Town 3 Cheltenham Town 1Town: Leutwiler, Grandison, Demetriou, Goldson (c), Knight-Percival, Gayle, Wesolowski, Woods, Mangan (Akpa Akpro, 70), Collins, Clark (Lawrence, 46)
Subs not used: Halstead, Vincent, Ellis, Grant, Vernon
Cheltenham Town: Carson, Vaughan, Braham-Barratt, M. Taylor (c), Elliot (Brown, 46), Richards, Harrison, Deaman (Howarth, 76), J. Taylor, De Vita (Marquis, 69), Bancessi
Subs not used: Gornell, Gould, Hanks, Sterling-James
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 4,817 (286 from Cheltenham)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury got back on the winning trail this afternoon as they beat Cheltenham Town 3-1. They had to come from behind too, with Byron Harrison becoming the first player to score at the Greenhous in just over nine hours of football. He struck early in the second half after a fairly tepid first period, but Town levelled quickly through James Collins and Andy Mangan diverted Liam Lawrence’s shot into the net five minutes later. And the icing on the cake came courtesy of Nat Knight Percival’s first goal for the club with 20 minutes left – a superb header from Lawrence’s corner.
Micky Mellon made three changes to the side which went down by the odd goal at Home Park a week ago. He recalled Mangan after the striker completed his suspension following the red card down at Southend, with Jordan Clark and Cameron Gayle also selected having been on the bench at Plymouth. New loan capture Bobby Grant took his place amongst the Town substitutes where Ashley Vincent, Scott Vernon and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro also sat after starting last week.
The visitors were first to show when Eusebio Bancessi’s trickery gave Lee Vaughan a sight of goal, but after a neat turn, his shot carried little threat and Jayson Leutwiler easily saved low to his left.
Then Jermaine Grandison headed Clark’s corner wide as both sides registered attempts on goal inside of five minutes.
How Town survived a 6th minute corner from Raffaele De Vita goodness only knows. The delivery saw Leutwiler come through traffic and get nowhere near enough purchase on the ball. With the keeper grounded and the ball behind him, it took a mass of bodies protecting the goal to allow Town’s goalkeeper to recover himself, and deny the Robins the chance to profit from his indecision.
There was plenty of zip across the surface with the rains having pounded the stadium for the best part of 30 minutes, but Mellon wasn’t put off by the downpours – preferring to stand in his technical area while all others sought shelter in the dug-outs.
Vaughan hit a daisy-cutter into the side netting but Town had a brilliant chance on 13 minutes, which they failed to take. James Wesolowski’s long pass took out the last defender leaving Mangan clear about 15 yards out. But his touch was a poor one and Trevor
Carson sprung from his line to cancel the danger. It was certainly end-to-end stuff with little, if anything, to separate the sides.
But after the encouraging start, the game became a little lacklustre for the next half hour or so, with both teams failing to take enough care when in possession. Far too often, play broke down before the ball was worked into the final third and chances, therefore, were few and far between.
Town looked tight enough at the back but with only one goal in their previous six league outings, they were still looking a bit shot-shy at the top end of the pitch.
Shrewsbury were grateful to their goalkeeper Leutwiler, who did well to deny Bancessi on 42 minutes. The Town stopper went full length to push out the shot which would have found the bottom corner but for the strong left arm of the Swiss.
Half Time: Town 0 Cheltenham Town 0
Both sides made changes at the break with Lawrence coming on for Clark, and Troy Brown replacing Steve Elliot for the visitors.
Town nearly nudged ahead two minutes after the restart when Mangan found Wesolowski but the midfielder’s shot was superbly kept out by the trailing leg of Carson. It proved to be a pivotal moment in the match because within seconds Cheltenham struck. The dangerous Bancessi found oceans of space down the left and once he’d laid on the ideal pass across the box, there was Harrison who gleefully stroked home. All the plaudits went to Carson with all his defenders going to congratulate the goalkeeper for the save from Wesolowski.
It stunned Shrews into an almost immediate reply. Wesolowski blocked an attempted clearance and got lucky as it put Collins in on goal. The Irishman opened his body and curled the ball beautifully beyond Carson and into the corner to level matters after 50 minutes. Incredible. We’d seen more in five minutes than the previous 45, and it certainly brought the crowd to life. And there was more drama right round the corner.
Fittingly, in the 55th minute as the scoreboard flashed up an image of the late Mal Whitrick (55 at the time of his passing last week), Town went in front. Wesolowski was involved again as he set up Lawrence, and his shot - via some neat improvisation from the heel of Mangan – saw the ball cleverly flicked into the net from close range giving the wrong-footed Carson no chance.
The applause for the goal continued unabated as fans became aware of Whitrick’s image being beamed down from the North Stand’s electronic screen. It couldn’t have been scripted any better and followed a magnificently observed period of silence for the one-time club director before kick-off.
Midway through the half Lawrence weighted a fine pass into the path of Wesolowski and it took a fine stop from Carson to beat his shot away for a corner. From the resultant flag-kick Knight Percival thumped home a header to give Lawrence his second assist of the afternoon and put some daylight between the two sides.
Before the game resumed two more changes had taken place with De Vita making way for John Marquis, and Mangan coming off to great applause with Akpa Akpro getting a 20 minute run out.
Akpa Akpro soon hit the pass of the match with a raking 30 yard ball just eluding Collins sliding in unmarked at the back stick.
Town looked in complete control and had, for this afternoon at least, rediscovered the art form of scoring goals. The Frenchman then stung the palms of Carson when he had Collins up alongside giving him another option and all of a sudden Shrews looked like a slick, coherent, organised outfit again. They were heading for a seventh win in eight on home soil with the record here at the Meadow nigh on flawless. They’ve played 35 League Two games here since their last defeat in March 2011. That was against Bury (0-3), who will be next on the list for Mellon’s men on Tuesday week. Funny old game.
With a minute left Collins was denied a second by the outstretched fingertips of Carson but that might have been a touch harsh on Cheltenham. However, few could deny that Town were worthy of the points. Mellon’s attentions will now turn to correcting the side’s recent troubles on their travels, starting at York next Saturday.
Full Time: Town 3 Cheltenham Town 1