Shrewsbury Town cap off pre-season with a two-goal win over Exeter City away from home.
An empty St James’ Park was where Salop finished off their 2021/22 pre-season campaign, displaying a convincing 2-0 win against hosts Exeter, as the season opener against Burton Albion quickly approaches. A brace from striker Dan Udoh early on in the first-half was what separated the two sides, as Steve Cotterill led his side into the start of the season with a 100% win record.
The first-half started brightly for Salop, but did not come uncontested. A misplaced clearance found Exeter’s Sam Nombe, whose powerful strike from just inside the area forced recent arrival Marko Marsoi to produce a magnificent save, in only his second appearance since arriving on a permanent deal.
Despite an early scare, Salop were quick to respond, and comfortably played the ball around Matt Taylor’s Grecians and opened them up comfortably. A great passage in the fourth minute of play saw new signing and former Exeter striker Ryan Bowman cut the ball across goal, his pass finding the feet of striker Dan Udoh who tapped the ball in from close range, his third goal in pre-season.
Salop did not stop there, finding their second in the ninth minute through Udoh yet again, with Josh Vela’s incisive ball giving the striker ample time and space to slot the ball confidently pass Grecian’s keeper Cameron Dawson. An injury to Exeter midfielder Archie Collins saw the first-half come to a brief pause, but did not stop Salop’s tempo as they tested the Grecian’s defence yet again shortly after the break. A much needed block from Exeter’s Jonathan Grounds prevented a third for Shrewsbury, as did a save from Cameron Dawson, the ‘keeper diving high to his left to stop a strong header from defender Matthew Pennington.
Exeter began to pick up their tempo as half-time approached, with a well-worked move from Brown and Dieng being cleared by the head of Luke Leahy. Another set of attacking movements saw them test the Salop defence again, but they could not find a way past the outspread Marko Marosi, the ‘keeper producing a series of strong saves. The referee shortly blew his whistle for half-time, with Shrewsbury displaying arguably their strongest and most confident display of pre-season thus far - a promising sign going into the season.
The second-half gave much less to shout about than the first, with Salop clearly looking to see out the game as comfortable winners. Both sides were equally matched as the second-half started, with the hosts searching to reduce their two-goal deficit. Fortunately Steve Cotterill’s side managed the game well, battling out and giving the Grecian’s little chance to fight back and spoil the visitors clean sheet.
A double change for Steve Cotterill’s side saw defender Elliot Bennet and goalscorer Dan Udoh coming off for Josh Daniels and Rekeil Pyke in the 70th minute. Harry Burgoyne later replaced Marko Marosi, the Slovakian shot-stopper finishing his second appearance for Salop with yet another strong display between the sticks. Despite changes from both sides, the hosts could not seem to find a way through, as Salop stood strong to see out the game with a clean sheet.
It is three from three for Steve Cotterill’s side in pre-season, finishing off their pre-season finale in Devon with their most convincing win yet. Despite being played out in front of an empty crowd, there is a lot for Salopians to feel hopeful for going into the season opener against Burton Albion, in their long-awaited return to the Montgomery Waters Meadow.
Exeter: Cameron Dawson, Jack Sparkes, Nigel Atangana, George Ray, Archie Collins (Tim Dieng, 17) (Harry Kite, 70), Sam Nombe, Joel Randall (Ben Seymour, 70), Josh Key, Jevani Brown (James Dodd, 86), Pierce Sweeney, Jonathan Grounds (Callum Rowe, 56).
Subs not used: Harry Lee, Jack Caprice Jordan Dyer.
Salop: Marko Marosi (Harry Burgoyne, 86), Elliott Bennett (Josh Daniels, 71), Matthew Pennington, Luke Leahy, George Nurse, Nathanael Ogbeta, Josh Vela, David Davis, Shaun Whalley, Daniel Udoh (Rekeil Pyke, 71), Ryan Bowman.
Subs not used: Cameron Gregory, Aaron Pierre.