last of his three match suspension whereas Jordan Moore-Taylor missed out through injury.
Town faced a difficult task in the Shropshire sunshine as in-form Exeter City visited the Greenhous Meadow on an impressive eight game run that had raised hopes of a late play-off charge.
Micky Mellon’s side started on the front foot, with striker James Collins feeling aggrieved that his halted run into the box didn’t result in a penalty.
City’s best form of attack seemed to come in the form of the counter attack, which is exactly where their first opportunity almost came, but as the tricky Lee Holmes broke over the half-way line, Jermaine Grandison was there to make a clean and timely challenge.
The first effort at goal came after 16-minutes, with Holmes’ effort dragging wide of Jayson Leutwiler’s post.
Town continued to dominate possession but were struggling to find the final pass so it was no surprise that the breakthrough goal came via some good fortune.
Following an over-hit corner, Town did well to keep the ball alive before Jordan Clark’s effort from outside the box deflected kindly into the path of Akpa-Akpro who reacted quickest to steer the ball home.
Clark almost provided a quick second when his neat pass played in Lawrence, whose effort deflected harmlessly into James Hamon’s hands.
Amidst the cagey 20-minutes that followed, Town fans continued their touching tribute to Nick Mann with all four sides of the Meadow, including the Exeter faithful, applauding his name.
As the half drifted towards its conclusion, Town fans had their hearts in their mouths when Leutwiler’s clearance fell kindly at the feet of Holmes whose heavy touch allowed Lawrence to make a crucial tackle.
HALF TIME: Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Exeter City
Town started the second half as they did the first, with the home side doing the majority of the running.
The Shrews had a chance to double their lead early in the second half when Bobby Grant won a free-kick in a dangerous position. Lawrence stepped up and whipped in a beautiful cross that Grandison headed inches wide of the far post.
As Exeter made their first changes of the game in an attempt to get back on level terms, their task got been made all the more harder just minutes later.
The quality of Lawrence’s corner caused confusion in the Exeter penalty area, and as the ball bounced off an unfortunate defender, Collins drove the ball home from six-yards out.
As the Salop supporters started the now notorious ‘We are going up’ chant, the town players responded in fine fashion.
Clarke’s run to the by-line resulted in a perfectly weighted cross that Akpa Akpro deftly guided into the bottom corner.
The free flowing football was delighting the home crowd as ‘one Micky Mellon’ rang out around the ground.
With ten minutes left, Town made a triple switch with Tyrone Barnett and Scott Vernon replacing goal heroes Akpa Akpro, Collins and Clark making way for Andy Mangan.
Substitute Vernon almost made an immediate impact as he smartly flicked Cameron Gayle’s wicked cross, only for Hamon to make a good save at his near post.
And with just seconds remaining, Barnett put the finishing touches to a glorious afternoon as he unleashed a thunderous volley from 25-yards that flew into the top corner to round off a perfect day for Shrewsbury Town.
And if he’s reading this Colin Bloomfield, this one’s for you.
FULL TIME: Shrewsbury Town 4-0 Exeter City