Town 1 Burton Albion 0
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Jermaine Grandison, Mickey Demetriou, Connor Goldson (c), Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Josh Passley, James Wesolowski, James Collins, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Ryan Woods, Bobby Grant (Andy Mangan, 63)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Scott Vernon, Anthony Griffith, Ashley Vincent, Jordan Clark, Mark Ellis
Burton Albion: Jon McLaughlin, Phil Edwards, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, John Mousinho (c), George Taft, Robbie Weir, Stuart Beavon, Alex MacDonald (Bryn Morris, 74), Damien McCrory, Adam McGuirk (Jacob Blyth, 87), Matty Palmer (Kelvin Maynard, 84)
Subs not used: Dominic Knowles, Liam Slade, Marcus Harness, Remi Matthews
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Assistants: Brian Durie & Neil Radford
Fourth Official: William Smallwood
Attendance: 5,170 (465 from Burton)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
It took an 82ndminute goal from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro to settle a tense clash with fellow promotion hopefuls Burton Albion this afternoon. The striker hadn’t scored since his hat-trick here against Bury a month ago, but he was on hand to convert James Collins’ pass after an unfortunate slip by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff. It was enough to bank the points and secured a ninth win from ten games here as Town bounced back from the disappointment last week.
Micky Mellon had to make changes to the side that lost so dramatically down in Devon. Skipper Liam Lawrence was sidelined after picking up a fifth yellow at Exeter - allowing Bobby Grant to step up from the bench - and Jack Grimmer’s recall by parent club Fulham, opened the door for fellow Cottager Josh Passley to make his Town debut, after signing on loan 48 hours ago.
Town kicked off attacking the Salop Leisure Stand and Passley almost had an assist within 20 seconds! He cut to the byline and crossed for Collins, but the Irishman wasn’t set properly and didn’t connect at all well with the volley.
Collins had another chance six minutes in with a downward header from a pinpoint Grant cross, but Jon McLaughlin the Burton goalkeeper dealt with it comfortably at the foot of his left hand post.
It had been an encouraging start to the game for a Shrewsbury team still wounded from last week’s bitter experience, after a poor second half display ultimately brought to an end an impressive six game winning sequence.
Midway through the first half and with Shrews having the bulk of the game, Passley again did well down the right to fashion another opening, this time for left wing-back Mickey Demetriou. But the ball fell to his weaker right foot and he couldn’t keep his shot down. Moments later Collins tested McLaughlin again with a fierce drive from 20 yards but the keeper beat the shot away.
New Burton boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had started well winning his first two matches against fancied sides Wycombe and Luton. But you sensed this might be the former Leeds and Chelsea striker’s toughest test to date since taking over from Gary Rowett earlier this month.
Stuart Beavon fired over the top when Ryan Woods uncharacteristically gave away possession midway inside his own half, and this remained a tense affair between two evenly matched sides.
Passley was seeing plenty of the ball, but too many times his crosses fell into the grateful arms of McLaughlin. Town had worked the ball into good areas several times, but perhaps the final ball might have been better to settle one or two nerves – most evident in home sections of a 5,170 crowd.
Half-Time: Town 0 Burton Albion 0
Town forced an early corner at the resumption and Akpa Akpro saw a piledriver headed away by an Albion defender. The home supporters rose in unison a couple of minutes later to applaud McLaughlin’s save from a superb Grant shot from distance, with Salop again carrying the most menace. Not that Burton didn’t show any promise of their own; it was just that both defences were coming out on top with this game now into its final third.
A patient Town build up eventually saw Passley put in a terrific cross from the right but it by-passed everyone in a blue shirt and the chance was gone.
Mellon had seen enough and decided on fresh legs with Andy Mangan coming on to replace Grant after 63 minutes. Phil Edwards for Burton and Collins for Town both followed in quick succession into the referee’s notebook, with the sound of the official’s whistle by now starting to grate.
There were too many breaks to get any kind of fluidity into the game and as a consequence, neither side was passing the ball quite as well as they should. In fairness, the pitch wasn’t playing all that well with several players losing their footing throughout the match.
Another brilliant Passley cross just eluded the climbing figure of Akpa Akpro who was just beaten to the ball by a Brewers defender. The youngster had seen far less of the ball during the second 45 but the precision of his crosses had gone up several notches.
With eight minutes to go Town struck. They did well to press Burton in their defensive third and inevitably the mistake came. Collins pounced in an instant as his former colleague Cansdell-Sherriff slipped, and he strode forward a few paces before cutting the ball back for Akpa Akpro. The Frenchman killed the ball dead and converted from close range to send the fans, the players and the Shrews bench into raptures. For all the world it had looked like stalemate was going to be the order of the day, but Town’s industry and belief had finally paid off.
The relief on hearing the referee’s whistle one last time was music to the ears! What a big win this could prove to be!
Full-Time: Town 1 Burton Albion 0