Fleetwood 2 Shrewsbury 1 - Report and pictures
Shrewsbury Town remain winless on their travels this season after a torrid first half cost them dear in defeat at Fleetwood Town, writes Lewis Cox at Highbury Stadium.
John Askey’s men failed to adjust to a new-look 4-4-2 formation and were extremely poor in a dismal first 45 minutes as the hosts deservedly led by two goals at the break.
The Town chief culled his front two of Fejiri Okenabirhie and Lenell John-Lewis at the break and reverted to a familiar 4-3-3 as the visitors made a marked improvement.
Josh Laurent slid in his first Salop goal before the hour to give the vocal away fans hope of a comeback but, despite enjoying the better of the second period, Town could not find a second.
Sub Aaron Amadi-Holloway, one of the half-time changes alongside Greg Docherty, was denied at the death by a sprawling one-handed Alex Cairns save. Aside from that Shrews did not create enough.
The defeat makes it seven without a win on the road for Shrews, all in League One, who dropped down one position to 17th.
But Askey will be left ruing his decision to start with an ineffective 4-4-2 and ignoring ther 4-3-3 that had served his side with some decent showings in recent weeks.
For the first time this season Askey opted to line Town up 4-4-2, sacrificing his extra man in midfield in the usual 4-3-3 system.
Okenabirhie started in the league for the first time after his hat-trick heroics in the Checkatrade Trophy rout of Tranmere Rovers.
Askey had been under pressure from fans to include the former Dagenham & Redbridge hitman from the off, but more surprising was his partner in Salop’s attack.
John-Lewis, who also scored and impressed in midweek, as top scorer Lee Angol dropped to the bench.
Anthony Grant missed the game through illness, the first time he hasn’t started in the league since Charlton on the second weekend of the season. Ollie Norburn and Josh Laurent paired in the middle.
Top scorer Ched Evans was missing with an injury for Barton’s hosts, meaning Wes Burns partered Paddy Madden in attack.
Regular right-back Lewis Coyle shifted to left-back for the Cod Army in the absence of on-loan Norwich man James Husband. Academy graduate and centre-back by trade Nathan Sheron started at right-back.
The torrid conditions made for a difficult playing surface, with puddles visibly splashing up under foot, particularly in the Salop left-back area.
But the hosts were comfortably the better side early on and pressured Joel Coleman’s goal early on.
Burns and livewire winger Ash Hunter were denied inside 10 minutes as Town struggled to acclimatise to the conditions. Norburn crunched into a foul on Hunter and was booked after four minutes.
The home side looked much the sharper of the two sides, who were matching 4-4-2. Hunter was buzzing all about the park and it was no surprise to see him unlock Town’s defence in the game’s first quarter.
Hunter, playing from the left, appeared on the right and sent in a delicious delivery for the prolific Madden who glanced in a textbook header across Coleman and in off his far post.
After 18 minutes, it was a signal that Barton’s Fleetwood were creative and clinical in attack.
They had suffered previously this season from not killing off games at 1-0. Shaun Whalley saw a half-chance come and go but it was the only time Town had really ventured in Fleetwood’s box.
Fleetwood put paid to any fears of that 10 minutes after the opener as they doubled their lead.
This time it was Burns, dancing into space outside the box before laying it out wide right for Madden, who returned the favour to the untracked run of Burns who finished unmarked from the penalty spot.
It was a lovely goal from the host’s point of view, but soft from Salop.
Town showed a little more impetus as a miserable first half wore on. They created very little in terms of opportunities on goal with some questionable decision making and passing.
The away following inside Highbury Stadium were clearly far from pleased and shouts towards the manager to liven his side up were audible.
Askey had to make a change at the break and his decision was a significant one. Off came strike pair Okenabirhie and John-Lewis - the former an unpopular sacrifice with the away fans - and on came Aaron Amadi-Holloway and Greg Docherty.
The 4-4-2 became the regular 4-3-3 again and, even after a couple of minutes of the second period, Town looked much more suited to the formation.
The pressure was all from the away side in the second half as the home crowd grew quiet.
The visitors, galvanised by the superb away crowd noise behind the goal they were attacking, made the pressure tell before the hour.
Midfielder Laurent slid in from a tight angle on the right corner of the six yard box as he latched on to Whalley’s low cross.
Docherty had just seen a piledriver from distance closed down but Salop’s constant pushing paid off with Laurent’s tidy finish - his first goal for 13 months since scoring at Fleetwood for Bury.
After getting a goal back Shrews failed to build on the head of steam they had gained.
They were still having the better of the game and seeing more of the ball but Askey’s men were not being smart or creative enough on the ball.
While the rain had stopped, a swirling wind was proving pesky as it blew against the visitors. Fleetwood threatened a decisive third on the break on a couple of occasions, no more so than Coleman’s fine tip around the post from Hunter’s free-kick.
Gilliead was a spark as Salop went in search of a much-needed late leveller. He twice flew into the Fleetwood box, once on the inside and once outside, and put threatening balls into the box.
Amadi-Holloway was inches from towering in a late header to pull in level but ultimately the visitors didn’t create enough to warrant an equaliser on a dismal away day on the Fylde coast.
2 - Invisible marking from a corner as Ash Hunter swings in the delivery and Wes Burns’s powerful header is parried away by Joel Coleman.
11 - Hunter tests Coleman from just outside the box with a low strike that the keeper is just about equal to.
18 - Goal Fleetwood. Paddy Madden gets across the Salop defence to send in a textbook header in off the back stick from Hunter’s cross.
26 - Opening of sorts for John Askey’s men as Omar Beckles reaches the left byline. His cross is a good one and looks good for Shaun Whalley to pounce but Lewie Coyle defends it well.
28 - Goal Fleetwood. Burns dances through, gives a superb give-and-go with Madden before slotting in unmarked from 12 yards. Easy.
37 - Whalley goes closest yet for Town with a speculative 40 yard strike with Alex Cairns off his line. Not a bad effort, but he had no other options.
45+1 - Fejiri Okenabirhie fizzes a low cross along the six yard box but nobody is there.
58 - Shrewsbury goal. Josh Laurent slides in from a narrow angle on the right side of the penalty box. Whalley’s low cross found him and the midfielder finished well for his first Town goal.
73 - Hunter’s clever free-kick almost creeps in at the near post but Coleman tips it behind.
90 - What a save. Alex Cairns’ one-handed save denies Aaron Amadi-Holloway’s towering header from Whalley’s free-kick. Unlucky.
Fleetwood Town (4-4-2):
Cairns; Sheron, Eastham, Morgan ©, Coyle; Hunter, Taylor, J Wallace (Long, 41, Holt, 70)), R Wallace (Dempsey, 89); Burns, Madden.
Subs not used: Jones (gk), Dempsey, Bolger, Biggins, Rydel.
Shrewsbury Town (4-4-2):
Coleman; Emmanuel, Waterfall, Sadler ©, Beckles; Whalley, Norburn, Laurent (Angol, 90), Gilliead; John-Lewis (Docherty, 45), Okenabirhie (Amadi-Holloway, 45).
Subs not used: Arnold (gk), Haynes, Bolton, Barnett.
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Position in the table - 17th (12 points from 13 matches)
Star man - Shaun Whalley. Set up the goal but not vintage.