Godfrey stunner helps Town to 2-1
Town: Dean Henderson, Ben Godfrey, Mat Sadler, Omar Beckles, Shaun Whalley (Joe Riley 89), Abu Ogogo ©, Carlton Morris (Lenell John-Lewis 75), James Bolton, Jon Nolan (Bryn Morris 77), Aristote Nsiala, Alex Rodman
Subs: Craig Macgillivray, Joe Riley, Louis Dodds, Arthur Gnahoua, Lenell John-Lewis, Bryn Morris, Ebou Adams
Southend United: Mark Oxley, Ben Coker, Anthony Wordsworth, Anton Ferdinand © (John White 12), Michael Turner, Simon Cox, Stephen McLaughlin, Ryan Leonard, Jason Demetriou, Josh Wright (Jermaine McGlashan 53), Nile Ranger
Subs: Marc-Antoine Fortune, Nathan Bishop, Dru Yearwood, Jermaine McGlashan, Harry Kyprianou, Theo Robinson, John White
Referee: Gavin Ward
Assistants: Paul Yates and Christopher Wade
Fourth Official: Andrew Aylott
Shrewsbury Town reached the 50 point mark before January thanks to a hard fought 2-1 victory over Southend United. Town dominated the first-half and led 2-0 at the break thanks to a Ben Coker own goal and a stunning strike from Ben Godfrey. The second-half was more difficult as Town were pegged back in the 55th minute thanks to Ryan Leonard’s header, but they hung on to reach 51 points for the season, just two behind Wigan Athletic at the top of Sky Bet League One.
Paul Hurst resisted the temptation to rest the side which had performed so well in recent games against Portsmouth and Wigan. It meant that there was just one change to the 18 with Stefan Payne missing out with a slight knock meaning Ebou Adams came onto the bench.
Despite worries over the Roots Hall pitch, Town got their passing game going straight away and they had Southend camped in their own half for the first 10 minutes of the game, although they only managed to test Mark Oxley on one occasion as Alex Rodman had a shot from the edge of the box, but Oxley comfortably held onto the shot down to his right hand side.
It was the visitors who forced the first corner when Stephen McLaughlin’s shot was deflected behind, but Town cleared the set-piece with ease and Southend were then dealt a blow when Anton Ferdinand was forced to go off injured with John White replacing him.
A long throw from Ryan Leonard almost caused problems in the Town box but James Bolton was able to clear and Town then broke quickly down the left. Alex Rodman ran over 60 yards with the ball before chipping in a cross for Carlton Morris , which appeared to hit the back of Southend defender Ben Coker before finding its way past a wrong-footed Oxley to give Town an 18th minute lead.
The moments after a goal are always the most dangerous and Southend came forward quickly. Dean Henderson tried to come and claim a couple of crosses but he seemed to hurt his jaw in the process. Eventually the ball did find its way into the grateful arms of Henderson who immediately threw the ball out of play to receive treatment from Chris Skitt, but he was fine to continue.
Southend had responded well to going a goal behind and they produced another opportunity moments later when Stephen McLaughlin picked the ball up on the edge of the box, but his shot went high and wide after pressure from Toto Nsiala.
With around 10 minutes of the half remaining Southend created a good opportunity when Mat Sadler missed a clearance kick and Simon Cox picked his pocket. Cox flashed the ball across the face but James Bolton was on hand to turn the cross over from just a yard in front of his own goal line.
Shaun Whalley then had a great opportunity put on a plate with him when Southend right-back Jason Demetriou under hit a pass back to the centre-halves and Whalley stole in, but he took a bit too much time to get his shot away and it was deflected behind for a corner.
However, Town didn’t have to wait long for to double their lead as they did so from the resulting corner. Whalley’s delivery was cleared but only as far as Ben Godfrey who unleashed a powerful drive from just outside the box, which went as straight as an arrow into the top corner. It was Godfrey’s first goal of the season and the timing couldn’t have been much better after extending his loan until the end of the season earlier in the week.
Town almost created a third less than 10 minutes after the break when a Shaun Whalley free-kick caused mayhem in the Southend box, but the ball wouldn’t quite sit for anyone in an orange shirt and Southend scrambled it away.
The hosts were then forced into their second substitution of the game as the injured Josh Wright was replaced by Jermaine McGlashan, but less than a minute after the change they got themselves back into it when Ryan Leonard headed a Stephen McLaughlin corner into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
The game now had a different feel to it and Gavin Ward twice had to go to his notebook in the space of two minutes as first Shaun Whalley was late with a challenge on Ben Coker and then Michael Turner went in nastily from behind on Carlton Morris.
The yellow cards had led to an increase in tempo and that almost played into Town’s favour when Abu Ogogo slid Alex Rodman in on the left-hand-side of the box, but Rodman took slightly too long to get the ball out of his feet and his shot was blocked for a corner, which came to nothing.
Southend then had a brilliant chance to equalise when Simon Cox latched onto a ball over the top. He took a touch to steady himself before shooting left-footed, but Dean Henderson was able to make a superb save and Nile Ranger was unable to get onto the rebound.
Town then made their first substitution of the afternoon as Lenell John-Lewis replaced Carlton Morris and a minute later Bryn Morris came on for Jon Nolan. Both players had put in incredible shifts and it felt like the right time to bring on fresh legs.
The fresh legs appeared to work nicely and Town were able to enjoy longer spells of possession, something they had struggled with for much of the second-half. One decent passing move saw the ball eventually work its way out Abu Ogogo who had a shot from 20 yards but he pulled it wide of the post.
As the game entered the final few minutes Southend were starting to pump the ball forward at every opportunity and Town were having to defend very deep. Joe Riley came on to give even more protection to Dean Henderson and in the dying seconds Riley did well to take the ball to the corner and force and a free-kick.
That allowed Town to get organised for one final onslaught and they were up to the task as they held on for their 15th win of the season.