Town start 2015 with a defeat in a close game at the Pirelli Stadium
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Mickey Demetriou, Liam Lawrence (c) (Andy Mangan, 78), Connor Goldson, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Josh Passley, James Collins, Ryan Woods, Scott Vernon, Bobby Grant, Mark Ellis (James Wesolowski, 67)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Jordan Clark, Anthony Griffith, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Cameron Gayle
Burton Albion: Jon McLaughlin, Phil Edwards, John Mousinho (c), George Taft, Robbie Weir, Stuart Beavon (Dominic Knowles, 82), Jacob Blyth, Damien McCrory, Darragh Lenihan, Matty Palmer (Ian Sharps, 90), Kelvin Maynard (Adam McGurk, 88)
Subs not used: Scott Shearer, Jimmy Phillips, Liam Slade, Marcus Harness
Referee: B. Malone
Assistants: P. Gooch & N. Radford
Fourth Official: R. Wootton
Martin Wild reports from the Pirelli Stadium
A spectacular second half goal from Burton Albion’s George Taft was enough to dispose Shrewsbury Town from the top of the SKY Bet League Two table this afternoon. The centre-back’s volley condemned Town to a sixth league defeat of the campaign and allowed the hosts to climb up above Shrewsbury and into second place.
Town remained unchanged from last Sunday when they fought out an entertaining goalless draw with Wycombe at the Greenhous Meadow. The one welcome change came on the substitute’s bench with combative midfielder James Wesolowski fit to resume first team duties.
The midday downpours had long since disappeared by kick-off but the Burton groundstaff had still needed to employ the services of a mechanical Blotter, in order to clear away excess water from the pitch two hours before the start.
Town were backed by a huge away support with the bulk of them gathered behind the goal that Shrewsbury would defend in the first half.
The first chance of the match fell to the visitors after little more than 5 minutes. Ryan Woods spread the ball out wide to Josh Passley whose first time cross was headed into the keeper’s arms by James Collins. And in a lightning counter moments later, Collins was thwarted at the near post when another header from a Passley cross was blocked off at the near post.
It was a good start by Micky Mellon’s men who were looking to inflict only the second defeat during Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s brief reign. The only other one of course, came in the reverse fixture at the Meadow five weeks ago with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro scoring a late winner for Salop.
Stuart Beavon and Darragh Lenihan were both booked for Albion before Booby Grant sliced one wide on 22 minutes. It was an improvement on his first effort though which saw his volley sail out of the ground!
Players from both sides took on some fluids after half an hour with Lenihan requiring some treatment after a nothing collision with Mickey Demetriou. The home fans howled their disapproval that Town’s left wing back hadn’t received a card but that would have been harsh in the extreme.
Shortly after, a superb Town move involving Collins and skipper Liam Lawrence created an opening for Grant, but Jon McLaughlin in the Burton goal got down well to keep the ball out of his net at the base of the near post.
The referee – who looked like he was after making full use of his can of vanishing spray - was making a number of questionable decisions, and one in particular might have cost Town dearly. Three minutes before the break he awarded the hosts a ridiculous free-kick 25 yards from goal, and it took a flying save from Jayson Leutwiler to paw away Matty Palmer’s well struck shot. Mellon was apoplectic with rage directly in front of us at the award of the kick, and a Burton supporter sat to my right suggested I borrow his spectacles for protesting a bit too loudly!
Woods became the first Town player to be booked for a foul on the halfway line in stoppage time, and this time there couldn’t be any complaints.
Half-Time: Burton Albion 0 Town 0
Shrews survived an injury scare to NKP at the start of the second half after the defender had made an excellent challenge to deny Jacob Blyth.
Burton were starting to apply their first bout of sustained pressure and it paid off when a corner was smashed home by Taft on the hour mark. It was a goal out of nothing and flew past Leutwiler who had no chance whatsoever of keeping out the stunning left foot volley. It was the first time Town’s defence had been breached in over seven hours of football and the first in Brewers colours by Raft who’s unlikely to hit a sweeter shot in the rest of his career.
Burton were on top and buoyed by their goal and Kelvin Maynard went close to a second five minutes after it. Shrews failed to clear their lines and although there was plenty of power in the shot, it fizzed past the upright with Leutwiler beaten.
Midway through the second half, Mellon opted to introduce Wesolowski with Mark Ellis the man to make way and within two minutes, Leutwiler was called upon to make a smart save to keep out Maynard who was beginning to find a bit of room.
Blyth was an extremely lucky boy when he crudely scythed down Passley on the near touchline, with Mr. Malone opting for yellow rather than what seemed a likely red.
As Town’s fans cranked up the noise levels inside the stadium, Lawrence went close with an opportunist strike with the Greenhous boys pushing hard for a leveller. Wesolowski then failed to control a ball nudged forward by Lawrence or he might have been left with a golden opportunity. Collins was booked for blocking off a McLaughlin clearance before Andy Mangan came on for the skipper with 12 minutes remaining.
Phil Edwards did brilliantly to keep Mangan out after the striker took a great first touch, and Grant had his follow-up shot deflected behind. Demetriou should have equalised with three minutes left but he fired over from Wesolowski’s low cross. It was arguably Shrews’ best chance of the match and came at a time when they were noticeably on top.
Five minutes of added on time were indicated and in the first of them Mangan wasted a free-kick on the edge of the area. It was to be the last real chance of a hard fought encounter with Burton edging it thanks to that brilliant Raft goal.
Full-Time: Burton Albion 1 Town 0