Martin Wild reports from Highbury Stadium
Shrewsbury Town’s former midfielder Bobby Grant stole the show with the briefest cameo appearance in this JPT second round tie.
The 88th minute substitute added to fellow sub Ashley Hunter’s goal, as Town surrendered a first half lead given to them by Junior Brown.
There were changes galore to the side that disappointed at the weekend – no fewer than eight in total. Jayson Leutwiler returned between the posts with Brown, Sam Patterson, Ian Black, Mark Ellis, Liam McAlinden, Jordan Clark and Tyrone Barnett all starting for the Blues tonight.
After a non-descript opening 10 minutes, it was Town that had the first goalbound effort. Larnell Cole found a bit of space in the penalty area and crossed first time for McAlinden. But the recalled frontman – who scored in the 2-0 win over Oldham in the previous round – headed wide. It looked like Cole’s cross had fallen a smidge behind the Wolves loanee so it wasn’t an easy chance by any means.
The pitch was in great shape considering the amount of water dumped on it, particularly in the hours leading up to kick-off. But now the rains had disappeared and it was a warm and muggy night on the Fylde Coast with conditions almost ideal.
Clark sent a free-kick comfortably wide after a foul on Barnett, and Leutwiler was called upon to make a smart stop from Antonio Sarcevic on 20 minutes after he’d got beyond Patterson to open a route to goal. Four minutes later the big Swiss needed to extend his full frame to push away former Town midfielder Jimmy Ryan’s thunderbolt.
Speaking of thunderbolts, within a minute Brown had smashed one high into the goal from out wide, with Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell powerless to do anything about it. Even the home supporters applauded as it was some strike. And it certainly underlined the importance of that Leutwiler stop moments earlier.
Ten minutes after the goal Town had a great chance to double their lead. McAlinden did really well down the left and sent in a quality low cross into the path of Barnett arriving at pace towards the six yard box. Barnett went full stretch to meet the ball but couldn’t get enough on it and the chance was gone. In the next attack it was McAlinden who ought to have been celebrating. This time it was Barnett returning the favour with a lovely turn that allowed him to send his strike partner clear. But sprinting into the box, McAlinden pulled the ball wide with his favoured left peg to let the Cod Army off the hook.
In first half stoppage time Sarcevic dragged a left foot shot wide of Leuwiler’s left hand post with the keeper rooted to the spot. A yard inside would have brought a leveller.
Half-Time: Fleetwood Town 0 Town 1
With the second half barely two minutes old Mat Sadler headed way over the bar after climbing highest to meet a Clark corner.
Fleetwood earned a corner when Leutwiler brushed his fingernails against an Amari’l Bell shot and from it, Dionatan Teixeira headed down for Jamie Proctor to get a shot away. But once again Leutwiler was there to keep it out.
Black picked up what looked like a harsh yellow for taking Nick Haughton down, but Haughton’s resultant free-kick wasn’t the best and it stayed one-nil. It was a game with very little between the sides with Shrews lead still a narrow one.
In the 56th minute, Tyler Forbes bent a really good effort just over the bar with the Town goalkeeper flying across his goal, and the home fans rightly applauded Forbes’ enterprise. It was only a whisker away from bringing Steven Pressley’s new charges back into the game. And five minutes after that, Proctor’s header from a Sarcevic cross landed on top of the bar as the hosts once again came oh-so-close to a leveller. Haughton forced a good save out of Leutwiler with Fleetwood enjoying their best spell of the match and Micky Mellon was soon making a change. Black came off with Abu Ogogo coming on in his place with just over 20 minutes to play.
Ogogo had barely broken sweat when substitute Hunter equalised for the home team. Jermaine Grandison was at fault and the pace of Hunter took him clear with Grandison the last man. He drew Town’s goalkeeper before confidently sliding the ball underneath him and into the net.
Sullay Kaikai was the next one to join the fray with McAlinden the man to make way - and just 18 minutes remaining to avoid this tie going straight to pens. Save for an Ellis header that didn’t work Maxwell, Salop hadn’t carried much of an attacking threat during the second half. Fleetwood had pressed from the off and were looking the most likely of the two teams to go on and win the game. Hunter’s pace brought a yellow for Sadler with the tricky striker denied the chance to stride forward into an acre of space. One For The Team I believe is the phrase.
Five minutes from the end, Cole did wonderfully well to get to the by-line and pull back an inviting cross for Kaikai, but the youngster’s connection with the ball was a poor one and the shot on goal ended up nearer the corner flag.
As the game swung to the other end Haughton played a sweet pass down the channel to Proctor who held the ball up well before feeding Sarcevic. The striker – a constant thorn in the side of the Shrews defence – took the shot on first time but could only find the luminous green figure of Leutwiler.
89 minutes and 58 seconds saw a massive let off for Mellon’s side. Hunter’s shot struck the base of the post but the reprieve barely lasted 10 seconds. Grant – who had only been on the pitch two minutes – almost ripped the red and white nets from their rigging with a stunning drive high beyond Leutwiler. He was mobbed by jubilant teammates in the corner as they knew a passage into the regional Quarter Final’s had been booked.
Full-Time: Fleetwood Town 2 Town 1
Town:Jayson Leutwiler, Mat Sadler, Jermaine Grandison, Ian Black (Abu Ogogo, 67), Junior Brown, Mark Ellis (c), Liam McAlinden (Sullay Kaikai, 74), Jordan Clark, Tyrone Barnett, Sam Patterson, Larnell Cole
Subs not used: Shaun Rowley (GK), Dominic Smith, Shaun Whalley
Fleetwood Town: Chris Maxwell, Amari’l Bell, James Ryan (c), Jamie Proctor, Jamille Matt (Ashley Hunter, 63), Tyler Forbes, Victor Nirrenold (Bobby Grant, 88), Antonio Sarcevic, Nick Haughton (Joe Davis, 90), Richard Wood, Dionatan Teixeira
Subs not used: Alexs Gogic (GK), David Ball
Referee: K. Wright
Assistants: J. Hull & M. Parry
Fourth Official: P. Graham
Attendance: 1,267 (113 Shrewsbury)