Wigan 0 Shrewsbury Town 0 - Report and pictures
League One’s top two sides shared the points in a breathless Christmas cracker at the DW Stadium, writes Lewis Cox.
A pulsating goalless draw between challengers Shrewsbury Town and leaders Wigan proved a feast of football full of drama, passion and opportunities.
Paul Hurst’s Shrewsbury enjoyed confident spells and more than held their own against a rampant Athletic side.
The hosts kicked into gear late on, smashing the woodwork and somehow missing golden chances.
But an incredible Shrewsbury following of 1,347 were left cheering and bouncing at full-time, almost as if celebrating a victory as the point kept them in the automatic promotion places.
As they went about stopping a ferocious Latics side that thumped seven past hosts Oxford last time out Hurst opted for just the one change.
Norwich loan man Ben Godfrey returned to the starting XI for Bryn Morris, who dropped to the bench.
Carlton Morris, following an impressive display last time out, kept his place in Hurst’s line-up despite top scorer Stefan Payne netting his 10th goal of the season against Portsmouth.
Paul Cook’s hosts were unbeaten in seven at the start of the day, winning six, most eye-catchingly at the Kassam Stadium last time out, and the Latics boss unsurprisingly went unchanged.
Few would have imagined, before a ball was kicked this season, that the Boxing Day clash would be a first versus second tussle but one defeat in the last 13 league outings had the hosts flying.
Despite acknowledging Wigan as the best side in League One, Hurst guided his team to a victory over the Latics in September, so they knew it could be done.
An incredible away crowd of more than 1,300 fans, one of the best in recent times, followed Town up the M6. Not deterred by the hosts’ recent form, they drowned out any noise in the DW Stadium.
Wigan are renowned for their slick play but it was long balls to the intelligent movement of Will Grigg. Twice the hitman escaped Town’s backline but James Bolton and Dean Henderson both covered their team-mates excellently.
It was Hurst’s side that got the ball down and showed a glimpse of their flee-flowing ability. Triangle passes and one-twos ended in winger Alex Rodman cross for skipper Abu Ogogo to head over the crossbar.
Town settled the better against the side with the best defensive record in the league and showed no signs of being daunted. Shaun Whalley’s corner was inches from the onrushing Toto Nsiala with Bolton millimetres from connecting at the back post.
The visitors, in their bold orange away kit, kept the home crowd quiet in the first quarter, as Hurst would have hoped.
But the Latics gave a glimpse of their threat as first Grigg skimmed the crossbar with a deft, looped header, before the striker was denied at the near post by Henderson.
Skipper Ogogo’s commitment in the top of the table clash could not be doubted. After a run-in with dangerman Nick Powell, the captain stormed into challenges and dominated the midfield.
Wigan cranked up the pressure with Welsh international Evans shooting wide and big defender Dan Burn’s classy flick drew another Henderson save. Town were standing firm.
Home boss Cook was left hopping mad as Michael Jacobs flew into the box but then flew to the deck under minimal contact. The ex-Wolves man appeared to throw himself to the deck, leaving Hurst wondering where the simulation punishment was.
The Latics had grabbed a foothold but Town were defending well and admirably organised and committed to every ball.
Shrewsbury’s stunning counter-attack was on display in the opening exchanges of the second-half. Nolan’s superb footwork helped launch the attack as Rodman latches on to Whalley’s high pass but blazes off target in front of baying Town fans.
Identical to the first-half, Town were the better side at the start of the second 45. They confidently strung passes together and looked the most likely to force openings.
The top two clash was like watching two heavyweights slug it out. Attacking this way and that with superb defensive capabilities on display.
The visitors went closest yet three-quarters through the contest. A superb, long-busting Rodman break carved out a deflected effort from Nolan that took a huge deflection, wrong-footing keeper Christian Walton but flying agonizingly wide.
The changes saw ex-Town man Toney introduced but it was panto villain Powell who passed up the gilt-edged chance with 10 minutes remaining as he failed to connect with a fine cross some six yards out. It felt like that was the moment.
But Wigan had a bigger moment. Sub Max Power, on for barely 10 seconds, hammered a left-footed volley from distance beyond Henderson and on to the crossbar. It was fitting to win this breathless occasion.
Yet the finale came Toney’s way, amid the boos he popped up unmarked eight yards out but slided the wrong side of the post.
Town survived and were every bit deserving of their memorable point.
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1):
Walton; Byrne, Burn, Dunkley, James; Morsy (c), Evans; Massey (Hunt, 90+1), Powell (Power, 86), Jacobs; Grigg (Toney, 77)
Subs not used: Sarkic (gk), Elder, Bruce, Roberts.
Shrewsbury Town (4-1-4-1):
Henderson; Bolton, Nsiala, Sadler, Beckles; Godfrey; Whalley, Nolan (B Morris, 90+1), Ogogo (c), Rodman; C Morris (Payne, 76)
Subs not used: MacGillivray (gk), Riley, Dodds, Gnahoua, John-Lewis
Referee: David Webb
Attendance: 11,115 (1,347 Shrewsbury fans)
Position in table
2nd (48 points from 23 games)
Abu Ogogo - One of several that were immense.