Town 1 Crewe Alexandra 2CREWE ALEXANDRA: Ben Garratt (GK), Oliver Turton, Ben Nugent, Semi Ajayi, Jon Guthrie, David Fox (C), Adam King (Bradden Inman, 69), James Jones, Ryan Colclough, Marcus Haber, Ryan Lowe.
SUBS: David Richards, Chris Atkinson, George Cooper, Callum Saunders, Billy Bingham, James Baillie.
SHREWSBURY TOWN: Mark Halstead (GK), Dom Smith, Larnell Cole, Ian Black, Shaun Whalley, Zak Whitbread, Junior Brown, James Collins (C)~(Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro), Scott Vernon (Tyrone Barnett, 76), Anthony Gerrard, Abu Ogogo.
SUBS: Callum Burton, Liam Lawrence, Jordan Clark, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Liam McAlinden.
GOALS:Cole, 10, Whalley, 89
ATTENDANCE:5506 (1203) from Shrewsbury.
ASSISTANT REFEREES:G. Hilton and B. Roberts
FOURTH OFFICIAL:P. Marsden
Shrewsbury Town brought 2015 to a close with a dramatic late winner at Crewe Alexandra.
Town won it in the dying minutes of the match through a wonderful effort from Shaun Whalley after Ryan Colclough had cancelled out Larnell Cole’s tenth minute opener.
Town manager Micky Mellon made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Fleetwood Town on Boxing Day. Zak Whitbread, Larnell Cole and Shaun Whalley came in for Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jordan Clark and Liam McAlinden respectively as Town lined up with a 4-4-2 formation.
A packed away end was vocal from the start in their support for their team and manager in the Ice Cream Stand at Gresty Road as the players made their way out onto the pitch.
Town started the game the brighter of the two, surprising considering the rest their hosts had been afforded prior to today’s game having seen their Boxing Day fixture postponed at Rochdale.
Shaun Whalley was a particular bright spark in the Town attack and it was his cross that presented the first opening when his delivery was headed out to Abu Ogogo who just couldn’t keep his volley down.
Shrewsbury continued to look sharper than their opponents, with the Gresty Road crowd growing frustrated at the appetite being shown by Micky Mellon’s men in their attempts to close down every ball.
With just ten minutes on the clock Town made the breakthrough.
Anthony Gerrard picked out Larnell Cole who was allowed the space to turn and run at his marker before driving a left-footed shot that clipped off the defenders foot and found the bottom corner.
It was the on-loan Fulham man’s second goal of the season and sent the 1200+ travelling Salopians into wild celebration.
The home side responded to going behind and Adam King managed to get on the end of Ryan Lowe’s pass but Junior Brown did just enough to take the power of his shot, making it a routine save for Mark Halstead.
Just a minute Halstead had to be alert to deny former Town player Ryan Lowe a goal against his former club.
A powerful driving run from Marcus Haber resulted in the former Stevenage man crossing for Lowe who seemed to just get the ball stuck under his feet before Halstead diverted his poked effort wide from three yards.
With 22 minutes on the clock Town thought they might have had a penalty as Whalley was brought down right on the edge of the penalty box. The former Luton man ended up in the box but referee Mr Haines adjudged the foul to be outside the box.
The resulting free-kick from Brown was hit straight into the wall.
Moments later Crewe were level. Haber won a flick on into the path of Lowe who played a weighted pass into the path of Colclough who drove into the far corner past Halstead.
Town were seemingly rattled as Gresty Road found its voice but stood firm as the wall repelled a dangerous Crewe free-kick.
Halstead in the Town goal looked to be trying to start quick counter attacks every time he had possession of the ball.
One particular clearance found its way to James Collins from Scott Vernon’s flick, but the former Hibs man was unable to divert his long-range volley on target.
The same pair linked up moments later with Collins sending in another long-distanced effort, this time with his favoured right foot, that Garratt comfortably saved.
Ten minutes before half-time Town were unfortunate not to retake the lead.
Whalley’s superb run and cross narrowly missed the head of Vernon but found onrushing Cole who sent his half-volley over the crossbar from six-yards.
Ian Black decided to try his luck from long-range but found Garratt was alert to the danger, getting down well to smother his effort.
Crewe came back and King again looked to get a shot away that flew past the wrong side of the Town post.
HALF-TIME: CREWE ALEXANDRA 1-1 SHREWSBURY TOWN
Town started the second half much like the first as they looked to put their hosts on the back foot.
A through ball found its way to James Collins who bore down on goal only to be halted by the back tracking Semi Ajayi.
Collins found himself again with room in the Crewe box but his low cross was well smothered by Garratt.
The first real chance of the second half fell to Crewe’s Lowe who met Haber’s pull back with plenty of venom but no accuracy as the ball sailed out of the ground.
Haber was then pulled up by the referee for a dangerous tackle on Black. With the former Rangers man still down on the floor the referee handed out a yellow card to the Canadian striker.
The game continued to flow from end to end and moments after Ogogo saw his 20-yard effort drag wide, Halstead pulled off a tremendous save from a powerful drive from Colclough.
Lowe had another chance to put the hosts in front when Gerrard brought down James Jones to present a free-kick on the edge of the box. The 37-year-old bent his effort around the wall but Halstead was there to push it wide for a corner.
Crewe were applying some serious pressure with several corners putting the Town back line on the back foot.
The home side thought they had gone in front when Colclough ghosted past Dom Smith and pulled back for the unmarked King whose shot was somehow saved by Halstead, who even blocked the rebound.
Town made a change with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro replacing James Collins. Seconds later Town thought they had gone in front when the substitute danced into the Crewe box before seeing his deflected effort bounce off the post and across the line, with Vernon inches away from putting it over the line.
In a frantic match, Lowe had another chance to put Crewe in front when he was put through, only to see his left footed effort go across Halstead and inches wide of the far post.
Crewe captain David Fox was next to come close as his 25-yard volley flashed just wide of Halstead’s far post.
Scott Vernon was replaced by Tyrone Barnett with eight minutes left to play as Town looked for some freshness up front.
As the 90 minutes was coming to an end and with both teams seeming to have settled for a point, Town won it with a moment of brilliance.
Barnett and Akpa Akpro linked up well before teeing up Whalley who cut inside and curled a delightful effort into the far corner, kissing the inside of the post on its way in.
It sent the 1203 Salop supporters into raptures as Town looked set for a crucial victory.
Crewe pressed and forced more corners but on a break away Town should have sealed all three points. Akpa Akpro led the breakaway and played in Barnett who beamed down on goal only to see his effort deflect wide for a corner.
Town made their final change as they looked to hold on to three valuable points with Knight-Percival replacing goal scorer Shaun Whalley.
And moments later, the referee brought to a close a scintillating match which could have gone either way. The fact both teams appeared to be clapped off the pitch by the 5000+ crowd said all you needed to know about this contest.
FULL TIME: CREWE ALEXANDRA 1-2 SHREWSBURY TOWN