Subs: Joe Anyon, Tom Bradshaw, Jon Taylor, Reuben Hazell, Asa Hall, Joe Jacobson, Aaron Wildig
Sheffield United: Mark Howard, Harry McGuire, Michael Doyle (c), Nick Blackman, Kevin McDonald, Neill Collins, David McAllister, John Cofie (Miller, 65), Stephen Quinn, Tony McMahon, Marcus Williams
Subs: Shaun Miller, Matty Harriott, Jordan Chapell, Danny Philliskirk, Joe Ironside, George Long, Callum McFadzean
Referee: Mr. D. Coote
Assistants: Mr. R. Bartlett & Mr. M. Coy
Fourth Official: Mr. K. Haycock
Martin Wild reports from Bramall Lane
Shrewsbury’s first game in the third tier of English football for 15 years ended in the narrowest of defeats this afternoon. David McAllister – on loan at the Greenhous for the second part of last season – bit the hand that once fed him by scoring the game’s only goal at Bramall Lane after just four minutes. It was another encouraging performance though from Graham Turner’s men as they competed well all over the pitch against many people’s favourites to get promoted this season.
There was a return for Darren Jones at the heart of the defence after he missed the cup exit at Leeds through injury. Joe Jacobson was the man to miss out having to be content with a place on the bench with Rob Purdie preferred at left-back.
Town got off to the worst possible start and it was a player who 15 minutes earlier had warmly embraced Turner on the centre circle as the side’s warmed up. McAllister was left in acres of space to cleanly despatch his left foot volley high beyond Chris Weale from Marcus Williams’ pin-point left wing delivery to light the blue-touch paper. Welcome to League One!
From a set-piece six minutes later Town almost levelled. Mark Wright’s low trajectory flag-kick was helped on by Terry Gornell and Marvin Morgan connected at full stretch only to miss the target.
It was a really entertaining opening to the game and Nick Blackman wasn’t too far away from making it two when he tried to bend the ball beyond Weale in the next attack. But the number 10 didn’t get enough bend on the ball which saw it land a yard or so wide of the target.
It was certainly high-octane stuff with Paul Parry forcing a first save out of Blades keeper MarkHoward low down to his left as Salop got their first shot on target, and all this in the opening quarter hour.
Shrewsbury were keeping possession of the ball well and pressing United high up the pitch with Morgan and Gornell showing up well in the early exchanges.
Town went close from a free-kick awarded for handball with Mark Wright, Matt Richards and Parry all stood over the ball right on the edge of the ‘D.’ A training ground routine saw Parry get away the shot but it curled wide with Howard scampering across to make sure he had it covered.
There wasn’t too much to choose between the two sides as the sun finally poked its head from behind the clouds with the Town fans in good voice behind the goal their heroes were attacking. Despite their side’s lead, there were moans and groans galore from those sporting red and white favours every time they lost the ball – perhaps they were expecting an avalanche following McAllister’s early strike?
John Cofie forced a smart save from Weale as Shrewsbury were finally forced into defensive duties and at the other end there was a battle royal developing between Morgan and Blades centre-half Harry McGuire. Sadly, from a Town perspective, the referee was all too quick to blow on his whistle with Morgan penalised time and again, even though each situation looked like a six and two three’s from our vantage point high up in the TV gantry.
On 38 minutes Shrews were within a whisker of restoring parity. Parry’s exquisite chip to the back post looked like it was going to be turned home by Wright but it looked like the angle was a smidgeon too tight and the winger could only help the ball back across goal with no-one there to profit. Within a minute Town were asking questions again when Richards’ superb chip played in Purdie. The defender’s neat lob was blocked by Howard and before you had a chance to draw breath, Luke Summerfield stretched Howard again. The keeper went full length to make the save but there was Gornell to knock the ball home and send the away support into delirium. What they hadn’t seen, however, was the linesman’s flag up on the far side and Sheffield breathed a collective sigh of relief. Shrewsbury had ended the first half well on top - there can be little question - but they trailed at the midway point.
Half Time: Sheffield United 1 Shrewsbury Town 0
The pace of the game slowed down considerably in the early throes of the second 45 with only Howard’s routine stop from Gornell’s daisy-cutter just before the hour worthy of any note. United’s passing was loose despite their longer possession and the half-time whistle appeared to have disrupted the fluency of Town’s fast flowing style of play.
Shortly after the Blades made their first change Weale came to Town’s rescue with a superb block save to keep out Stephen Quinn whose angled shot looked destined for the far corner.
Midway through the half Turner shuffled his deck with Summerfield withdrawn for fellow summer recruit Asa Hall and Michael Hector was soon attracting the attentions of the match official receiving the first caution of the afternoon following a clumsy challenge on the far side.
United came close again with 20 minutes left when it needed a superb last ditch block from Jones to deny substitute Shaun Miller. Morgan’s name was next into the book for what looked like an innocuous tackle before Tom Bradshaw joined the fray for the last 17 minutes with Gornell’s number the one illuminated on the fourth official’s board.
The home fans amongst the 18,000 crowd were surprisingly quiet given that their side held the lead and it was the thousand-plus following from Shropshire making most of the noise, as they tried to rally Turner’s new-look team for the last 10 minutes. Aaron Wildig replaced Richards for those last 10 and in that time Town nearly struck. Parry cut inside on his favoured left foot and sent in an angled piledriver that Howard did well to turn behind.
Chances came and went for Bradshaw and Wright as United lived dangerously in the closing stages, and as the clock ticked down, you could almost hear the sound of fingernails being chewed in the huge Kop stand at the right hand end of this impressive stadium.
Wildig was denied a certain goal with another last-ditch tackle keeping him out with Danny Wilson watching on from the sidelines as his side’s luck continued to hold. They were ahead and didn’t have too long to see the game out but Lady Luck had favoured the Blades this afternoon with Town competing comfortably against May’s beaten play-off finalists.
Three minutes of stoppage time was signalled and passed by without incident as Salop were beaten for the second time in a week in the White Rose County.
Full Time: Sheffield United 1 Shrewsbury Town 0