Accrington 1 Shrewsbury Town 1 - Report

Top scorer Shaun Whalley bagged his sixth goal of the season 13 minutes from time to rescue Shrewsbury Town a deserved point at in-form Accrington Stanley.

Town, under the guidance of Aaron Wilbraham and David Longwell with Steve Cotterill watching on from home, struck late to take a point from the Wham Stadium, where hosts Stanley dropped one place out of the play-off places to seventh.

Shrewsbury’s point kept them unbeaten in three, building on back-to-back victories with a welcome share of the spoils against one of the brighter and more impressive sides in League One in the swirling Lancashire wind.

Town edged a competitive first half but found themselves behind just after the break after home skipper Seamus Conneely punished Salop for poor defending from a free-kick with a thunderous volley from the edge of the area.

But it was former Stanley man Whalley in the right place at the right time late on, helping in a low Harry Chapman corner from close range with a clever finish to ensure the visitors were rewarded for their efforts in an energetic display in difficult conditions.

The point was about right, although Town looked the more likely pushing for a dramatic late winner, but given the hosts impressive recent form, Shrewsbury will be very pleased with a point away from Montgomery Waters Meadow.

The sides also shared a point in a 2-2 Meadow draw at the beginning of December, Cotterill's first league match in charge, and the progression in the couple of months since - considering a couple of difficult factors - was evident.

Cotterill’s men remain 17th in League One, and the gap to the drop zone is still nine points, again highlighting the importance of the late fightback and point secured through Whalley’s first goal since Boxing Day.

MK Dons, in 14th four points better off than Town, head to the Meadow on Tuesday night before Shrews visit relegation-threatened Bristol Rovers next weekend.

For Salop, the last 11 days had been packed with important time on the training pitch, after last weekend’s home fixture against Ipswich was frozen off at the 11th hour.

For the hosts, the story was a different one. John Coleman’s men embarked on a third game in six days, a week that had so far brought an impressive point at leaders Lincoln and an excellent victory at Doncaster on Wednesday.

Despite the short turnaround to Shrewsbury’s visit, the home boss resisted the temptation to shuffle his ranks and kept the same XI for the fourth game running. Stanley’s entire 18 was unchanged from the winning trip to the Keepmoat, which lifted them into the play-off places in sixth.

Star winger Sean McConville remained absent through suspension, while midfielder Joe Pritchard missed out through injury.

Town, unsurprisingly, were also unchanged from their last outing, the victory against Sunderland a week-and-a-half ago, as they went in search of a third straight league win for the second time in Cotterill’s short tenure.

Shrewsbury’s 18-man squad was also the same, with Josh Daniels preferred to Ryan Sears as the substitute right wing-back option.

Leon Clarke did not travel with the Town squad, as it was this week revealed the veteren striker has not been included in Shrewsbury’s maximum 22-man EFL registered squad for league action.

Conditions were windy on a mild afternoon in Lancashire. The Wham Stadium pitch had taken a bit of a battering through heavy rain in recent days. The surface was in good shape, if a little cut up on the flanks.

It was apparent even in the warm ups that high clearances, aided by the wind and big bounces, would play a part in what promised to be a 50-50, second ball type of contest.

The first five minutes played to that theme, with a long clearance immediately running through to Matija Sarkic.

To collect anything from Accrington generally requires matching the hosts in terms of attitude, commitment and graft.

And the signs were good for Cotterill’s visitors in the early exchanges. Town worked a corner shortly and Josh Vela sold his marker with a delightful touch before thrashing well over from 25 yards.

Despite difficult conditions, Shrewsbury moved the ball well and were keen to keep it on the deck, working between Vela, Ollie Norburn and Sean Goss, in trying to get former Stanley man Whalley and Chapman in support of Curtis Main.

Town worked a big opening in the eighth minute, albeit one that came from Stanley losing the ball playing it out from the back.

The ball was worked to Chapman, on the inside left inside the penalty area, and the on-form loan star opened his body out but his low strike was well blocked by recovering Accrington defenders.

The chance wasn’t over, however, as the ball ricocheted out to Vela on the edge of the box and the midfielder’s crisply-struck follow-up was flying high into the net until Nathan Baxter stuck out a strong right hand.

Salop looked up for the contest, their pressing out of possession was effective, and they moved the ball well in midfield and forward areas.

Stanley played their part in a tight contest between two good sides, however. A deep corner saw Dion Charles power a header ahead of Ro-Shaun Williams back into a mire of bodies in the Town box. Left-back Cameron Burgess swivelled and fired a rising strike goalwards that would have stretched Sarkic were it not for Main’s fine block - the new forward signing proving adept at the other end.

While Chapman’s touches and use of the ball on the left were an obvious threat throughout, the overlap of Whalley and Donald Love down the right proved a menace to the hosts. Chapman fired well over just after a Whalley cross missed Main.

Shrewsbury looked confident in possession and were at their best when moving the ball sharply on the deck, while high balls - aided by the wind - appeared to be Stanley’s best route to the Shrews goal.

That confidence on the ball was best summed up when the busy Goss nipped in front of his midfield marker and had a go at goal from 50 yards, spotting Baxter off his line, but the ambitious effort drifted wide.

Salop were knitting excellent moves together, one move began with Nathanael Ogbeta and Ethan Ebanks-Landell in defence and ended with lively left-back Ogbeta nipping past his defender and firing wide via a deflection.

Stanley were willing runners in forward areas, through Charles and Colby Bishop, but got little change out of Ebanks-Landell and Williams in the first period.

One time the visitors were stretched came from an Accrington counter, as a ball down the left flank that almost dropped out of play was misjudged slightly by Vela and all of a sudden Paul Smyth - Stanley’s match-winner at Doncaster - was closing in on Sarkic’s goal from a tight left angle.

Fortunately for Shrewsbury, Williams had made an excellent recovery run to put in a superb block on Smyth’s goalbound effort.

Another sharp Shrewsbury move forward saw Ogbeta release Chapman down the left and only an excellent recovery challenge from Ben Barclay kept Town’s man out.

Accrington’s frustrations at the end of the first period were perhaps typified by skipperConneely and Barclay being booked in quick succession for clear fouls on Goss and Main.

The visitors would arguably have been the happier in the half-time dressing rooms, with Cotterill delivering his team talk from his home in Bristol.

But, barely 90 seconds into the restart, Cotterill’s side found themselves behind.

Williams committed a foul on the right side of Town’s defence. Matt Butcher’s delivery from near the left corner flag was never convincingly dealt with.

Sarkic’s first punch was suitable, the ball was looped back into a crowded area and Sarkic’s follow-up clearance, under more pressure, was not as good. A series of head tennis ensured, with clearance from Love was unconvincing, yet there appeared little danger when the ball dropped to Conneely 20 yards out.

The Stanley captain certainly delivered, thrashing in a fine volley, purely struck on his laces, that whistled past Sarkic’s right, beyond the unmoved goalkeeper before he could even blink. Conneely’s first goal in a year was worth the wait from an Accrington persuasion.

From Shrewbsury’s point of view, despite the fine strike, it was a poor goal to concede, numerous attempted clearances from the dead ball were not sufficient.

Salop attempted to rally from a disappointing start to the second half. A Goss free-kick from deep on the right touchline almost caught out Baxter but was wide at the front post.

Town attempted to stay on the front foot, Main, Chapman and Whalley combined well and almost released Love into the box but Baxter was sharp.

Shrewsbury fell off the pace a little around the hour mark as Stanley threatened on a couple of occasions to put the contest to bed.

Butcher’s deflected strike off Williams dropped just over the crossbar.

Salop, with Wilbraham taking advice from Cotterill over the telephone, readied a double change with Daniel Udoh and Dave Edwards surprisingly introduced for Main and Norburn midway through the second period.

The change of personnel and slight change in system sparked some new life into the visitors. A nice reverse pass from Whalley almost released Chapman in the box but Stanley saw it out for a corner.

The danger wasn’t over, and a dead ball again proved the difference as Town hauled level with an important equaliser.

Chapman’s low delivery from the left looked underwhelming initially, but Edwards’ movement and attempted flick at the near post caused confusion and the next flick was very deliberate and definite, as Whalley cleverly dinked a flicked finish around his marker and into the empty net from inside the six yard box for his sixth of the season.

Town were decent value for their equaliser and, as the game entered its final 10 minutes, looked the side with their tails up in search of a winner.

It felt like either side would be content with a point, despite Stanley dropping one place down to seventh. The urgency was still there from both sets of players, but the concern at conceding a crucial second probably outweighed the efforts for a winner.

Shrewsbury looked the more likely, with a couple of balls into the box in added time, but Stanley stood firm. The very watchable game remained stretched until the end, but neither side were able to force a winner as the points were fairly shared on a day Salop will happily take their point back down to Shropshire.

Teams

Accrington Stanley (4-4-3):

Baxter; Nottingham, Hughes, Barclay, Burgess; Conneely ©, Butche (Russell, 85)r, Phillips; Smyth (Morgan, 45), Charles, Bishop.

Subs not used: Savin, Maguire, Uwakwe, Rodgers, Scully.

Shrewsbury Town (4-3-3):

Sarkic; Love, Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Ogbeta; Vela, Norburn © (Udoh, 69), Goss (Davis, 88); Chapman, Main (Edwards, 69), Whalley.

Subs not used: Burgoyne, Golbourne, Pyke, Daniels.

Referee: Alan Young

Attendance: Zero

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