Adam Reach’s second half finish gave Shrewsbury Town a 1-0 victory over Notts County. In an even and entertaining encounter at Greenhous Meadow, Notts created a number of good chances but Shrewsbury showed the greater cutting edge in front of goal to take maximum points.
There were two changes from the Magpies side that impressed against Sky Bet League 1 leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers seven days prior. Danny Haynes’ return from a three-game ban saw him partner Marcus Haber up front in place of Ronan Murray and Andre Boucaud, just days after returning from international duty with Trinidad & Tobago, replaced the suspended Mark Fotheringham in midfield.
Notts started the game brightly and, in the second minute, Gary Liddle sliced open the home backline with an incisive through-ball. Haber only had the goalkeeper to beat but Chris Weale got down well to save the Canadian international’s placed finish.
Just seconds after the chance, Shrewsbury broke from a long ball, as Liddle lost his footing. Gozie Ugwu raced clear, only for Kieron Freeman to make a saving last-ditch slide challenge.
On 10, Shrewsbury should have moved in front, when Reach’s outstanding diagonal ball found Ugwu inside the box. The big frontman’s deft touch away from his marker and allowed Aaron Wildig to get a shot away, but Bartosz Bialkowski stood up well to make a fine block, before Boucaud cleared the danger.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce looked lively on the right flank and saw plenty of the ball for County, just like he had done against Wolves. The wideman created an opportunity for himself in the 16th minute when he pierced through the Shrews’ midfield to fire narrowly over from 20 yards.
Alan Sheehan made his 100th appearance for the Magpies and nearly capped it off with an assist from an in-swinging corner. Liddle rose well to head into the roof of the net but was denied his first ever Notts goal for a push.
For Town, Wildig was withdrawn from the action, following a high challenge by Boucaud as both attempted to win possession. His replacement, Nicky Wroe, was next to test Bialkowski with a long-range drive, which the stopper smothered on his goal line.
Bialkowski was called into action again in the 38th minute, after Reach managed to dribble his way into the area ahead of forcing the Pole to tip over. Reach’s resulting corner then led to a goalmouth scramble and Notts were lucky to escape, as Ugwu rattled the bar with a ferocious strike.
County could have easily gone into the break a goal up as well from another impressive Sheehan corner. In the closing minutes of the half, a near-post delivery found Joss Labadie, whose glancing header was headed off the line.
Sheehan’s corners were of the highest quality and two more could have seen Notts move in front during a late period of pressure. Smith nodded wide and Haynes watched a header across goal cleared off the line, meaning the sides went in at half time level on the back of an even 45 minutes.
Campbell-Ryce, who had been one of the Magpies’ biggest threats in the first half, continued to cause the Shrews’ rearguard problems. Within a minute of the restart, the winger escaped his marker with a clever spin but his searching cross saw Haber clear the bar with a left-footed volley.
On 49, Campbell-Ryce had a go himself, following another surging run, on this occasion through the centre. His 25-yard hit in front of the away supporters beat Weale but clipped the crossbar.
Shrewsbury also looked dangerous, as they piled crosses into the box, but vital headed clearances by Manny Smith and Sheehan kept Notts on even terms. The hosts eventually got Darren Jones onto the end of a delivery from a Reach corner, only for the defender to head wide of the far post.
The home fans thought that their side had gained the lead following an excellent grounded centre by Paul Parry, which Bialkowski pushed away from goal at full stretch. Ugwu showed great strength to apply a strong back-heel finish on the rebound and Bialkowski had to be at his best to get a hand to the ball.
On 61, a Haynes lay-off provided space for McGregor to work his magic in the final third. The on-loan Celtic forward shifted onto his favoured left foot and curled inches wide of the left-hand post.
At this point, County were on top and appeared to be gathering some momentum. Campbell-Ryce oozed confidence and tricked his way into the area from the right and was unfortunate not to find the net with a deflected finish that Weale collected inside his near post.
As the pressure continued, McGregor found Haynes in space but had a powerful drive bravely charged down. The striker then headed a Sheehan corner wide of the bottom-right corner.
Against the run of play, Shrewsbury gained the lead in the 72nd minute, when full-back Ryan Woods’ cross was nodded into the path of Reach by Ugwu. Reach made no mistake and, without hesitation, rifled into the bottom corner with his first touch.
Notts pushed bodies forward in search of a leveller and Town almost grabbed a second from a counter attack. Ugwu was played in on goal but, under heavy pressure from Smith, the frontman struck wide.
Jack Grealish was introduced at the expense of McGregor with just 12 minutes remaining and it was the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international that almost found the equaliser. Haber had managed to provide a low cutback for the winger, whose touch was somehow cleared before the ball could cross the line.
The frustration continued when a dangerous Sheehan free-kick fell to Smith. The centre-back unleashed a powerful low strike but Weale made an outstanding save to preserve his side’s advantage.
Three minutes of added time gave County a final chance to salvage a point, during which Boucaud came closest with a placed finish that was easily dealt with by Weale. This meant Notts left Greenhous Meadow empty handed on an afternoon where they could have taken at least a point.