Shrewsbury Town are forced to settle for a Boxing Day point as they take a share of the spoils at the DW Stadium.
Shrewsbury Town were heading into this context on the back of three victories on the road. Not since the early 1990’s had Town won four consecutive away games, but that was the feat Steve Cotterill was looking to achieve against the 2013 FA Cup winners.
The first half was a drab affair, but it did liven up in the second period. Former Manchester United striker Will Keane gave the hosts the lead just after the interval. With approximately 25 minutes to go, Shaun Whalley drew the visitor’s level. Despite plenty of probing, Town’s six year wait for a Boxing Day victory goes on.
Steve Cotterill made two changes from the side that beat Doncaster 1-0 in midweek. Czech midfielder Jan Zamburek started for the first time under the new managerial regime, whilst Leon Clarke was also drafted into the eleven. Dave Edwards and Dan Udoh dropped to the bench.
Shrewsbury started the match brightly winning an early succession of corners. The atrocious state of the pitch may have contributed in Leon Clarke spurning an early opportunity. Charlie Daniels found Clarke completely unmarked inside the area, but the former Wigan loanee struggled for composure with the bobbly surface and ballooned his effort over.
The home side’s current situation – in the bottom four of the third tier, is partly down to a max exodus of players owing to their financial predicament. Managed by Leam Richardson on a caretaker basis, it’s a far cry from the Wigan side that finished as high as 10th in the Premier League. Their first attacking foray could only be considered a half chance. Matija Sarkic fumbled a cross with Will Keane looking to profit, but the Montenegrin managed to claim at the second attempt.
At the other end, Ollie Norburn clipped a pass into Matt Millar. The Aussie was denied by a last-ditch block from former AFC Telford defender Curtis Tilt. Both sides struggled to test their respective opposing goalkeepers, but Wigan did have strong calls for a penalty turned down. Leon Clarke appeared to barge into the back of Tom Pearce, but the referee waved play on.
The final opportunity of an uninspiring first period fell to Town. Aaron Pierre picked out Shaun Whalley and the winger’s low effort was spilled by ex-Preston keeper Jamie Jones – Wigan eventually cleared their lines.
The home side made the perfect start to the second half. Ro Shaun-Williams tugged back Matty Palmer who had advanced into the area. The referee awarded a penalty which was dispatched into the right-hand side of the goal by Keane, despite Sarkic going the right way.
Town were looking for a rapid reaction to going behind. Leon Clarke guided Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s cross into the path of Matt Millar. His shot was pushed behind for a corner by Jones.
Wigan seemed content in keeping men behind the ball and looking to counter. A rare shot from Kai Naismith bounced up at Sarkic who eventually managed to gather.
In the 66th minute, Shrewsbury located the equaliser. Jan Zamburek threaded an accurate through ball into Shaun Whalley whose sharp turn had Leicester loanee Darnell Johnson going in the opposite direction. Whalley then curled a fine effort beyond the stranded Jamie Jones.
Town had the bit between their teeth and began to attack with more urgency. Williams’ fierce delivery was nodded wide by Leon Clarke who probably should have hit the target.
Shrewsbury were fortunate that Naismith’s radar was askew. Zamburek gave away possession cheaply and the ball eventually found the ex-Rangers man out wide – his shot was dragged comfortably off target. Then, Town were snapping into challenges, but the ball fortuitously fell to Will Keane. His drilled effort across the face of goal cleared the area.
The visitors were calling for a penalty of their own when Matt Millar tangled with Tom Pearce – but the referee waved away any protestations.
Wigan had the final chance of the game. Johnson initially slipped but recovered well to find substitute Thelo Aasgaard. The Norwegian was denied by a heroic block from Aaron Pierre, with both sides sharing a point apiece.
Shrewsbury welcome Blackpool on Tuesday, whilst Wigan face relegation rivals Burton Albion.
Team Line Ups
1. Jones, 27. James, 6. Johnson, 4. Tilt, 3. Pearce, 12. Palmer (69), 23. Merrie, 24. Perry, 15. Gardner (87), 7. Naismith (77), 10. Keane
Subs: 19. Crankshaw, 20. Obi, 22. Joseph (77), 25. Evans, 30. Aasgaard (87), 32. Long (69), 36 Smith
Subs Not Used: 19. Crankshaw, 20. Obi, 25. Evans, 36. Smith
31. Sarkic, 5. Williams, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 2. Pierre, 14. Millar, 8. Norburn, 10. Vela, 15. C. Daniels, 13. Zamburek (90), 7. Whalley, 11. Clarke (77)
Subs: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 4. Edwards, 20. Tracey (90), 23. Udoh (77), 27. Pugh, 35. Cummings
Subs Not Used: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 4. Edwards, 27. Pugh, 35. Cummings
Other League One Results
Charlton 2 – 2 Plymouth
Crewe 1 – 1 Fleetwood
Lincoln 5 – 1 Burton
MK Dons 2 – 0 Bristol Rovers
Oxford 2 – 0 AFC Wimbledon