For only the second time this season, Shrewsbury Town recorded back to back league wins with a crucial 1-0 victory at Doncaster. A fourth clean sheet in five outings, coupled with a more than fortuitous Shaun Whalley winner, gave Shrews a seventh league win away from Greenhous Meadow and a tenth in all competitions. Whalley’s winner came directly from a corner but having survived a difficult 45 minutes, Town were much improved for the second half.
Town stuck with the same side that pulled off an important win in midweek at home to Rochdale. There was a familiar face on the bench with Sullay Kaikai back in blue and amber having rejoined Town from Crystal Palace for the remainder of the campaign.
On a bright afternoon in South Yorkshire, Doncaster got the game started with Shrews attacking the goal behind which the away support was gathered.
The home side started the game well forcing a number of free-kicks and corners, but Shrewsbury’s defenders coped admirably with the early bombardment.
Abu Ogogo had to receive brief treatment from physio Chris Skitt after a brave block from a long range Luke McCullogh effort, but he was quickly back to his feet.
Ian Black was then perhaps fortunate to escape a booking when he felled Lynden Gooch on the far side, with Donny fans less than impressed with the referee’s assessment of the situation. A minute later NKP could have few complaints when he scythed down Liam Mandeville with the yellow an obvious outcome for the Town skipper.
On 20 minutes Shrews had their first real opening but Kyle Vassell’s first touch from a Jordan Clark pass was way too heavy and the ball ran away from him and out of play.
The early afternoon sun had by now been replaced by much greyer skies, necessitating in the floodlights being switched on and as a mixture of rain and hail lashed down on the Keepmoat, the temperature levels had dropped considerably.
Midway through the half, Skitty was on for a second time with Black the man struggling this time. He managed to run off the injury but almost immediately Zak Whitbread was in need of Skitty’s sponge and the overworked physio was on the pitch once more. Zak’s afternoon was over and Dom Smith was soon called from the bench to take his place.
As play resumed, Jayson Leutwiler was tested by a fine shot from outside the box, with the goalkeeper palming McCullough’s piledriver over the top.
Town had found it hard to make any kind of impression at the other end of the pitch and with a third of the game already played, they would have been relieved to still be level. Doncaster had been struggling to get results and with only three points taken from the last 24 on offer, had found themselves entrenched in a relegation battle. But they had looked the more threatening of the two sides and Leutwiler saved from Gooch as if to further back up the stats.
Clark fizzed one wide from 25 yards but Thorsten Stuckmann in the home goal was yet to dirty his gloves. Five minutes before half-time Andy Mangan finally made Stuckmann work with a header from Jack Grimmer’s cross, and Andy Butler saw an identical outcome 60 seconds later with Leutwiler’s save also a comfortable one. The Swiss then pushed out Gooch’s shot and then Knight-Percival came to Salop’s rescue with an impeccably timed tackle halting the mazy run of the lightning quick Riccardo Calder. Town’s wall held firm in added on time when Smith’s foul right on the 18 yard line led to a Grant free-kick, but it was the last of the action. With the hosts still looking menacing, the teams went in for their cuppas still goalless.
Half Time: Doncaster Rovers 0 Town 0
Thankfully, the sunshine had reappeared although it was still bitterly cold as the sides came back out.
Four minutes into the second half came Town’s best chance of the match. Whalley’s inviting corner kick saw Smith pull free at the back post but the young defender headed the ball downwards and over the top. It was a head in hands moment – so good was the opportunity – and Rovers survived.
Shrewsbury looked more organised and a touch more offensive than they’d been in an insipid first 45 but they had an almighty scare as the clock ticked onto 55 minutes. Butler’s header looked certain to bring an opening goal but Black was perfectly placed on the goalline to clear.
Brown picked up as yellow – it looked like more like a white actually – for a cynical foul on halfway with Gooch the man to feel the full force of Junior’s challenge. The home supporters were enraged, which was understandable as other officials might have taken a less lenient view.
Town went ahead on 63minutes when Whalley found the net in bizarre fashion. Stuckmann was distracted and allowed a low trajectory corner to drift past him at the near post, and in at the far, to stun the hosts. Town fans at the opposite end of this lovely stadium could hardly believe their eyes and neither I suspect, could the goalscorer himself. Micky Mellon introduced Kaikai before Doncaster kicked off with
Mangan going off to decent applause from the away end.
With a quarter of an hour left the Town chief brought off the industrious Black, with Richie Wellens on for a mixture of boos and cheers from the supporters who used to regularly sing his name.
Brown got really lucky when an attempted clearance was charged down and suddenly it was four on two. Mercifully, Clark intercepted the switched pass and allowed Leutwiler to hoof clear. Andy Williams – the sub not the singer – then headed a glorious chance onto the roof of the net emulating Smith’s effort earlier in the half.
The Donny fans frustrations were growing by the second which must’ve been music to the ears of those in Town colours. Less than 10 minutes remained for Town to get the job done. NKP climbed high to head another Whalley corner fractionally wide with Salop starting to look comfortable and some of the Rovers fans already on their way to their cars.
When Wellens fouled Cameron Stewart in a really dangerous position in the first of four added on minutes, the sub sent the free-kick arrowing towards the top corner. But Leutwiler made a world class stop to divert the ball behind. He was then yellow/white carded for time wasting but it mattered little. Town saw out the remaining few minutes and another vital three points had been added to the total.
Full Time: Doncaster Rovers 0 Town 1Line Ups:
Shrewsbury Town:Jayson Leutwiler, Zak Whitbread (Dom Smith, 27), Nat Knight-Percival (c), Junior Brown, Ian Black (Richie Wellens, 75), Abu Ogogo, Jack Grimmer, Kyle Vassell, Jordan Clark, Andy Mangan (Sullay Kaikai, 64), Shaun Whalley
Subs not used: Mark Halstead (GK), Scott Vernon, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Richie Wellens, Larnell Cole
Doncaster Rovers:Thorsten Stuckmann, Mitchell Lund, Luke McCullough, Andy Butler, Lynden Gooch, Nathan Tyson (c), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Cedric Evina, 76), Liam Mendeville (Andy Williams, 61), Conor Grant, Riccardo Calder (Cameron Stewart, 85), Craig Alcock
Subs not used:Louis Jones, Gary MacKenzie, Paul Keegan, Harry Middleton
Assistants: J. Hull & M. Bristow
Fourth Official:A. Greenwood
Attendance:5,878 (339 from Shrewsbury)