Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 1
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Ryan Woods, Jordan Clark, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Mickey Demetriou, Ashley Vincent (James Caton, 57), James Wesolowski, Cameron Gayle, James Collins (Andy Mangan, 74), Connor Goldson (c), Scott Vernon (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 74)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Jermaine Grandison, Liam Lawrence, Andy Robinson
Tranmere Rovers: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes (Clayton McDonald, 54), Max Power (c), Michael Ihekwe, Abdula Baggie (James Rowe, 62), Mark Laird, Jake Kirby, Cole Stockton (Kayode Odejayi, 79), Danny Woodards, Matt Gill, Matt Hill
Subs not used: Jason Koumas, Eliot Richards, Sam Ramsbottom, Gerardo Bruna Blanco
Referee: S. Martin
Attendance: 5,249 (972 from Tranmere)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury Town snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat with two late, late goals at the Greenhous Meadow to see off a plucky challenge from Tranmere Rovers. Abdula Baggie’s close range finish towards the end of the first half looked to have secured all three points for the Prenton Park side who were relegated with Town at the end of last season. But substitute Andy Mangan levelled bang on 90 minutes before Mickey Demetriou plundered a winner in the third minute of added on time, in the most dramatic of finales.
Mark Ellis’ knee problem forced him out of boss Micky Mellon’s plans for the game. His place in an otherwise unchanged Town line-up went to Demetriou with Nat Knight-Percival moving into the centre to partner Connor Goldson.
It was by and large a non-descript encounter in the opening 20 minutes or so with plenty of activity in the centre of the park but not much happening further forward. But it was the Wirral side that almost opened the scoring midway through the first period when Jayson Leutwiler had to go full stretch to palm away Max Power’s 25 yarder.
Almost immediately Shrews should have taken the lead. Demetriou’s hanging cross saw Owain Fon Williams leap under pressure from Scott Vernon and when the ball was spilled right into the path of the lurking James Collins, a goal looked the only possible outcome. But Michael Ihekwe just happened to be standing in the exact area that Collo aimed for and the big centre-half hoofed clear to save Rovers’ skin.
Jordan Clark took a tumble in the box as Town came again but the referee – well placed – kept his hands behind his back although Mellon, unsurprisingly, took a slightly different view in his technical area. Another sweet swing of Demetriou’s left boot put the ball into an inviting area but with Vernon fully stretched, it just eluded Tuesday’s matchwinner.
The game had finally come to life with Town having the bulk of the possession but Tranmere looking like tough opponents.
Knight-Percival was soon enough demonstrating his own toughness when he scythed down Abdula Baggie plum on the halfway line, and despite the protestations from a well populated away end, the card was cautionary rather than dismissive.
Baggie exacted almost instant revenge in the form of the first goal three minutes before the break. Jake Kirby’s probing centre eluded Demetriou allowing Mark Laird to head back into the six yard box, and there was Baggie to bundle home against the run of play.
Collins turned the ball over the top from Vernon’s mis-hit cross soon after the goal, but it was the visitors who went down the tunnel with the lead.
Half Time: Town 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
Town kicked off the second half attacking the Salop Leisure Stand with neither manager tempted into making any changes during the interval.
Fon Williams was the first goalkeeper called into action when he beat away Vernon’s angled drive following good hold-up play by Collins. Mellon then withdrew Ashley Vincent with James Caton deployed as his replacement over on the far touchline, with fresh impetus clearly required to inject some urgency back into Shrews’ performance.
Knight-Percival’s header from Clark’s corner tested Fon Williams once more, before Cole Stockton entered the ref’s notebook for bringing down James Wesolowski. It left Town in a really promising position but Clark’s delivery this time was a disappointing one.
Cameron Gayle was harshly adjudged to have fouled Kirby after what looked like a great challenge. Additionally, the defender won the ball and Shrews would have been in a decent area to profit. The ref got it wrong and didn’t the home fans let him know – frustrations were building amongst players and fans alike.
Mellon made a double change with the match now inside its last 20 minutes. Former Rovers man Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Mangan became the new strikeforce with Vernon and Collins unable to penetrate a stubborn Rovers defence.
Gayle crossed for Goldson who headed wide when he might have been expected to at least work the goalkeeper, but at least Town were creating most of the openings. In fairness, Tranmere could hardly be blamed for sticking when there was no need to twist. They had protected their lead very well and were quite content to sit back and soak up any pressure that came their way.
With four minutes of normal time remaining, Akpa Akpro almost found a leveller but Fon Williams was equal to the firmly struck shot and clung on low down to his right. But Town didn’t have to wait many more minutes before hauling themselves level. With 90 minutes almost up Demetriou crossed low to the back post and Mangan simply couldn’t miss, as he opened his goal account in blue and amber. The crowd went barmy but there was more drama to come as the two players linked up again three minutes later to devastating effect.
Mangan crossed deep to the back stick, and there was Demetriou perfectly placed to knock the ball into the net and leave the Tranmere players down and out. What a finish to the game!
Full Time: Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 1