Burton 2 Shrewsbury 1: Report and pictures
Burton Albion ruined the script for Sam Ricketts’ first league game in charge of Shrewsbury Town by punishing defensive errors for a 2-1 victory, writes Lewis Cox at the Pirelli Stadium.
Fejiri Okenabirhie’s late strike was not enough on a gloomy afternoon in Staffordshire as goals either side of the break put the Brewers in control.
The hosts netted three minutes in via a freak goal, as a Steve Arnold clearance rebounded off Liam Boyce and into the net.
Burton’s bright start wore off and Town were the better side after the half hour point in horrible conditions but did not create enough for their dominance on the ball.
Nigel Clough’s hosts put the game to bed 10 minutes from time as Town were again unable to clear and Scott Fraser finished.
Town’s run of six wins from seven games in all competitions came to an end and they fell two places to 17th in the compact League One standings.
For his first game in charge of a League One club, Ricketts was boosted by the return of midfielder Ollie Norburn, who had missed the previous two games with a knee injury.
Norburn’s return for winger Alex Gilliead meant the Town XI, consisting of a 4-4-2 midfield diamond system, was the same used in the majority of Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsay’s successful interim period.
Town were followed by a vibrant away following at the Pirelli Stadium. Buoyant Salop fans, thriving on Shrewsbury’s form of six wins from seven, have been encouraged by the early comments from their new boss.
Shrewsbury were playing their sixth game in a hectic 18 day period, while for Burton it was a first after a 10-day break due to their FA Cup exit.
But, after making 11 changes for the midweek Checkatrade Trophy success over Walsall, there could be no excuse of tiredness.
Burton had club stalwart Lucas Akins, a forward by trade, at right-back. The versatile star - making his 200th Brewers appearance - has played in every position bar goalkeeper this term.
The away end was rocking despite the lashing rain ahead of kick-off but Town were left shell-shocked after barely 120 seconds.
Dangerman Boyce, who had been on a reasonably barren run by his standards, accepted a gift in front of goal.
Visiting skipper Mat Sadler was not aware of Boyce behind him and a backpass to Arnold resulted in the Town keeper booting a clearance off the Northern Ireland striker and into the net.
It was just the top scorer’s second goal in 13 games for club and country and left Ricketts’ side requiring a comeback if they were going to take anything from his League One bow.
It was the first time Shrewsbury had conceded first in any match in 10 games since November 3.
The hosts were lively in the opening stages, particularly down the right, and good value for their lead. Jamie Allen and Stephen Quinn had further efforts from half-cleared corners fly over.
Shrewsbury had their moments, the best of which fell to Josh Laurent, who latched on to a clever Aaron Amadi-Holloway pass but his angled shot was well kept out by keeper Bradley Collins.
But there was no question which side were on top for the opening half hour as Nigel Clough’s men looked drilled to the man both with and without the ball.
The Brewers were out-running Town and were extremely slick on the ball, as several one-touch moves troubled the visitors. Salop were fortunate to survive another Sadler, Arnold and Luke Waterfall mix-up as Boyce found the side netting.
Ricketts’ men found their way as the half went on and starting putting together moves of their own in keeping with their displays over the last month.
But a final touch was lacking after some impressive bits of play from Norburn and Laurent in the final third.
Referee Ben Toner waved away what looked a strong penalty appeal for a push on Laurent after a neat move - a decision that left Ricketts perplexed.
Rain eased for the second half but conditions were still with Ricketts’ side as swirling wind blew against the Brewers.
Town had more of a spring in their stride in the second period but several moments of promise petered out as Burton bodies were flung between Shrewsbury and the hosts’ goal.
The hard-working Okenabirhie had another sighter but Kyle McFadzean’s brave block both did the job and injured the defender, ending his afternoon.
Amadi-Holloway helped a difficult volley over the top but would have been denied by the assistant’s flag.
Shrewsbury’s following increased in volume as the boisterous away end sensed an equaliser with the blue and amber men in the ascendancy.
There was a clear ploy from the visitors to look for the powerful Amadi-Holloway, who used his size superbly all afternoon. Several flick ons almost dropped for Okenabirhie on goal but the skidding surface made life more difficult for Shrews.
Burton had barely set foot in the Shrewsbury half in a one-sided second half but Ricketts would have been looking for more attempts on goal from his side.
He sent on Shaun Whalley and Alex Gilliead with 13 minutes remaining as Town looked for some joy down the wings.
It was clear the fixture would rest on whether Salop could find an equaliser or if plucky Burton could stand firm.
Or so it looked - before Clough’s men ripped up Ricketts’ script.
Burton gave a lesson in how to find the net with barely their first effort on goal of the second period.
Sub Marcus Harness put in a superb low cross from the right that Town could not deal with. The Brewers recycled the move and, after a poor shanked Shrewsbury clearance, Fraser drilled a left-footed finish into the corner via the post.
The difference between the sides were defensive errors and Burton punishing those shortcomings.
Not a lot had dropped for Okenabirhie all match but he was rewarded for his perseverance deep into seven minutes added time as he finished well from a Lenell John-Lewis flick on.
The response came too late for the visitors who could not muster another attempt on goal.
It was not the start Ricketts was after but his side did compete with a tidy Burton outfit, who showed their quality in fits and starts.
Shrews gave up two places in the League One standings to 17th and, as as intense period came to a close, they now have a free week to regroup ahead of back-to-back home games before Christmas.
3 - Goal Burton. A freak goal as Mat Sadler’s backpass interests Liam Boyce and Steve Arnold’s clearance smacks off the striker and rebounds into the empty net.
7 - Chance for a quick leveller for Salop as Aaron Amadi-Holloway plays in Josh Laurent but the finish from a tight right angle is saved by Bradley Collins.
22 - Sadler loses his footing and Boyce is quicker than Luke Waterfall. With Arnold caught out of his goal the forward fires into the side netting from an almost impossible angle.
32 - Fejiri Okenabirhie latches on to a high ball on the right side of the box but his low finish is straight at Collins.
35 - Strong Shrewsbury penalty appeal but referee Ben Toner is unmoved after Laurent is pushed inside the box.
77 - Goal Burton Town can’t clear a couple of balls into their box and Scott Fraser rammed in a super finish off the far post.
90+5 - Goal Town Okenabirhie gets one back for Town with a neat finish inside the box with seconds remaining.
Burton Albion (4-3-3):
Collins; Akins, Brayford, McFadzean (Burton, 56), Hutchinson; Allen, Fraser, Quinn; Hesketh (Harness, 71), Miller (Turner, 62), Boyce.
Subs not used: Bywater (gk), Sbarra, McCrory, Cole.
Shrewsbury Town (4-4-2 diamond):
Arnold; Bolton, Waterfall, Sadler ©, Beckles; Grant, Docherty (Whalley, 77), Norburn, Laurent (Gilliead, 77); Amadi-Holloway (John-Lewis, 82), Okenabirhie.
Subs not used: Coleman (gk), Emmanuel, Sears, Colkett, Gilliead.
Referee: Ben Toner
Position in the table - 17th (24 points from 21 games)
Man of the match - Aaron Amadi-Holloway. Won everything well.