Town start 2018 with a win
Town: Dean Henderson, Mat Sadler, Omar Beckles, Shaun Whalley, Abu Ogogo ©, Arthur Gnahoua, James Bolton, Bryn Morris (Ben Godfrey 67), Jon Nolan, Aristote Nsiala, Stefan Payne (Carlton Morris 85)
Subs: Craig MacGillivray, Joe Riley, Ben Godfrey, Carlton Morris, Lenell John-Lewis, Ebou Adams, Alex Rodman
Oldham Athletic: Johnny Placide, Cameron Dummigan, Anthony Gerrard, Dan Gardner, Ryan Flynn (Aaron Holloway 61), Craig Davies, Rob Hunt, Ousmane Fane (Paul Green 85), Jack Byrne, Tope Obadeyi (Queensy Menig 77), Kean Bryan
Subs: Ben Wilson, Brian Wilson, Aaron Holloway, Queensy Menig, Gevaro Nepomuceno, Paul Green, Mohamed Maouche
Referee: Tom Nield
Assistants: Richard Wigglesworth and Thomas Harty
Fourth Official: Peter Gibbons
Attendance: 6383 (503)
Shrewsbury Town got 2018 off to a winning start thanks to a 1-0 victory over Oldham Athletic. Town dominated the first-half and led 1-0 at the break thanks to Shaun Whalley’s ninth of the season, although it could have been more had it not been for two fine saves from Johnny Placide to keep out Stefan Payne. The second-half saw the visitors come back into it and Dean Henderson had to make a good save of his own keep out Jack Byrne, but Town held on to maintain their spot in second place in Sky Bet League One.
After a huge effort over the last couple of games Paul Hurst decided that it was time for some fresh legs, so he made three changes in total. Ben Godfrey, who scored his first goal in blue and amber against Southend on Saturday, is replaced by Bryn Morris in the holding midfield position. Stefan Payne is fit again after a knock kept him out of the 18 against Southend and he replaces Carlton Morris upfront. The other change sees Arthur Gnahoua make his home league debut in place of Alex Rodman.
After a cagey opening 5 minutes from both sides it was Town that would have the first meaningful effort on goal. It came from the returning Stefan Payne who received the ball with his back to goal 30 yards out before turning and unleashing a 25 yard drive that Johnny Placide did well to tip over as the effort looked destined for the top corner.
Paul Hurst had pinpointed Jack Byrne as Oldham’s danger man in the build-up to the game and it was he who would be the first to test Dean Henderson when he took a snapshot from the edge of the box. The shot went through a number of bodies and initially bounced off Henderson’s chest but he gathered comfortably at the second attempt.
With 15 minutes on the clock Town took the lead. Arthur Gnahoua, who was playing on the left wing, cut inside a couple of defenders and unleashed a powerful right-footed shot, which was too hot for Johnny Placide to handle and Shaun Whalley was the quickest to react on the follow up, side-footing home from six yards for his ninth of the season.
Town went close to doubling their lead seven minutes later, from a free-kick, after Omar Beckles was fouled just outside the left edge of the box. Shaun Whalley delivered a wicked ball in, which beat everyone before missing the far post by just a couple feet.
Town were now starting to dominate proceedings with Oldham unable to get out of their own half. One brilliant move saw Johnny Placide make his second fine save of the half to keep out Stefan Payne. Arthur Gnahoua had done brilliantly well to cut inside and take the ball past three Oldham defenders before teeing up Shaun Whalley who put in a delightful chipped ball towards the back post, which Payne met with his head, but Placide made a wonderful point blank save to keep it at 1-0.
Town were thoroughly on top, but some indecision and the occasional poor pass was allowing the visitors to get more of a foothold in the game and on one occasion a misplaced pass provided Tope Obedayi with a chance to shoot, but he pulled it well wide from 25 yards.
After Town had dominated much of the first-half, it was actually the visitors who started the second-half brightly and they almost equalised when Anthony Gerrard headed a Jack Byrne free-kick towards goal, but Dean Henderson did well to hold onto it down to his left.
It was Town that would have the next good chance and it came from a corner as Johnny Placide came to catch Whalley’s delivery but it went over his head and Toto Nsiala was at the back post, but his volleyed effort went well over the unmanned goal.
The game was really opening up and that appeared to be playing into the visitors hands as it allowed Oldham’s attacking midfield trio of Bryne, Obadeyi and Ryan Flynn more time on the ball. On one occasion Flynn was given time to shoot from distance, but he never really connected and Henderson made a comfortable save.
It felt like Oldham were slightly getting the upper hand, so Paul Hurst decided to turn to his bench for the first time of the afternoon and brought on Ben Godfrey in place of Bryn Morris, to add some extra steel to the Town midfield.
The change appeared to work and the pendulum turned in Shrewsbury’s favour once more. Jon Nolan was inches away from heading a wicked James Bolton cross towards goal, but he couldn’t quite stretch his neck enough and instead it went behind for a corner, which Town couldn’t make anything of.
Town’s second substitution came with just under 15 minutes remaining and it also led to a change of formation. Lenell John-Lewis came on for Arthur Gnahoua and joined Stefan Payne upfront with Jon Nolan going to play out on the left in a 4-4-2 formation.
Just a minute after Town’s changes, Dean Henderson was forced to pull off his best save of the game as Jack Byrne unleashed a powerful shot from the edge of the box, which Dean did brilliantly well to turn round the post at full stretch.
The visitors were then denied a penalty when Craig Davies latched onto a long ball over the top and Toto Nsiala appeared to clip the forwards ankles but referee Tom Nield waved away the appeals, much to the annoyance of Oldham boss Richie Wellens.
Paul Hurst’s final change of the afternoon came with just five minutes remaining and it saw Carlton Morris come on for Stefan Payne upfront as Town looked to add some much needed fresh legs for the final few minutes.
There was no doubting that the festive fixtures had taken their toll on the Town players and they had to defend manfully for much of the closing stages, but they held on to start 2018 with a win.