Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
The very latest of winners from Jack Grimmer sent Shrewsbury Town into the hat for tomorrow’s fifth round Emirates FA Cup draw.
Sub Whalley had pounced four minutes from the end of normal time to convert a rebound and make it 2-2 after Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s 86th minute penalty was kept out by Lewis Price. Lewis McGugan had scored either side of an earlier JLAA goal to twice give Sheffield Wednesday the lead, but Whalley’s late intervention looked to have earned Shrews a second bite of the cherry. They didn’t need it. Up popped Grimmer on 96 minutes to send the stadium into a frenzy.
Town made changes to their side following the disappointing defeat at home to Oldham in midweek. Drafted into the starting line-up, came Dom Smith, Jordan Clark and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro. On the bench, there was a welcome return for Abu Ogogo. Wednesday made sweeping changes, with nine in total to the side which drew 1-1 at Reading in the SKY Bet Championship last time out.
Wednesday got the tie underway defending the end where their full capacity support was gathered. There was a sharp wind blowing right across the pitch with the blue skies masking the freezing conditions. Fair play to the Owls fan stood just behind the safety netting with his shirt off – despite my four layers, hat and scarf, I was still perishing cold.
Ian Black had the first sight of goal for Town inside the opening 10 minutes but he didn’t connect with the ball as he might have hoped, and the shot lacked direction in any event. The less said about Junior Brown’s woeful free-kick in a really promising position moments later the better.
The winds were spoiling the encounter and it was never more evident than when JLAA picked out the run of Andy Mangan on 16 minutes. The striker couldn’t judge the flight of the ball and it meant the chance was lost as the pass just evaded him, enabling Price to gather comfortably.
Two minutes after that lost opportunity and the Owls went in front. McGugan’s 25 yard free-kick about 10 yards in from the nearside touchline was wind assisted, and it missed everyone in the congested box before fizzing into Jayson Leutwiler’s net. There was plenty of whip and power in the shot and was the sort of goal that has caught out every goalkeeper at one time or another. It was hard to know whether any blame could have been apportioned to the recently recalled Salop number one. Being behind at home though, has hardly been a rarity this season for Shrews, but with the noise being generated by a passionate travelling support, perhaps the advantage of a home draw was lost anyway. Town’s task certainly looked a huge one midway through the first half.
It took a brilliant tackle by Jose Semedo to prevent Mangan from getting a shot away and seconds earlier, Larnell Cole had swung wildly at another chance as Town threatened for the first time. Clark’s enterprise had created the openings and it stirred the home supporters briefly.
Eight minutes before the break Grimmer was booked for hauling down Marco Matias, and it presented McGugan with a similar chance to the one which had brought the earlier goal. This time the delivery whilst still a decent one, was flatter, and the Town defence cleared. At the other end Mangan and JLAA weren’t quite on the same wavelength after another ball in from the right by Grimmer, and another half chance went begging.
Just before the break Leutwiler did well to beat out a shot from Matias with the rebound running away from Lucas Jaao, and it was McGugan’s goal that remained the difference between the two sides at the halfway stage, with Wednesday ending the half on top.
Half Time: Town 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1
At the resumption JLAA tried his luck from well outside the box but the effort dropped harmlessly wide and then Cole dropped one gently into the arms of Price. Grimmer also shot straight at the Owls goalkeeper but it at least got the fans behind the team. The attendance showed just over 4,000 home fans had been attracted to the game – a surprise to many who might have expected a crowd nearer to 7,000 considering a place in the 5th round was the prize for the winners.
Those 4,000 were rewarded after 56 minutes with a well crafted equaliser. Black played a good ball down into the right channel for Mangan to chase and he raced past Vincent Sasso before turning inside. JLAA had peeled off to the far post and Mangan’s peach of a cross fell perfectly for the Frenchman, who nodded easily past a stranded Price. It brought the crowd to life with Shrewsbury fans just happy to see their side back on level terms.
Semedo’s curler forced Leutwiler into a full length save minutes after the visitors had made a substitution, and after 63 minutes Akpa Akpro had a great chance to make it 2-1. He raced clear but Price did just enough to take sufficient power off the right foot strike, allowing Liam Palmer time to come round and hoof clear the ever slowing football yards from the goalline.
McGugan tested Jayson again and it was a cracking Cup tie now with Town clearly having grown in confidence since coming out for the second half, and enjoying more than an equal share of possession.
Black poked a volley wide of the goal but with 14 minutes to play former Forest and Watford man McGugan struck a second hammer blow. Clark slipped when attempting a clearance and the ball fell at the feet of the Wednesday man lurking outside the box. With one hefty swing of his right boot, and aided by the slightest of deflections, the ball flew past Leutwiler to nestle in the bottom corner.
Micky Mellon reacted quickly with Smith replaced by James Wallace and Black’s place taken by Whalley. Whalley was soon involved in a highly contentious moment when he went over Palmer’s outstretched leg in the box. It came seconds after Mangan had seen his run into the area blocked off, but on both occasions the referee waved away loud appeals.
The next time there was a tumble in the box the ref had to point to the spot. Akpa Akpro was felled by Sasso and the striker looked for his second of the afternoon from 12 yards. Price made a wonderful stop but Whalley’s reactions were superb and he converted the rebound to make it game on once again. What a knack this lad Whalley has for late goals. He earned vital points with winners at Crewe and Burton, and now had an equaliser against a side chasing a play off place to add to the list.
Town looked to be heading for a Hillsborough replay but in the dying seconds of six additional minutes, Grimmer settled the tie to spark amazing scenes of jubilation at the Meadow. Vernon did brilliantly down the left and when he deftly lifted the ball into the six yard box, there was Grimmer to plant a fine header beyond Price. The whistle blew shortly after and the team went off to a very well deserved standing ovation. The magic of the Cup eh? Blackpool, Norwich, Blackburn, Cardiff and now the Owls – all Championship victims during Mellon’s 18 month reign. And into the 5th round for the first time in 25 years.
Full Time: Town 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Dom Smith (James Wallace, 79), Nat Knight-Percival (c), Zak Whitbread, Junior Brown, Ian Black (Shaun Whalley, 79), Jordan Clark, Jack Grimmer, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Scott Vernon, 90), Andy Mangan, Larnell Cole
Subs not used: Mark Halstead (GK), Mat Sadler, Abu Ogogo, Ethan Jones
Sheffield Wednesday: Lewis Price, Liam Palmer, Michael Turner, Jose Semedo, Marco Matias (Kieran Lee, 78) Lewis McGugan, Joe Bennett, Gary Hooper (Atdhe Nuhiu, 61), Lucas Joao, Vincent Sasso, Modou Sougu (Ross Wallace, 71)
Subs not used: Cameron Dawson, Sergiu Bus, Daniel Pudil, Barry Bannan
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Philip Dermott & Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: Ben Toner
Attendance: 5,699 (including 1,502 from Sheffield)