TOWN: Mark Halstead (GK), Dom Smith, Anthony Gerrard, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Junior Brown, Ian Black, Abu Ogogo, Jordan Clark (Liam McAlinden, 75), Sullay Kaikai (Shaun Whalley, 79), James Collins (C) (Tyrone Barnett, 75), Scott Vernon.
SUBS: Callum Burton, Mat Sadler, Liam Lawrence, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
SWINDON: Lawrence Vigouroux, Fabien Robert (James Brophy, 75), Jordan Turnbull, Nicky Ajose, Ben Galdwin, Louis Thompson (Drissa Traore, 57), Jon Obika (Jermaine Hylton, 87), Anton Rodgers, Bradley Barry, Raphael Rossi-Branco (C), Adam El-Abd.
SUBS: Tyrell Belford, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Ellis Iandolo, Henrik Ojamaa.
GOALS: Ajose, 34
BOOKED: Thompson, Robert, Galdwin, Rodgers
ATTENDANCE: 5115 (467 from Swindon)
Referee: J. Simpson,
Assistant Referees: N. Hobbs and C. Ward
Fourth Official: Paul Thompson
A spirited second-half showing couldn’t save Town from a narrow defeat at home to inform Swindon Town.
Martin Ling’s side showed why they had won three on the spin prior to today’s game with an impressive first-half display topped off by Nicky Ajose’s ninth league goal of the season.
With a 4-4-2 diamond formation, Manager Micky Mellon made four changes to the team that beat Grimsby Town midweek.
Jermaine Grandison didn’t recover in time from his injury suffered against the Mariners so Dom Smith came in at right-back. Jordan Clark replaced Liam Lawrence with Ian Black returning to the starting eleven in place of Tyrone Barnett. Zak Whitbread misses out with a slight hamstring strain with Nathaniel Knight-Pervical replacing him.
Town kicked off the game shooting towards their home supporters in the Salop Leisure stand and it was Micky Mellon’s side that started the game on the front foot.
James Collins and Junior Brown linked combined well down the left hand side before Brown’s over hit cross evaded Scott Vernon at the back post.
Swindon responded with birthday-boy Louis Thompson’s mazy run being brought to a sudden and illegal halt by Jordan Clark. The free-kick presented Anton Rodgers, son of former Liverpool manager Brendan, with the chance 22-yards from goal. His curling effort however was just inches too high, with keeper Mark Halstead at full stretch.
The Wiltshire side then seemed to get into the kind of rhythm that had seen them win their last three games, with their impressing passing style and pace causing a few issues for the Salop back line.
It took until the 22nd minute to seethe first shot on goal and it came from Swindon when Ben Galdwin broke from his own half before seeing his low left-footed effort pushed away by Halstead, with Brown clearing up from the onrushing Nicky Ajose.
With the rain lashing down and the wind picking up, Town started to get a grip with the quick movement of their opponents and almost carved out an opportunity when Dom Smith played a neat one-two with Vernon in the box, with the wind unfortunately carrying the ball out of play.
An audacious effort from Galdwin almost caught Halstead out as the 23-year-old attempted an volley from the half-way line that the former Blackpool stopper did well to backtrack and palm away for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Galdwin found himself in enough space to chest the ball down and shoot, with the linesman’s flag making Halstead’s smart save redundant.
Once again, Town responded with Collins creating room for Vernon on the edge of the box but the striker’s effort was comfortably dealt with by on-loan goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux.
Halstead had to be on his toes once again from Galdwin whose curling effort from 25-yards was well saved.
With 34 minutes on the clock, Swindon finally made their pressure count with Rodgers’ wicked cross with the outside of his right foot being met at the back post by Ajose, who slid the ball home unmarked.
The goal had been coming with the away side continuing to look dangerous on every attack. Thompson almost doubled his side’s advantage minutes later when he found room on the edge of the box but couldn’t keep his shot below Halstead’s crossbar.
Right-back Bradley Barry was next to try his luck from distance, sending a 35-yard left-footed volley towards the Town goal, which, thankfully for the home side, didn’t dip enough to cause any problems.
Town’s search for an equaliser looked to be supplied by Brown, whose forward runs and crosses were causing some concern for the away side’s defence.
On the stoke of half-time Town thought they had an equaliser as Brown tormented his marker on the wide left before curling over a delightful cross that Vernon could only head into the side netting. It was a close call with half the Meadow crowd thinking in was in.
HALF-TIME: SHREWSBURY TOWN 0-1 SWINDON TOWN
Swindon got the game restarted, knowing that a shut out in the next 45 minutes would extend the gap between themselves and the bottom four.
It was the away side with the first opening of the second half as Jon Obika laid the ball into the path of Galdwin who’s long-range effort with the outside of his foot flies past Halstead’s near post.
Town responded with Clark finding room on the edge of box but the midfielder’s effort flew off harmlessly off target.
Clark’s chance certainly boosted the confidence of the home side, with Dom Smith’s cross being set back for Vernon whose fierce effort was blocked by a brave Swindon body.
The chances had certainly boosted the confidence of the Town players who were starting to get into the faces of their opponents more often. And their persistence in harrying their opponents was paying off, with Town winning a number of free-kicks.
With one of them, Town thought they had scored. Junior Brown’s whipped in free-kick was flicked on before Vernon tapped home at the back post, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Town continued to apply the pressure as they searched for a leveller but as they pushed forward, Swindon were looking to expose the extra space.
Nat Knight-Percival had to be on his toes when he was left isolated on a two-on-one, but thankfully for the Salop faithful his outstretched leg thwarted any possible goal threat.
Brown continued to look threatening down the left hand side, with his cross come shot being well saved at the near post by Vigouroux.
With quarter of an hour to go Micky Mellon made his first changes of the game, with strikers Liam McAlinden and Tyrone Barnett replacing James Collins and Jordan Clark respectively.
And it was on-loan Wolves striker McAlinden who made an instant impact, weaving his way free down the right before crossing for Sullay Kaikai who just couldn’t direct his header on target.
The Crystal Palace loanee seemed to be struggling as he came down from that header and was replaced by Shaun Whalley.
Swindon almost made the game safe when Obika burst into the box and found Ajose with his cutback only for Town to swarm the former Manchester United striker with bodies and crowd him out.
Town pushed looking for an equaliser but every time they did Swindon looked to counter and Town fans had their hearts in their mouth when James Brophy got in behind Dom Smith only to be stopped by a brave challenge from Halstead. With the danger not yet over, Galdwin then side-footed the rebound towards goal only to see it headed behind for a corner.
As the game ticked into the fifth minute of injury time, another excellent Brown delivery was inches away from a Town head and as Vigouroux fell down on top of the ball, the referee brought a close to the game.
FULL-TIME: SHREWSBURY TOWN 0-1 SWINDON TOWN
by Simon Wilderspin