Controversial victory for Rochdale
Town: Dean Henderson, Ben Godfrey, Mat Sadler ©, Omar Beckles, Shaun Whalley, Carlton Morris, Nathan Thomas (Stefan Payne 73), Arthur Gnahoua, Luke Hendrie (James Bolton 73), Jon Nolan, Aristote Nsiala (Max Lowe 27)
Subs: Craig MacGillivray, Max Lowe, James Bolton, Lenell John-Lewis, Sam Jones, Abo Eisa, Stefan Payne
Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joseph Rafferty, Kgosi Ntlhe (Bradden Inman 40), Jimmy McNulty, Harrison McGahey, Stephen Humphrys (Steven Davies 77), Calvin Andrew, Callum Camps, Oliver Rathbone (Scott Wiseman 91), Matthew Done, Ian Henderson ©
Subs: Scott Wiseman, Bradden Inman, Steven Davies, Ryan Delaney, Brendan Moore, Sam Hart, Mihai Dobre
Referee: Richard Clark
Assistants: Mr G Hilton and Mr K Mulraine
Fourth Official: Mr I Dudley
Attendance: 4098 (1281)
Shrewsbury Town’s seven game unbeaten run came to an end in controversial fashion at the Crown Oil Arena. Town took an early lead with a superb goal from Nathan Thomas, but the course of the game changed when Toto Nsiala went off on a stretcher after a 10 minute delay. Dale then got themselves level in the 12th minute of added time in the first-half through Oliver Rathbone. Steven Davies then scored an acrobatic second for Dale, but it appeared that Town had been given an late lifeline in stoppage time when the referee pointed to the penalty spot, but after consultation with his assistant he changed his mind and Town conceded a third late on when Dean Henderson had gone up for a corner and the hosts broke away.
There were one or two surprised faces around the press box when the teamsheets arrived. Town were always going to have to make one change with Bryn Morris suspended after his red card but Paul Hurst actually makes three changes in total. There’s some good news with Ben Godfrey fit again, so he takes Bryn’s place in the side. The other changes see Nathan Thomas come in for Alex Rodman who is struggling with his back and Arthur Gnahoua comes in for Stefan Payne. It means that Town are able to return to their favoured 4-5-1 formation with Arthur Gnahoua playing the number 10 position behind Carlton Morris. There’s some good news on the bench with James Bolton fit enough to take his spot in the 18.
It was the home side that had the first-real chance of note. Omar Beckles was judged to have fouled Calivin Andrew outside the box, allowing Callum Camps to swing a free-kick into the centre. The set-piece found the head of Rochdale defender Harrison McGahey but his effort went harmlessly over Dean Henderson’s bar.
The opening minutes were pretty even with both sides feeling each other out, but Town took the first chance that they created on eight minutes. Omar Beckles played the ball to Nathan Thomas in his own half and the Sheffield United loanee span away from his marker on half-way. Thomas still had an awful lot to do but he ran 50 yards, leaving Rochdale defenders in his wake before finishing left-footed into the bottom right-hand corner past Dale ‘keeper Josh Lillis.
Quarter of an hour into the game there were some really concerning moments for Town as Toto Nsiala went down on the far side of the pitch, in front of the stand the Town fans were occupying. It appeared that Toto had been involved in a clash of heads and after 12 or 13 minutes on the floor he was stretchered off with a neck brace on and replaced by Max Lowe, with Omar Beckles going to centre-half.
Understandably it took Town a few minutes to settle after the injury to Nsiala, but once they did get back into their groove they were able to create a couple of chances, with Carlton Morris slamming wide from a tight angle, whilst they were also able to win a couple of corners, neither of which came to anything.
At the other end, Callum Camps shot just wide after some good hold-up play from Town old boy Stephen Humphrys. Humpshrys was able to tee-up Camps on the edge of the box, but the Dale midfielder didn’t quite get hold of it and his shot trickled wide of Dean Henderson’s right hand post.
The injury to Toto Nsiala meant that there was always likely to be plenty of additional time in the first-half and the fourth official indicated that 11 minutes would be added onto the 90.
There was then another stoppage when Dean Henderson went down under the challenge of Stephen Humphrys. Henderson lay holding his head for a couple of minutes as Chris Skitt came onto provide treatment, but the Manchester United loanee was able to get back to his feet and continue.
Town then created three corners back to back, but couldn’t test Lillis despite a couple of decent deliveries from Nathan Thomas who was on set-piece duties for this game.
However, Rochdale would have the last word of the half as Oliver Rathbone was provided far too much time and space to shoot from 25 yards and his right footed effort went into the bottom right-hand corner, past the despairing dive of Dean Henderson, who appeared to be slow to move to his right.
It was the home side that started the second-half on top with Callum Camps at the heart of two early chances. The first was blocked by a Town man, whilst the second looped over the bar after an acrobatic half-volley.
Substitute Bradden Inman was the next Rochdale player to have an effort on goal. Stephen Humphrys did well down the left and his cross was only headed away as far as Inman on the edge of the box, who stuck his shot well but it went a yard wide of the post.
Town were creating their own downfall and a mix-up between Nathan Thomas and Max Lowe allowed Rochdale to win a corner. The ball was swung in and it found Calvin Andrew unmarked in the box but the powerful former Port Vale striker headed wide.
After a nervy opening 15 minutes to the half the visitors began to grow into the game and were able to win a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions, but once again they couldn’t make them count.
Town then hit the bar when Carlton Morris got onto the end of Nathan Thomas’ back-post corners. Morris looked as if he was trying to cross the ball back into the mix, but instead his ball hit the top of the crossbar and went over.
With just over 15 minutes of the game remaining Town made a double change with Stefan Payne replacing Nathan Thomas and James Bolton coming on for Luke Hendrie.
The changes almost made an instant impact as Max Lowe cut the ball back for Stefan Payne, but Town’s top scorer couldn’t sort his feet out and eventually his shot went harmlessly over the bar.
However, it was at the other end that Town had to be alert and Dean Henderson did brilliantly well to tip a powerful shot around the post from Stephen Humphrys after the Fulham loanee had turned away from James Bolton.
With 10 minutes to play it was a Rochdale substitute that would make the difference. Callum Camps played what appeared to be an innocuous free-kick into the box, but Town failed to deal with it and Steven Davies produced a stunning overhead kick, which looped over the head of Henderson and into the back of the net.
Town were now desperately searching for an equaliser and one decent passing move, which involved the likes of Arthur Gnahoua, Stefan Payne and James Bolton led to the latter having a late opportunity, but his shot was straight at Lillis from 12 yards.
As the game ticked into three minutes of stoppage time Town won a late corner, which Dean Henderson decided to come up for, but Shaun Whalley’s cross was too deep and beat everyone.
Jon Nolan then hit the bar in the dying minutes as the ball fell to him 20 yards out and he lashed a volley towards goal, but it clipped the top of the crossbar with Lillis beaten.
With less than a minute to go Town were handed a penalty as Jon Nolan went down under a challenge, but the referee’s assistant got involved and deemed that Nolan had dived, meaning that Mr Clark changed his mind and pointed to the corner flag.
Henderson once again came up for the corner, but Rochdale were able to counter and Dale Captain Ian Henderson passed the ball into an open goal to make it 3-1.