Shrewsbury Town 2 Mansfield 0 - Report and pictures
Josh Laurent’s love-in with the FA Cup continued as the midfielder kick-started 10-man Shrewsbury Town’s late flurry to book a ticket to the third round.
The Salop midfielder was the best player on the pitch in the home tie against League Two Mansfield Town and grabbed an 88th-minute opener for Sam Ricketts’ side with a close-range finish.
Town had been a man down since Ollie Norburn’s straight red on the hour but deserved to progress to the third round of the competition for a fifth time in 10 years.
Substitute Brad Walker put the gloss on things with a cool late added time finish after great work from fellow sub Daniel Udoh.
For in-form Laurent it was a fourth goal in five games and a four goal in the competition for Shrewsbury - for whom he has scored just eight goals in total.
Shrews huffed and puffed and were narrowly the better side for large parts and went close through Dave Edwards and Donald Love.
Norburn’s dismissal, which was shrouded in confusion after a scrambled incident in midfield where a Stags man was sent to the floor, could have put the hosts on the back foot and the Montgomery Waters Meadow tie looked destined for a Field Mill replay before Town struck in the 88th and 95th minute.
All eyes now turn to Monday evening’s third round draw, where everyone of a Shrewsbury persuasion will either hope for a plum tie or the opportunity to progress further in the competition after last season’s run to the fourth round.
Ricketts brought back Max O’Leary and Ethan Ebanks-Landell to the side after Town’s uncharacteristically sloppy 4-3 defeat to Bristol Rovers.
Striker Fejiri Okenabirhie was the other change for the hosts, starting for the first time not including the EFL Trophy since October 18 at Lincoln.
Out went Joe Murphy and Omar Beckles, both guilty of individual errors against the Pirates, as Town bid for a return to their usual resilient selves.
Sean Goss and Udoh made their return from injuries to take a place on Town’s bench.
Shrewsbury had made the third round of the famous old competition four times in nine attempts this decade and, after getting beyond Bradford in two round one attempts, were looking for a fifth.
Their next League Two test, Mansfield, looked on paper an easier proposition than promotion-chasing Bradford.
The Stags have underperformed this term. Fifteenth in League Two, they are 25 positions below Shrewsbury in the pyramid but home boss Ricketts knew - as the visitors reached the play-offs last season - they possessed enough quality to hurt Shrews.
A watchable game broke out in the bitterly cold Meadow conditions with both outfits matching each other up in a 3-5-2 system. Ricketts switching from the 3-4-3 he has recently used, meaning Okenabirhie partnered Cummings up front, with Edwards just behind in an advanced midfield role.
Town’s energy was apparent from the opening stages. The intensity and high pressing from both forwards meant Mansfield’s defence could not rest while midfielders Norburn, Laurent and Edwards were first to almost everything in the middle of the park.
Norburn and in particular Laurent, who has managed a handful of goals in recent weeks, looked high on confidence while Edwards was picking up dangerous positions.
Edwards was fractions from converting a fine left-footed Love delivery early on.
Norburn and Laurent’s use of the ball was causing the visitors problems.
John Dempster’s visitors did have some speedy customers as lively left winger CJ Hamilton flew past the pacy Ro-Shaun Williams, but his low cross was expertly cut out by Aaron Pierre.
Away keeper Conrad Logan made a stunning recovery save to claw off the line after Edwards and then Pierre had sent a Norburn corner goalwards.
Cummings’ 25-yard free-kick was on target but comfortable for Logan before Norburn picked out Laurent with a sumptuous pass. Laurent saw off two defenders before seeing his effort blocked.
Mansfield looked capable in patches. Midfielder Jacob Mellis’ deep cross picked out ex-Walsall striker Andy Cook’s smart run at the back post but his header across goal was easy for O’Leary.
Shrewsbury were busy and clearly in the mood to get going whenever there was a break in play. Norburn summed up the mood with a genius quick free-kick lifted long towards the advanced Love on the right side of Mansfield’s box. Love only had to slide it left for a Cummings tap-in but the pass was too heavy.
At other times Town were studious and patient while coming forward with the ball. They looked a side very capable of linking play and getting into good forward positions, but on more than one occasion Shrews’ final ball let them down.
Fans grew a little tired at times as simple, sloppy passes flew astray. Edwards attempted to get his side going on the break with a neat ball through to Okenabirhie but the striker’s fierce near-post drive was straight at Logan.
Mansfield showed signs of life and 10 minutes into the second period should’ve led.
Experienced frontman Nicky Maynard burst down the right before sending a low cross towards the back post where Cook was lingering.
Cook got his connection from four yards all wrong and mishit a left-footed finish before the recovering got an important block in to send the ball behind.
Williams then launched his frustration at his defensive colleagues for allowing the ball to reach that position.
Former Telford striker Udoh was ready for his return from the bench just shy of the hour mark before Town’s numerical disadvantage kicked in.
Skipper Norburn had taken a couple of knocks in the half and looked all set to be replaced.
But he was shown a straight red by referee Andy Haines after a coming together in midfield that left a visiting shirt on the deck.
Ricketts decided against bringing Udoh on and instead brought Goss on for Cummings.
Shrewsbury, to their credit, picked up the pace with 10 men and worked into some good position, again failing in the final instance.
Laurent continued to impress, leading the charge from midfield, with Edwards also impressing in blue and amber.
The in-form Laurent combined well with Okenabirhie but Shrews struggled to create clear openings.
The Shrewsbury supporters remained with their side as they pushed for a winner despite finding themselves a man down.
A huge chance fell the way of the hosts with 13 minutes remaining. Town were patient down the left before a familiar Pierre charge into the left side of the opposition box caused havoc.
The defender typically kept a cool head and his expert low cross towards the edge of the box was perfect for Love, who arrived right on time to direct his first-time finish inches wide of the left post.
Ricketts was left with his head in his hands after what looked like the chance.
Mansfield had been extremely poor with their man advantage and barely deserved to leave the Meadow with a replay.
But the late flurry was launched by more superb Laurent play. The midfielder charge forward, played into sub Udoh, just on, and latched on to the loose ball after Udoh’s shot was blocked to convert easily.
And with Mansfield committing for an equaliser deep in stoppage time Udoh’s fresh legs caused carnage and downed the Stags. He rounded his marker on halfway before charging forward past another defence and playing in fellow sub Walker to round Logan and finish with aplomb.
A largely forgettable tie was capped with a memorable ending as Laurent proves himself as Shrewsbury’s man of the moment and FA Cup hero yet again.
Shrewsbury Town (3-4-3):
O’Leary; Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre; Love, Norburn ©, Laurent, Golbourne; Edwards (Walker, 86), Cummings (Goss, 62), Okenabirhie (Udoh, 86).
Subs not used: Murphy (gk), Beckles, Giles, John-Lewis.
Mansfield Town (3-5-2):
Logan; Sweeney, Pearce © (Benning, 80), Preston; Hamilton, Mellis, Smith (Sterling-James, 80), Gordon, Shaughnessy; Maynard, Cook.
Subs not used: Olejnik (gk), Bishop, MacDonald, Khan, Knowles.
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: 3,678 (465 Mansfield fans)