Shrewsbury Town 1 Southend 0 - Report and pictures
Leaders Shrewsbury Town had Jon Nolan's first goal for the club to thank as they extended their unbeaten start in League One to seven games, writes Lewis Cox at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
Paul Hurst’s men made it six wins from seven games by beating Southend United 1-0 courtesy of Jon Nolan’s first-half strike.
It was the silky midfielder’s first goal for Town. And the hosts locked down the hatches to somehow survive a second-half onslaught from their Essex visitors.
Not since 1894/95 had Town began a season so strongly. Hurst’s side continue to surge beyond everything in their path as they extended their lead to three points.
Joe Riley returned to the first-team fold as James Bolton missed out with a knee concern, it was Riley’s first start in any competition since breaking his leg on the final day of last season at Oxford.
Carlton Morris returned from the hamstring complaint that kept him out of Saturday’s win over Wigan to take his place on the bench.
The Shrimpers, ravaged by injury this term, made five changes to the side that narrowly lost against Charlton, with five changes including two enforced injury complaints.
In came Marc-Antoine Fortune, Stephen McLaughlin, Dru Yearwood, Jason Demetriou and Harry Kyprianou for the visitors.
While high-profile forward Nile Ranger was forced to miss out due to the 7pm curfew on his tag, which ruled he had to be home by 7pm. The ex-Newcastle man made the team hotel in Oswestry before having to return home.
While Ranger was racing home Town raced out the blocks. Jon Nolan and Shaun Whalley were showing the immense hunger to win the ball on display in recent weeks and their pressing set up an early set-piece opportunity.
Whalley’s delivery was met well by Stefan Payne but the in-form forward had his powerful header parried away by Mark Oxley.
Toto Nsiala was unable to direct a header but Shrewsbury kept coming inside five minutes.
They forced an error from Dru Yearwood and off went Payne, charging forward from the halfway line, he ignored options to the right and approached Oxley’s goal at an angle, where he sent a low finish across the keeper and on to the far post.
Southend gathered themselves after 10 minutes as Yearwood sent a tame effort before Stephen McLaughlin punished slack focus from a Shrimpers corner to send an angled drive at Dean Henderson that the goalkeeper parried away.
But Town were lightening on the break as Nolan set Alex Rodman roaring down the left, the winger cut inside and tested Oxley low down to his near post.
The hosts were dangerous every time they burst forward and got their just rewards exactly midway through the first period.
Payne forced an error in the centre of the pitch and away went Nolan down the left flank. The popular little midfielder turned on the burners to power past his full-back before dinking a cute finish over Oxley and in.
It was his first goal for the club since arriving from Chesterfield this summer.
Ex-Walsall full-back Jason Demetriou was not a million miles from bringing his side immediately back into it from a very well-struck 30 yard free-kick which missiled inches wide of Henderson’s upright.
Southend were troubling Town. The so far reliable Henderson endured a couple of hairy aerial moments near half-time but managed to deal well with a low Yearwood shot.
The one real dent on Shrews’ first-half was an injury to Payne on the stroke of half-time, Lenell John-Lewis replaced him.
Southend came out much the better side and twice went close within five minutes. Michael Timlin poked just wide from a right-sided cross before Harry Kyprianou then tested Henderson’s agility with a powerful header.
The Shrimpers kept coming and Ryan Leonard nodded fractions wide from Elvis Bwomono’s cross.
After netting his first in blue and amber Nolan went in search of a second and his driven strike was dealt with by Oxley at the second time of asking.
High-flying Town were showing nerves and were very fortunate to survive just after the hour.
Ben Godfrey played a hospital ball sending Timlin through for Southend, Toto Nsiala recovered just in time, but the visitors were screaming for a penalty. Referee Ross Joyce was unmoved.
As the game entered its final quarter Town were keen for some respite, John-Lewis almost provided it down the other end as his stinging left-footed shot was palmed away by Oxley.
The Meadow, hosting its first midweek match of the season, was on edge and looking for a goal to confirm Town’s sixth win from seven this term.
But the Shrimpers were relentless and Henderson was at his very best to keep out sub Simon Cox’s header from the penalty spot.
Some dramatic and courageous last ditch defending was required and pulled off as this exciting team continued their dream start.
Shrewsbury Town (4-1-4-1):
Henderson; Riley, Nsiala, Sadler, Brown; Godfrey, Whalley, Ogogo ©, Nolan (Dodds, 82), Whalley; Payne (John-Lewis, 44)
Subs not used: MacGillivray (gk), Beckles, Adams, Gnahoua, Morris
Oxley; Bwomono, Kyprianou, Ferdinand ©, Demetriou; Timlin, Yearwood (Cox, 79), Leonard; McGlashan (Robinson, 69), Fortune, McLaughlin (Bridge, 84).
Subs not used: Smith (gk), Hendrie, Ba, Klass.
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 5,029 (172 away fans)