Three second half goals prove decisive at Lilleshall...THREE second half goals proved to be the difference as John Ward’s Walsall side suffered a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury Town.
The two teams went in at the break with the score line level at 2-2 but defensive errors in the second period gifted the visitors the victory.
The Saddlers, guided by John Ward and Jon Whitney, fielded a strong line-up with Rico Henry, Tom Bradshaw and Sam Mantom all given starting berths.
Shrewsbury Town named Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Tyrone Bennett and Matt Tootle in their starting eleven in what turned out to be a competitive fixture. It took just three minutes for Reece Flanagan to register the first shot of the game.
His initial effort from the edge of the box was blocked but quickly had a second bite of the cherry, narrowly dragging his shot wide. Despite Flanagan’s efforts on goal, it was the visitors who settled into the game the quicker of the two teams and it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken.
Following a floated cross from the right, Liam Roberts couldn’t grow enough to reach the ball, Akpa Akpro headed back across goal for Tyrone Barnett to tap into an empty net.
It was a frustrating opening period for the Saddlers but Ward’s men were soon back on level terms thanks to the classy Reece Flanagan.
Jordan Murphy found Tom Bradshaw with his back to goal on the edge of the box.
The prolific frontman unselfishly set the ball up for Reece Flanagan whose first time side foot beat the keeper down low to his right.
Baxendale’s trademark lob was a yard over the bar and it now looked like the Saddlers would impose themselves on the game.
But on the half hour mark it was the Shropshire side who got their noses in front for the second time in the game thanks to a well directed Micky Demetriou header.
Both sides threatened to score at will and this time Bradshaw, the provider of the first, who drew the Saddlers level once again. The 23-year old made a darting run to the front post and when the ball was delivered perfectly from the right, the number 9 was on hand to stroke the ball home.
HALF TIME: Walsall 2-2 Shrewsbury Town
A triple substitution at the break saw Rico Henry, Sam Mantom and Tom Bradshaw replaced by Kory Roberts, Maz Kouhyar and Levi Rowley.
The visitors again started the half on top, Akpa Akpro latched on to a long ball down the channel but saw his attempted chip drift wide of the upright.
Kouhyar got in on the action for the Saddlers, providing a delightful slide-rule pass for Amadou Bakayoko, but the tall forward was flagged offside.
No such flag appeared down the other end as Shrewsbury were fired ahead through Tyrone Barnett. The former Rushall Olympic and AFC Teford striker ran across the 18-yard box before drilling a low effort into the bottom corner past the despairing Liam Roberts.
There was no shortage of endeavour from the young Saddlers but in an attempt to draw level for a third time, found themselves vulnerable at the back.
The experienced Akpa Akpro skipped past Kory Roberts at the touchline and after powering towards goal, lifted a shot into the top corner to give the Shrews some breathing space.
A fifth goal was added late on when Callum Grogan lost his marker in the box and headed goal wards.
Kory Roberts’s best efforts to clear were in vain when the linesman ruled the ball crossed the line.
FULL TIME: Walsall 2-5 Shrewsbury Town
Starting XI: L.Roberts, Kinsella, Henry (‘45 K.Roberts), Flanagan, Preston, K. Rowley, Murphy, Mantom (’45 Kouhyar), Bradshaw (’45 L.Rowley), Bakayoko, Baxendale
Unused Subs: Caswell, Oliver