Town: Chris Weale, Jermaine Grandison, Darren Jones, Luke Summerfield (Hall, 75), Rob Purdie, Michael Hector, Paul Parry (Taylor, 87), Matt Richards (c), Terry Gornell (Bradshaw, 87), Marvin Morgan, Mark Wright
Subs: Joe Anyon, Tom Bradshaw, Jon Taylor, Reuben Hazell, Asa Hall, Joe Jacobson, Aaron Wildig
PNE: Thorsten Stuckmann, Keith Keane, Scott Laird, Paul Huntingdon, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (c), Nicky Wroe, Lee Holmes (Amoo, 63), Jeffrey Monakana, John Welsh, Chris Beardsley, Jack King (Sodje, 46) (Cummins, 81)
Subs: Steve Simonsen, Chris Robertson, David Amoo, Graham Cummins, Akpo Sodje, David Buchanan, Andy Procter
Referee: Mr. S. Mathieson
Assistants: Mr. A. Hendley & Mr. J. Wilson
Fourth Official: Mr. M. Howes
Attendance: 6,444 (1,016 from Preston)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Paul Parry’s 4th minute thunderbolt was enough to land a precious three points for Shrewsbury Town in their first home game of the season. The former Preston man won the game with a superb strike after Preston failed to clear a Mark Wright free-kick.
Graham Turner had seen enough in his side’s performance at Bramall Lane to resist making any changes, so Town went with the same XI – and subs – as they looked to defend a 32 game unbeaten run here. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff – a servant for four years here – got the honour of leading out Graham Westley’s men and another familiar face was amongst opposition ranks with Nicky Wroe wearing his favoured number eight jersey for the visitors.
Town were behind after four minutes in Sheffield but here they turned the tables to lead at the same point, courtesy of a quite brilliant finish from ex-North End star Parry. Shrewsbury were awarded a free-kick out on the left when Paul Huntingdon blatantly obstructed Marvin Morgan and though Wright’s free kick was headed out, there was Parry lurking just outside the box to blast his shot high past Thorsten Stuckmann, with the ball spearing into the net right in front of the fans who once chanted his name. Parry was mobbed by his new team mates and the plaudits were richly deserved.
It was the best possible start for Turner’s men whose record stretches back almost 18 months since their last defeat at Planet Greenhous.
Preston settled quite well after the early setback and Town were indebted to their right back Jermaine Grandison who did well to nullify the threat of Lee Holmes – so impressive here for Oxford last season – as the winger cut inside to get the shot in. Grandison stood his ground though and made a fine block to protect an as yet untested Chris Weale with 15 minutes on the clock.
Both teams were playing some nice football on this billiard table like surface and after 24 minutes Wroe finally tested Weale with a left foot shot from outside the box. The effort was on target but it was at a comfortable height for the Town stopper and he comfortably beat it away. North End were enjoying their best spell of the game at this point and were pinning the home side back for longer than perhaps they might have liked. Darren Jones made a Herculean effort to deny Chris Beardsley what looked like a certain equaliser and you could present a decent case for that being the best chance of the match as we approached the half hour.
There was a smashing atmosphere inside the ground with plenty having made their way down the M6 to pack out the away end, on a very pleasant evening after an afternoon of torrential downpours in the county.
Town weathered the storm – forgive the pun – and began to get a foothold in the game with Preston now having to work harder in the defensive third.
Terry Gornell’s hold-up play had caught the eye and a typical piece of Grandison trickery sent the home fans into the half time break with broad smiles on their faces.
Half Time: Town 1 PNE 0
The weather conditions turned markedly through the interval with a cloudburst ensuring the surface has plenty of zip on it for the second 45. Westley took off Jack King and replaced him with Akpo Sodje in a bid to re-ignite Preston’s challenge and give their thousand supporters in a crowd of six and a half thousand something to cheer.
Both sides were utilising the full width of the pitch and there were a couple of dangerous crosses put in to test the mettle of the defenders returning from their half time cuppas.
Parry curled one wide when Wright mounted a lightning counter for the hosts although the winger might have done better with the pass intended originally for Gornell.
Jones then clipped the outside of the upright from a near post corner with a glancing header, and although there was plenty of power behind the effort, the direction wasn’t quite there.
Westley made a second change with Holmes withdrawn for David Amoo and almost immediately Jeffrey Monakana brought the first save of the half out of Weale, who dived low to his right to grab the ball cleanly from the angled 65th minute drive.
Weale then got lucky when he made a smart initial save preventing Beardsley from latching onto a peach of a ball threaded through by Wroe as the striker wriggled free and into the area, but the ball spun loose off the keeper’s knee and North End’s Monakana couldn’t capitalise - allowing the highly impressive Michael Hector to mop up.
Again, Preston were asking a few questions in another decent spell for them, but Town were holding it together well with a decent work ethic all over the pitch. But when Luke Summerfield was harshly adjudged to have fouled Wroe, the ex-Town man wasn’t too far away from silencing the home fans from the resultant free-kick. It was to be Summerfield’s last action with Asa Hall replacing him for the last 15 minutes.
Shrews went close themselves with a Matt Richards free-kick although Stuckman was happy to watch it go a yard or so over his crossbar without too much concern.
With nine minutes left an extremely unhappy Sodje was substituted having only been introduced at the break himself. He was escorted to the sidelines by the Preston physio but the lad wasn’t a happy bunny at all at the decision to replace him.
The game was going through a quiet spell for the first time really, but four more minutes of quietness and Town had a first win. Turner sent on Jon Taylor for Parry – who came off to warm applause from both sets of fans – and at the same time Tom Bradshaw took the place of Gornell, who had been far more subdued in this second period.
John Welsh picked up the first yellow of the game bang on 90 minutes for a reckless challenge on Grandison - just before the fourth official signalled four more minutes for Town to see out.
Some more Grandison magic – his stepovers make Ronaldo look like a novice – had the Shrews fans cheering from the rafters, but Turner was more concerned with barking out his orders to send his troops into retreat mode instead of going for a second.
The cheers intensified at the sound of the full time whistle after a night of quality football at the Meadow.
Full Time: Town 1 PNE 0