Under-18s beaten after brave comebackShrewsbury Town’s youth team came back from 2-0 down at Port Vale on Saturday but ultimately slipped to their first defeat for five matches.
The Valiants scored twice before half-time through Dan Turner and a Brad Ede curler to hold a comfortable lead at the break.
However, Town fought back after the interval and striker Kaiman Anderson halved the deficit before substitute Jeff Watkins grabbed an equaliser with just over ten minutes left.
But the young Shrews were beaten at the end as Watkins conceded a penalty, with MacKenzie Faulkner smashing in the resulting spot-kick to give the hosts all three points.
Town’s head of academy coaching Ian Dawes made four changes to the side which beat Accrington Stanley 1-0 in the previous weekend.
Midfielder Alex Fletcher returned for his first game back from injury in place of Joel Carta, while Jack Butts, Ryan Hickman and Watkins all dropped to the bench with three trialists starting in defence.
The young Shrews made a positive start to the game, with Josh Ginnelly testing goalkeeper Calum Ferrie from long range before Niall Flint fired a free-kick over.
But Michael Ede’s Valiants opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a side-foot shot from Turner, from the left side of the penalty area, past Town goalkeeper Harry Lewis.
It was the hosts’ first chance of the game and, at the other end, the ball fell for Anderson on the left but his precise attempt was held low by Ferrie.
Anderson also had appeals for a penalty turned down by the referee in the 20th minute when he appeared to be brought down just inside the box.
The striker had Town’s best chance of the first half, however, as he broke through on goal and took the ball past the oncoming Ferrie, but Anderson slipped and lofted his strike over the empty goal.
And Town were made to pay for their missed chances in the 32nd minute as Brad Ede doubled Vale’s lead with an unstoppable, curling strike from the edge of the box which went in at the top corner off Lewis’ crossbar.
It meant Town went in two goals behind at the break.
HALF-TIME: Port Vale 2-0 Town
Town were fortunate not to fall further behind within two minutes of the restart as Flint cleared one off the line before Lewis had to get down low to deny Turner.
However, the pendulum soon swung and Anderson pulled a goal back in the 48th minute after battling through two challenges on the inside left position before sliding the ball across goal, into the far right corner for 2-1.
Dawes’ side continued to pile on the pressure in search of an equaliser and Kenton was unfortunate not to get one when his blast from the right was tipped around the far post.
Fletcher was also felled from behind in the penalty area but the referee again refused to point to the spot, instead choosing to show the midfielder a yellow card for supposed simulation.
Town persisted in searching for the equaliser despite their frustration, and it came when substitute Watkins popped up with a header at the far post from Flint’s corner on the right on 77 minutes.
The young Shrews looked the more likely to go on and win the game as they had all the momentum, but Vale won a penalty in the 84th minute for a foul by Watkins inside the box.
Kapeng stepped up to smash the ball past Lewis, left of centre, and there was no way back for Town as they fell to their first defeat in five games.
FULL-TIME: Port Vale 3-2 Town
TOWN LINE-UP: Harry Lewis (GK), Trialist, Ben Burton, Trialist (Watkins, 45’), Trialist, Alex Fletcher, Joe Kenton (Hickman, 87’), Niall Flint (c), Kaiman Anderson, Josh Ginnelly, Ethan Jones (Wilson, 70’).
SUBS: Alex Ashton (GK), Jeff Watkins, Ryan Hickman, Jack Butts, Nathan Millis, Tom Astley, Joel Carta, Jordan Wilson.
BOOKED: Watkins (84’).
GOALS: Anderson (48’), Watkins (77’).
PORT VALE LINE-UP: Calum Ferrie (GK), James Gibbons, Alex Morris, Brad Ede, MacKenzie Faulkner, Lewis Bergin, Chekaine Steele, Billy Reeves, Jonny Kapend, Dan Turner, Omar Haughton.
SUBS: Harry Pickering (GK), Michael Calverley, Kyle Clark, Taylor Attrell, Liam Mottram.
BOOKED: Faulkner (78’).
GOALS: Turner (9’), Ede (32’), Kapeng (84’, pen).
NEXT FIXTURE: Bury v Town (Football League Youth Alliance – North West, 11am kick-off).