Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury Town missed an opportunity to complete their first league ‘double’ of the season when they fell to their heaviest home defeat of the season against Barnsley. Two quickfire Sam Winnall goals put the
Oakwell side two up in the first 21 minutes, but Town were given a great opportunity to get back in the game only for Andy Mangan to see his 43rd minute penalty saved. Alfie Mawson rubbed salt in the wounds with a third goal 18 minutes from time as Town fell to an eighth home reverse, dropping into the bottom four as a consequence.
Town boss Micky Mellon made just one change to the side which won 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium last Sunday evening. Junior Brown returned from his one match ban with Mat Sadler missing from the eighteen man squad. On the bench were three January captures – Kyle Vassell, Richie Wellens and James Wallace.
On a bitterly cold Shropshire afternoon, it was Town who got proceedings underway kicking towards the sizeable, and noisy, away support.
There was almost an early opening for the visitors when a cross-field ball looked destined for Marley Watkins and it took a marvellous saving interception from the fully extended boot of Anthony Gerrard to avert the danger.
Credit had to go the groundstaff at Greenhous Meadow with the lush green turf looking almost as pristine as it did last August. The covers had been applied to guard against an overnight frost and their efforts were clear for all to see. The light drizzle ensured there was a nice zip on the top surface and it made for some slick passing in the early stages.
Brown had to pop up on the goal-line to head Winnall’s goalbound header away from a Tykes corner, and perhaps Barnsley had started the brighter of the two sides. Four minutes after going close, Winnall converted clinically to put Barnsley in front after he latched onto a ball played straight down the middle of the park. Zak Whitbread couldn’t cut the ball out and the number 9 put his laces through the ball with a first time strike from the edge of the box.
It soon got worse for Town with Winnall finding the bottom corner midway through the half, after cutting a swathe through a retreating Town rearguard. He pulled the trigger and beat Mark Halstead from a similar distance to his opener six minutes earlier. Town’s wretched run of form in front of their own supporters looked set to continue with Barnsley in complete control.
Watkins picked up the game’s first booking soon after the second goal when he crudely felled Ian Black, and he could have few complaints with the referee’s assessment of the tackle. Within a minute of that, some neat passing around Town’s box ended with Watkins shooting beyond Halstead, but a raised flag on the far side spared Shrews any further misery. And then Mangan went a fraction too early as he latched onto a clever reverse pass from Scott Vernon.
Shrewsbury’s biggest problems though lay at the other end of the field with Barnsley looking dangerous every time they advanced on the Town goal. Mangan fizzed an effort wide 10 minutes before the break to leave Adam Davies still without a save to make, and there really hadn’t been much for those sporting Town favours to get too excited about.
Watkins almost snatched a third for the away side but Jack Grimmer was well placed to clear with the Tykes again threatening from a corner-kick routine.
Three minutes before the break came a great chance for Salop to halve Barnsley’s lead. Grimmer sent in a low cross and Mangan was felled in the box by James Bree. Mr. Gibbs was well placed and had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mangan struck the kick well enough but Davies guessed right and made a superb stop at full stretch plunging to his right to push the ball out. It was a huge moment in the game and came from one of very few chances created by the home side. Frustration kicked in and Black picked up a booking for a bad tackle on Josh Brownhill, but Town went close again in added on time. Black picked out Nat Knight-Percival from a free-kick but the skipper’s bullet header was turned over the top by Davies. It could have been an entirely different scoreline, but as the whistle sounded there was definitely work for Mellon to do during the interval.
Half Time: Town 0 Barnsley 2
Mellon had plainly seen enough in what had been a largely lacklustre first half display by his side. All three substitutes were deployed with the team sent out a couple of minutes ahead of their opponents. It was the three new signings who came on with the men to make way Black, Vernon and a strangely out of sorts Jordan Clark against his hometown team.
Brown became the second Shrews player booked after tangling with Watkins five minutes into the second half, and again, he could have few complaints. Neither could Whitbread when he also became an entry in the referee’s notebook on the hour. The Yorkshire club still comfortably held the upper hand even though it took a decent save from Davies to hold onto Grimmer’s daisy cutter.
Barnsley appeared content to make their defence as compact as it could be in order to protect the foundations lain in six first half minutes. In one Town attack about five yards in from the deadball line, I counted nine red shirts helping out in the 18 yard box. Mawson got lucky though when caught dallying midway through his own half, but Wallace’s interception didn’t run kindly for the lurking figure of Mangan.
Wellens had escaped punishment twice but he wasn’t so lucky when a third indiscretion brought a fourth Town booking. And 60 seconds later came a third and decisive goal for Lee Johnson’s side. Mawson climbed high to meet a corner and although his initial effort was blocked on the line, the ball dropped invitingly for the defender who powered his shot high into the goal from close range.
It was a stroll now for the visitors and it took a spectacular save from Halstead to deny Adam Hammill a cheeky fourth when he attempted to lob the keeper from around 15 yards.
Brown flashed one over the top for Town and Vassell could only find the side netting, but the home fans had long since started heading for the exits. This was Barnsley’s day no question, and what has been a fortress here in recent seasons is threatening to turn into an unhappy hunting ground for the Shrews.
Full Time: Town 0 Barnsley 3
Town: Mark Halstead, Anthony Gerrard, Nat Knight-Percival (c), Zak Whitbread, Junior Brown, Ian Black (Richie Wellens, 46), Jordan Clark (James Wallace, 46), Jack Grimmer, Scott Vernon (Kyle Vassell, 46), Andy Mangan, Larnell Cole
Subs not used: Jayson Leutwiler (GK), Shaun Whalley, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Jermaine Grandison
Barnsley: Adam Davies, James Bree (Marc Roberts, 90), Kevin Long, Conor Hourihane (c), Sam Winnall, Josh Brownhill, Marley Watkins (Ryan Williams, 83), Adam Hammill, Alfie Mawson, Lloyd Isgrove (Ash Fletcher, 73), Aiden White
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Brad Abbott, George Williams, Harry White
Referee: Philip Gibbs
Assistants: Simon Barrow & Michael Hanley
Fourth Official: Marvyn Amphlett
Attendance: 5,446 (784 from Barnsley)