Ipswich Town 2 Shrewsbury Town 1 - Report

Shrewsbury Town lost a third League One game on the spin as an eighth defeat in 12 games by way of a 2-1 Ipswich reverse leaves them further in the mire.

Conor Chaplin of Ipswich Town and Aaron Pierre of Shrewsbury Town. (AMA)
Conor Chaplin of Ipswich Town and Aaron Pierre of Shrewsbury Town. (AMA)

Steve Cotterill’s men were once again made to pay for more extremely poor defending as Tractor Boys’ top scorer Macauley Bonne headed in the winner from a corner nine minutes into the second half.

A Shaun Whalley thunderbolt, his first goal of the season, had dragged Shrewsbury level going into half-time after Conor Chaplin’s 23rd-minute opener.

The visitors ended the first period on top but were unable to get going after the break, when familiarly slack defending handed Ipswich the lead again. Salop, backed by 200 away fans, could not recover.

The result means Shrewsbury are still to win on the road this season. Brief recovery a few weeks ago in the form of one defeat in five has ebbed away with Town now staring down three defeats on the bounce.

They were unable to take advantage of playing during another international break, with games off elsewhere. Cotterill’s men remain 23rd, two points adrift of safety, but some rivals have two games on them.

Town’s position in the table after 12 games is, understandably, a cause for extreme concern and frustration among supporters.

A late flashpoint saw the visitors denied a penalty when Luke Leahy’s heels appeared to be clipped, from which Town’s staff showed frustration at full-time, but that aside Shrews did not do nearly enough to trouble Ipswich’s lead in the second half.

Cotterill named an unchanged line-up from the Town side that went down 2-1 at Bolton in League One last weekend.

The manager had mixed it up with youth and fringe players in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy win, but stuck with recent familiar faces for league action.

Shaun Whalley of Shrewsbury Town scores a goal to make it 1-1. (AMA)

Town were without midfielder Josh Vela (knee), who the boss revealed would miss another two weeks with a medial ligament injury. Josh Daniels (ankle) was also missing from the 18.

The one notable piece of Shrewsbury team news was the identity of their captain.

Elliott Bennett was named as skipper and led the side out at Portman Road following family tragedy this week.

Town’s right wing-back, who is vice-captain to Ethan Ebanks-Landell, lost his father Paul to cancer aged 59 on Wednesday.

There were some question marks about whether the former Norwich man would travel to Suffolk and be involved from the off, but Cotterill made the decision to hand Bennett on a poignant weekend for the family.

Daniel Udoh and Ryan Bowman, who missed a crucial penalty at Bolton in the 2-1 defeat, continued to lead the line.

Paul Cook’s hosts were without loan star Bersant Celina, who is away on international duty with Kosovo.

There was expectation in the air ahead of kick-off at Portman Road. Despite the home side’s lowly position of 19th, they had thumped basement boys Doncaster 6-0 last time out on home turf.

Ipswich’s recruitment caught the eye in the summer and the depth of talent available - certainly on paper - were that of a club with aims of returning to the Championship.

Shrewsbury’s poor away form this term, coupled with factors including £27 ticket pricing for adults and strict Covid stipulations for entrants, meant just a small following from Shropshire at Portman Road.

Home goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky, who is covering for the injured Christian Walton, got away with a ropey clearance from outside his penalty area less than a minute in. Fortunately for the hosts the ball didn’t drop to a pink and black shirt.

But it became apparent just minutes in that Ipswich would be tasked with breaking Shrewsbury down. Cook’s men monopolised possession as the visitors dropped into a flat back five and midfield three.

Shaun Whalley of Shrewsbury Town celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-1. (AMA)

Skipper Sam Morsy won a free-kick with a good drive which was arrowed wide of the far post by Lee Evans.

The home fans celebrated eight minutes in as eight-goal top scorer Macauley Bonne tapped a low Wes Burns cross into the gaping net but was immediately flagged offside.

Burns then almost turned creator to finisher as he headed Scott Fraser’s free-kick into the side netting at the back post.

The home side were in almost complete control and left-back Matt Penney was just off target with a screamer which flew wide of the far post from all of 30 yards.

Shrewsbury’s first foray forward of note was a decent one, as Udoh held the ball up well before Whalley crossed for the unmarked Bowman whose looped header was easily snatched by the back-tracking Hladky.

Early pressure told by the mid-point of the first half as Ipswich worked a deserved lead.

Penney’s cross from the left was met by Bonne, who easily out-jumped Aaron Pierre to head goalwards. Marko Marosi made an excellent one-handed save to his right, but Shrewsbury were slow to react and Chaplin - who had come in for Celina - wasn’t. Chaplin pounced to rifle home the rebound.

With it went Shrews’ bid for a first clean sheet of the season as they fell behind for a 15th time in 16 games this season.

The visitors needed to respond and tweak their compact approach of sitting in. And they did just that.

Almost out of nowhere, five minutes later, Shrewsbury were level and in some style.

Whalley, who last week made his 200th league appearance for Town, lit up Portman Road with a thing of beauty.

Some typically tigerish play from Whalley, who was again operating in central midfield, to shrug off an Ipswich challenger and win the ball back outside the hosts’ box.

What came next was a moment of magic. With scarcely any backlift, Whalley dispatched a rocket with his supposed weaker left foot that arrowed into Hladky’s top right corner, which gave the helpless goalkeeper no chance.

Whalley tore off with his customary ‘J’ celebration, for his son Jude, in front of the pocket of Shrews fans. It was some way to get off the mark and ensure he has now scored in each of his seven Town seasons.

The stuffing was knocked out of the hosts and it could’ve got even better for Cotterill’s men just a couple of minutes later.

Bowman should have made it 2-1 to Salop as he turned over from close range following a low cross from the left from forward colleague Udoh.

It was almost Bowman’s last involvement. The striker was forced off 10 minutes before the break holding his midriff after an apparent innocuous collision around halfway. He was replaced by Sam Cosgrove.

All the fizz and momentum Ipswich gathered early on had deflated out of their play. The home crowd had turned anxious and irritable as Shrewsbury ended the first period with more of the ball and the most likely side to create further chances.

Ipswich legend John Wark, on the mic at half-time, admitted the Tractor Boys’ first half struggles mirrored their failings of the season as a whole.

Dan Udoh of Shrewsbury Town and Cameron Burgess of Ipswich Town. (AMA)

The first period had played out not dissimilar to Town’s recent 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday. That day the Owls showed little in the second period to worry Cotterill’s visitors. Were Ipswich to improve on their lowly position they needed to replicate their form of the opening 20 minutes.

Shrewsbury, however, were keen to start the second period how they finished the first.

It did not play out that way. Ipswich quickly asserted their dominance on the second half.

The hosts were menacing in and around the Shrewsbury area, without quite getting the final ball right, Burns in particular proved a tricky customer for George Nurse. Salop had no outball, as the home side continued to ask questions.

A chance did arrive, though, out of nothing nine minutes after the interval. And once again it was a set-piece failing on Shrewsbury’s part.

A corner from the right, which Town players appeared to argue was awarded contentiously, was swung in and met by towering top scorer Bonne at the front post, unmarked to glance a fine effort over Marosi and into the far corner.

It was an excellent header but another terrible goal for the visitors to concede. Cotterill’s men have conceded directly from a set-piece in a good handful of games this term.

They required another response and one did not come. Ipswich smartly managed the second period, as Cook implored they calm things down from his technical area.

The following 10 or 15 minutes passed almost without incident, either a sign of the Tractor Boys’ game management or a satisfaction at not going for anymore. Either way there had not been enough thrust in Shrewsbury’s strike back.

It was the home side who came closest to troubling the scoreboard again as busy left-back Penney drilled a low cross-shot agonizingly across goal, with the sliding Bonne unable to convert.

Cotterill made two changes with 16 minutes of regular time remaining. He turned to youth and sent on Nathanael Ogbeta and Tom Bloxham for the seemingly hobbling Pierre and Udoh.

A flashpoint arrived in one of Shrewsbury's only real charges into Ipswich territory of the second half.

With 13 minutes left, Bloxham nipped in ahead of a defender in Ipswich’s half to send Luke Leahy racing clear of the backline and into the hosts’ penalty area.

With just the keeper to beat on his weaker right side, the wing-back - who was again playing in midfield - dropped to the deck.

A challenge wasn’t obvious, but it was clear from Shrewsbury players’ responses, and that of Cotterill and his staff in the dugout, that Leahy was impeded. Replays showed a clear clip of the heels. Cotterill hopped on to the pitch demanding a decision from the fourth official.

It appeared that big decision was the moment Shrewsbury were looking for, as Cotterill’s men struggled to fashion any other opening in the final 10 minutes. The visitors had not done nearly enough to trouble the Ipswich goal in the second half and thus were left empty-handed again.

Teams

Ipswich Town (4-2-3-1):

Hladky; Donacien, Edmundson, Burgess, Penney (Nsiala, 81); Morsy ©, Evans; Burns (Edwards, 73), Fraser, Chaplin; Bonne (Pigott, 89).

Subs not used: Holy, El Mizouni, Harper, Aluko.

Shrewsbury Town (3-5-2):

Marosi; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre (Ogbeta, 74); Bennett (c), Davis, Whalley, Leahy, Nurse; Bowman (Cosgrove, 35), Udoh (Bloxham, 74).

Subs not used: Burgoyne, Leshabela, Caton, Pyke.

Attendance: 19,256 (202 Shrewsbury fans)

Referee: Will Finnie

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