Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Matt Tootle, Mat Sadler, Ryan Woods, Jermaine Grandison, Connor Goldson, Abu Ogogo, Tyrone Barnett, James Collins (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 76), Liam Lawrence (c), Martin Woods (Junior Brown, 85)
Subs not used: Callum Burton (GK), Mark Ellis, Jordan Clark, Liam McAlinden, Shaun Whalley
Blackburn Rovers: Jason Steele, Tommy Spurr, Matt Kilgallon (c), Nathan Delfouneso, Chris Brown (Fode Koita, 56), Ben Marshall, John O’Sullivan (Modou Barrow, 56), Ryan Nyambe, Darragh Lenihan, Corry Evans (Danny Guthrie, 65)
Subs not used: David Raya (GK), Jordan Rhodes, Shane Duffy, Craig Conway
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Assistants: Tony Peart & Barry Cropp
Fourth Official: Darren England
Attendance: 5,280 (648 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Ewood Park
First half goals from strike duo James Collins and Tyrone Barnett earned Shrewsbury Town another prized scalp in the first round of the Capital One Cup. Blackburn had managed to haul themselves level but Town responded with immediate effect with Barnett’s strike proving to be the winner.
There was just one change to the side which lost 2-1 on the opening day with Liam Lawrence back to skipper the side, meaning Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro had to settle for a place on the bench. For their part, Blackburn made a whopping nine changes to the eleven that started against Wolves at Ewood on Saturday.
Blackburn kicked off attacking the Darwen End of the stadium and they forced two corners within a minute of the game starting. They came to nothing, but Shrews – in their new third kit – were on the back foot in the opening exchanges.
After nine minutes though, Town went in front. A wretched pass by debutant Ryan Nyambe left Liam Williamson in all kinds of trouble and Abu Ogogo was suddenly in space with a clear route to goal. Jason Steele plunged at his feet in a brave attempt to save the day but the ball rebounded kindly for Collins and, standing just beyond the penalty spot, the Irishman coolly stroked it into the unguarded net.
The home team were stunned with Shrewsbury visibly lifted by once again leading in a top quality stadium. They were passing the ball better and seemed hungrier in the tackle, and with a sparse crowd occupying the three sides of the ground that were open, you could barely hear a peep out of those backing the boys in blue and white halved shirts. A long range effort from John O’Sullivan ended up being a threat to the corner flag, so that was hardly likely to improve the mood of the Rovers fans.
Ben Marshall’s tricky corner for the hosts eluded everyone in a congested penalty area, and almost immediately Town sprung and should have gone two clear. Collins played a beautifully weighted pass into the path of Ogogo who decided to try and take it around Steele but appeared to be felled as he did so. With loud claims for a penalty, the referee had a long hard look at it and gave a corner instead. The monitors in the press box gave an immediate replay but it was hard to be 100% sure even with the benefit of seeing it again. The simple facts are that had Ogogo stayed upright, he would have been able to apply the finish without question. It was a massive let off for Gary Bowyer’s men and they very quickly capitalised on Town’s misfortune. On the half hour they equalised when Town allowed Nyambe to drive a ball across goal and although Nathan Delfuenso took the plaudits, it might well have brushed off a Town player – possibly Lawrence - as it flew into the top corner past a helpless Jayson Leutwiler.
But within a minute, the away end was celebrating again. Lawrence was soon looking to atone for his involvement in the leveller, and was twice involved in the build up that led to Shrews second. He laid the ball off to Barnett in the second phase and the January capture belted it past Steele with a swing of his left leg, to restore the visitors lead and silence the goading home fans immediately.
It was a smashing Cup tie and Salop were competing really well against their loftier opponent. Marshall forced a great save out of Leutwiler right on 45 minutes and Town went down the tunnel holding a 2-1 lead with the boos raining down from the home stands.
Half-Time: Blackburn Rovers 1 Town 2
The first action of the second half saw Tommy Spurr pick up a yellow card for a challenge that left Lawrence not best pleased. It was the first of the game but the former ROI midfielder hobbled away from the challenge after the entry into the referee’s notebook.
With just nine minutes of the second half gone, Shrews wasted a golden opportunity to make it 3-1. Collins found space at the back post and as the ball fell oh-so-invitingly for him, he found Row Z instead. The home fans were growing more and more restless as right before their eyes they could see Rovers being made to play second fiddle to Mellon’s side.
And when Bowyer hooked Chris Brown for Fode Koita, the cheers were akin to the Premier League title being lifted again in BB2. O’Sullivan also exited at the same time with Modou Barrow coming on in his place to try and breathe some life into the Lancashire club.
At 65 minutes, more ironic cheers from Rovers fans as Corry Evans made way for former Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie. The good news there was that Jordan Rhodes couldn’t be called upon at any stage as all the subs had been made – handy for Salop when you could have been facing a £14m striker for the best part of half an hour.
Town had another great chance to pull away but didn’t get their passing right in a 3 v 2 situation and Rovers cleared the danger. Then Leutwiler had to earn his corn when he twice denied Koita in quick succession in a rare spell of attacking from the hosts.
With 16 minutes remaining Rovers were let off the hook again. Some intricate passing and awareness of teammates in excellent positions saw the ball worked right to left, where the waiting Martin Woods had space in which to run into. The midfielder rushed it, and blew it firing wildly over.
Koita was a nuisance and when he took the ball superbly on his chest, swivelled and fired in a terrific drive from outside the box, there were huge sighs of relief in the Town camp when the goal frame was missed by a matter of inches as this game remained in the balance.
Collins came off for Akpa Akpro with a little under quarter of an hour to play in Micky’s first change and Shrewsbury still looking good value for their lead. Matt Tootle and Leutwiler picked up yellows but it was hard to be critical – even if Jayson’s was a needless one for time wasting. Junior Brown was a second change with five to play with Woods (M) the man brought to the bench.
Barnett fired straight at Steele as Town managed to get high enough up the field, after a spell defending for all their worth at the other end. And when Rovers won a corner with a minute left, it was Koita who climbed high to plant a header downwards, but again agonisingly wide for the Ewood side. It looked for all the world like the net would ripple and four and a half thousand Blackburn supporters held heads in hands.
Town saw out the four remaining minutes applied by the fourth official with their 650 fans celebrating wildly at another upset as the boos again came down from the stands. Could this be the start of another memorable campaign in the Capital One Cup?
Full-Time: Blackburn Rovers 1 Town 2