Town hold on for Fratton Park win
Town: Craig MacGillivray, Ben Godfrey, Mat Sadler, Omar Beckles, Shaun Whalley (Lenell John-Lewis 90+2), Abu Ogogo ©, Carlton Morris (Stefan Payne 83), James Bolton, Jon Nolan, Aristote Nsiala, Alex Rodman
Subs: Shaun Rowley, Max Lowe, Arthur Gnahoua, Lenell John-Lewis, Bryn Morris, Luke Hendrie, Stefan Payne
Portsmouth: Luke McGee, Matt Clarke, Christian Burgess, Oliver Hawkins, Dion Donohue, Jamal Lowe (Brett Pitman 55), Nathan Thompson, Kal Naismith (Connor Ronan 70), Gareth Evans ©, Adam May, Ben Close
Subs: Alex Bass, Brett Pitman, Matty Kennedy, Connor Ronan, Conor Chaplin, Kyle Bennett, Sylvain Deslandes
Referee: David Coote
Assistants: Adam Matthews and Nigel Lugg
Fourth Official: Lee Collins
Attendance: 17779 (498)
Shrewsbury Town picked up their eighth 1-0 win of the season after a backs to the wall second-half defensive display against Portsmouth. Town were well worth their first-half lead thanks to James Bolton’s 21st minute goal, but Pompey came on strong in the second-half and Town had Craig MacGillivray to thank as he made a number of vital stops to give Town all three points.
Paul Hurst makes three changes to the side that drew two-all with Doncaster Rovers last weekend. The first is enforced as Dean Henderson’s three match ban rules him out, so Craig MacGillivray makes his first start since the 5th December. Both other changes come in the full-back positions with James Bolton replacing Luke Hendrie at right back and Omar Beckles coming in in place of Max Lowe at left-back.
It was the visitors that had the first real chance of note three minutes in when Shaun Whalley went on a mazy run up the middle before feeding James Bolton on the right-hand side. Bolton delivered a cross in towards the penalty spot, where Abu Ogogo was unmarked, but the Town midfielder, who hasn’t scored in over two years, headed wide.
The opening 10 minutes had been a quite frantic affair as both sides struggled to hold onto the ball for a prolonged period. However with quarter of an hour on the clock it was the home side that put together the best passing move thus far, as they strung together a dozen or so passes before swinging in a cross, which the covering Shaun Whalley did well to put behind for a corner at the back-post.
It was starting to become a really end to end game and with 21 minutes on the clock Town took the lead from a corner. Jon Nolan had done brilliantly well to win the corner after a mazy run took him past a couple of Portsmouth men and Shaun Whalley delivered the in-swinging ball into the box. No one in a Portsmouth shirt could get a head on the delivery and James Bolton was on hand to side-foot into the bottom corner from eight yards.
A couple of minutes after Town had taken the lead they were almost presented with a chance to double it as a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Luke McGee and a Pompey defender allowed Abu Ogogo to pounce on the ball. Ogogo laid it back for Shaun Whalley, who perhaps could have hit it from 25 yards, but instead he tried to play in Carlton Morris and a covering defender managed to get an interception.
Craig MacGillivray had enjoyed a relatively quiet opening half-an-hour, but with 31 minutes on the clock he was forced to make an excellent save when Portsmouth caught Town out by taking a quick short-corner. The ball was delivered into the six yard box where Oliver Hawkins was unmarked, but MacGillivray pulled off a brilliant point-black save to deny the Pompey number 9. Portsmouth then recycled the ball and a second cross appeared to hit Shaun Whalley’s hand in the box, but Referee Coote waved away the appeals much to the annoyance of the Portsmouth fans and their Captain Gareth Evans, who was given a yellow card for his remonstrations.
Carlton Morris was then shown a yellow card for Town as he tried to chase down a Portsmouth back pass, but the Town striker couldn’t quite get there and instead pulled the Portsmouth goalkeeper to earn a cheap yellow.
The half ended with the home side on top as Gareth Evans twice tried his luck from the edge of the box, but his first shot was charged down by Toto Nsiala and he then skied a left-footed effort well over Craig MacGillivray’s bar. Christian Burgess also tried his luck on the stroke of the half-time, but his effort was also well over the bar.
The weather had taken a distinctive turn for the worse during half-time and the rain was now swirling in the Hampshire sky as the players returned from the interval. In fact Town were made to wait in those conditions for a couple of minutes before their opponents eventually emerged from the tunnel.
Whether it was the down to the weather or not, the start of the second-half was certainly a more scrappy affair than much of the first as both sides struggled to hold onto the ball for any length of time.
However, 10 minutes into the half Portsmouth began to get on top, with Craig MacGillivray making four good saves in quick succession. The first came when Gareth Evans got in behind Omar Beckles, but MacGillivray did well to his right. Portsmouth then recycled the ball and Oliver Hawkins got his head on a cross, but Craig managed to claw it behind for a corner. The resulting corner saw MacGillivray once against deny a Portsmouth man, this time from point-black range and then he perhaps made the best save of the lot to push Kal Naismith’s long-range effort around the post.
The Portsmouth pressure was now incessant, with Town struggling to clear their lines at times, however, the still looked dangerous on the break, with Shaun Whalley and Carlton Morris both winning corners after swift counter attacks.
As the half wore on Town managed to stop the waves of Portsmouth attacks and managed to get more of a foothold in the game. They even managed to test Luke McGee in the Portsmouth goal when Shaun Whalley’s whipped cross was flicked on by Alex Rodman and the Portsmouth stopper made a good reaction stop.
Whalley himself then went close 10 minutes from time as Town broke quickly through Nolan, who fed Whalley on the right. The Liverpudlian winger ran into the box before firing across the goal, but it went inches wide of McGee’s right-hand post.
With around seven minutes remaining Paul Hurst made his first change of the afternoon, replacing Carlton Morris with Stefan Payne in an attempt to give Town more energy upfront.
However, the home side continued to throw men forward and they were unlucky not to find an equaliser five minutes from time when Brett Pitman’s volley was deflected onto the bar and Town were first to the ball to clear the rebound.
As the game reached its final stages Adam May was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Stefan Payne. The Portsmouth midfielder had picked up his first yellow for a foul on Shaun Whalley and this time caught Payne as he looked to race clear in the final stages.
However, the 10-men continued to push forward and they almost found an equaliser deep in stoppage time when Ollie Hawkins shot right across the face of goal following a corner kick, but his effort went inches wide.