Martin Wild reports from DW Stadium
Alex Revell’s 36th minute header was enough to condemn Shrewsbury to defeat at promotion chasing Wigan Athletic this afternoon.
The former Rotherham hit-man converted a telling cross from Yanic Wildschut during the home side’s best spell of the match to decide the contest.
Town improved in the second half but couldn’t find an equaliser that would have netted a first away point since September.
Town made a couple of changes to the side which earned a second round place in the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Gainsborough Trinity two weeks ago.
Jermaine Grandison’s lengthy spell on the sidelines came to an end with a recall to the back four, but not at the heart of the defence to partner Zak Whitbread.
Grandison occupied the right back slot with Anthony Gerrard alongside Whitbread which meant Dom Smith had to drop down to the bench with Jordan Clark missing out altogether, after Sullay Kaikai had also recovered from his injury niggle to start in a five man midfield.
On a bitterly cold afternoon in Lancashire, Shrews got the game underway defending the North Stand end of the DW where their supporters were housed.
The first five minutes or so saw both sides have opportunities through set-plays but nothing that troubled the defenders.
There was an early delay to the proceedings with Michael Jacobs needing treatment for a couple of minutes on the far side.
That led to the home side being down to ten men for a period with the midfielder still walking gingerly past the advertisement boards and it forced Latics into a change.
Will Grigg came on to replace Jacobs to demonstrate the strength in depth the former Premier League outfit have at their disposal.
Wigan were seeing the majority of the ball with James Collins expected to plough the loneliest of furrows up top, and on the few occasions the ball was played up to him, it was usually in the air which was food and drink to the central pairing of Chris McCann and skipper Craig Morgan.
But on 27 minutes Shrewsbury passed up what looked like a really good opening.
Larnell Cole dispossessed David Perkins just inside Wigan’s half and suddenly it was two on two.
As Collins peeled away, Cole’s pass into him wasn’t the best and the forward had strayed beyond the last defender in any event.
McCann went on a mazy dribble to the edge of the box and when the referee blew his whistle after he tangled with Gerrard, it looked like bringing a free-kick for the home side. Instead, it earned a yellow card for the number seven for simulation.
Grandison’s name quickly followed into the book when he pulled on Wildschut’s jersey. Max Power’s free-kick was well defended as was the resultant corner which led to another – albeit brief – counter attack from the team in unfamiliar yellow and black.
Nine minutes before the break Revell headed Wigan in front on his home debut. Wildschut clipped a cross to the far post and the striker nodded the ball firmly past Jayson Leutwiler to break the deadlock.
Wildschut had been teasing and tormenting down the left flank and once he’d brushed aside a challenge from Junior Brown way too easily, Revell did the rest.
Moments later it really should have been two and it was Wildschut again doing all the damage.
Quite how first Grigg, and then Tim Chow, failed to connect with two great chances in the space of a second or two from seven or eight yards, only they would know. But the goal had sparked the locals into life and their team looked like they had smelled blood.
That said, it was Salop who were next to show late in the half with Cole’s shot from distance bringing a sprawling save from former Bolton and West Ham stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
After four minutes of added on time it was the Latics who went down the tunnel with the advantage at the halfway stage.
Half-Time: Wigan Athletic 1 Town 0
Wigan looked lively in the opening minutes of the second 45 with Whitbread and Grandison both making timely interventions.
Gary Caldwell’s side clearly looked in the mood to inflict a fifth straight league defeat away from Greenhous Meadow.
Micky Mellon made a change early doors with Brown taken off and Scott Vernon once again given game time to impress, after his run-out in Lincolnshire.
But soon it was Wildschut laying a goal on a plate for anyone prepared to run into a central area for a tap-in.
No-one in a blue and white shirt gambled though on a quite exquisite pull-back, and Town escaped.
At the other end, Kaikai went down under McCann’s challenge on the edge of the box but nothing was given despite the 800-strong away end rising as one to claim for a penalty.
Then Kaikai planted a 25 yard free kick inches wide with Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot and down below us, Liam Lawrence was getting prepared to join the fray.
Perkins was carded for a foul on Vernon moments before Lawrence replaced Ian Black just before the hour.
Donervon Daniels headed a glorious chance well wide of the target from a Reece James corner and a Collins volley from a great Lawrence pass brought a decent save from Jaaskelainen – though a raised flag would have denied Collins anyway.
Town were playing much better and with less than 20 minutes to play, the recent winners of the FA Cup hadn’t been able to build on that Revell goal. Kaikai worked Jaaskelainen again and the away end were getting right behind their team sensing an equaliser might be on the cards.
Vernon became another entry into Mr. Deadman’s notebook and when Mat Sadler nearly ripped Chow’s shirt off his back, it was two names inside a minute for the match official.
Tyrone Barnett got the last 11 minutes plus stoppages with Collins the man to make way, but failed to make any kind of impression during his brief cameo.
McCann brought a fine save from Leutwiler with three minutes left and denied Power in the closing stages of normal time.
When the fourth official held the board up indicating five more minutes were to be played, Town’s fans again raised the noise levels.
Kaikai fired wide in the first of them but that was as close as they came, and the whistle brought loud cheers from the home sections.
Full-Time: Wigan Athletic 1 Town 0
Town:Jayson Leutwiler, Anthony Gerrard, Mat Sadler, Zak Whitbread, Jermaine Grandison, Ian Black (Liam Lawrence, 58), Larnell Cole, Abu Ogogo, James Collins (c) (Tyrone Barnett, 79), Junior Brown (Scott Vernon, 51), Sullay Kaikai
Subs not used: Calum Burton (GK), Liam McAlinden, Shaun Whalley, Dom Smith
Wigan Athletic:Jussi Jaaskelainen, Reece James, David Perkins, Donervon Daniels, Max Power, Chris McCann, Alex Revell (Craig Davies, 77), Michael Jacobs (Will Grigg, 14), Tim Chow (Jason Pearce, 84), Craig Morgan (c), Yanic Wildschut
Subs not used:Richard O’Donnell (GK), Don Cowie, Francisco Junior, Leon Barnett
Referee: Darren Deadman
Assistants: Alf Greenwood & Mark Jones
Fourth Official: Helen Byrne
Attendance: 8,803 (812 from Shrewsbury)