Town 0 Stevenage 1Shrewsbury Town were made to regret missed chances on a hugely frustrating afternoon when a first-half goal from Darius Charles sealed a fortunate Stevenage win.
The goal came against the run of play after both strikers - James Collins and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro - saw good opportunities go begging in a first half where Shrewsbury saw plenty of the ball and looked more threatening going forward.
The goal was a scrappy one and Charles' strike took a notable deflection following a goalmouth scramble to leave 'keeper Jason Leutwiler wrong footed after Shrewsbury failed to clear.
Town laid siege to the home goal in the final 10 minutes but a combination of brave defending and poor finishing denied Micky Mellon's side a share of the spoils.
The Shrewsbury manager made three changes to the team that were beaten at Hartlepool United last Saturday. Jermaine Grandison came in to replace Cameron Gayle at right-back while top-scorer Andy Mangan was drafted into the left hand side of midfield with Mickey Demetriou named as a substitute. Scott Vernon also dropped to the bench with Akpa-Akpro starting upfront. Mellon reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation. Goalkeeper Mark Halstead returned from injury to return to the bench as did Ashley Vincent.
Shrewsbury started the game with some promise with Akpa Akpro heavily involved in the opening exchanges. Their first real sight of goal came when defender Mark Ellis got forward and saw a deflected effort loop over Sam Beasant's cross-bar for a corner. That opportunity came just a minute after the home side were forced into an early change when Simon Walton went off injured - he was replaced by Connor Calcutt. The first booking arrived on 17 minutes when Charlie Lee was shown a yellow for a late challenge on Akpa-Akpro.
Collins should have put Shrewsbury ahead midway through the first half but there was no conviction behind his 12 yard shot which was straight at Beasant who made the save after Jordan Clark stabbed the ball into the box. It was the first real opening of the match. Minutes later, Clark was again involved in the build-up in a swift Town counter-attack, his delightful flighted ball found Mangan who tried to bend the ball into the corner from 20 yards, but his shot drifted wide of the home 'keeper's left hand post.
At the other end Leutwiler was easily able to gather a 25 yard shot from Chris Whelpdale which was all along the ground and straight at the Town stopper. It was Stevenage's first effort on target, coming after 27 minutes.
Buoyed by that though, striker Cameron Lancaster then tried his luck from just outside the area but he couldn't keep his shot down and it fizzed over the Town bar.
It was almost a mirror image just past the half hour mark when Grandison slashed a shot just over.
Akpa Akpro then wasted a glorious chance on 33, after a delightful ball over the top by Connor Goldson, but the Frenchman's half volley was sliced wide when he should have at least hit the target. The home fans ironic cheers summed up how good an opportunity it was.
Shrewsbury were starting to get on top by this stage and Collins was unfortunate to see a well struck effort well blocked by the home defence.
But then came Charles' goal which summed up a frustrating first half where Town dominated for long stages against a Stevenage side who were limited going forward.
To add to that frustration, at the end of the half, Town nearly found an equaliser when Akpa Akpro saw a smart shot well saved at his near post by Beasant.
HALF-TIME: Stevenage 1-0 Town
Stevenage made a second change at half-time when Lancaster was replaced by Adam Marriott and within seconds of the restart another of the substitutes nearly doubled the home side's advantage. A fierce drive from Calcutt brought the best out of Leutwiler who made a flying stop to parry the ball away.
Stung by that, Town went up the other end and after some sloppy defender from Graham Westley's side, Grandison saw his close range poked shot scrambled off the line and away to safety at the end which housed the Town supporters.
Leutwiler was called into action again on 50 minutes, this time producing a stunning reflex save from Lee, tipping the ball over the bar after the midfielder struck a 25 yard effort towards the Town goal.
The home side looked much more dangerous going forward by this stage when Lee again attempted to trouble the scoresheet but his 20 yard drive, which he tried to bend into the corner, was caught easily by Leutwiler.
Fortunately for the Town keeper lady luck was on his and Shrewsbury's side on the hour when an unmarked Bira Dembele headed wide from a corner - a guilt-edged chance which the defender should have done better with.
But fortune wasn't on Shrewsbury's side a minute later when Grandison saw his looping header come back off the bar and hacked to safety by Stevenage.
Clark, who put in a busy performance in midfield, was then withdrawn on 63 with striker Vernon on to replace the former Barnsley youngster for a first Shrewsbury change to leave them with four strikers on the pitch.
By this stage, the match had a really good ebb and flow, and Mangan teed up Ryan Woods on 64 to shoot from 25 yards but the Town youngster failed to keep his shot down and it whistled over the bar.
Tom Pett then became the second Stevenage player to be cautioned - midway through the second half - booked for a late lunge on Goldson while skipper Ronnie Henry was yellow carded for time wasting with 10 minutes to play. Referee Gavin Ward was a busy man at this point, booking sub Anthony Griffith, who wasn't even on the field, as tempers flared on the touchline. Woods was also cautioned for a late lunge.
Westley then made a third and final change for Stevenage with Pett brought off, and Roarie Deacon introduced to the action and then Goldson also went into the referee's notepad, booked for a late tackle.
By the closing stages, the home side defended brilliantly as Shrewsbury pushed for an equaliser. With three minutes to go, Collins headed wastefully over following a teasing cross from Nathaniel Knight Percival, then the striker was again denied, this time by a brilliant Beasant parry and in the follow-up Grandison saw his shot blocked.
Town also had loud appeals for a penalty turned down on 89 minutes - Mangan felt he was brought down in the box but referee Ward waved away Shrewsbury protests.
Vernon also went close in the five minutes of stoppage time, but try as they might Town couldn't force the ball in at the end.
FULL-TIME: Stevenage 1-0 Town
TOWN LINE-UP: Jayson Leutwiler, Jermaine Grandison, Mark Ellis, Connor Goldson (c), Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jordan Clark, James Wesolowski, Ryan Woods, Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, Andy Mangan, James Collins
SUBS: Mark Halstead, Mickey Demetriou, Scott Vernon, Liam Lawrence, Anthony Griffith, Ashley Vincent, Aaron Wildig.
STEVENAGE LINE-UP: Sam Beasant, Ronnie Henry (c), Darius Charles, Dean Wells, Bira Dembele, Chris Whelpdale, Simon Walton (Connor Calcutt 14), Tom Conlon, Tom Pett (Roarie Deacon 84), Charlie Lee, Cameron Lancaster (Adam Marriot 46).
SUBS: Chris Day, Michael Richens, Jon Ashton, Chris Beardsley
REFEREE: Gavin Ward
Stevenage - Henry, Lee, Pett
Town: Goldson, Woods, Griffith
Attendance: 3,090 (353 from Town)