10-man Notts County suffered a setback in the fight against relegation after a 3-2 loss to fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town. It had all started so well for the Magpies, following goals from Jack Grealish (8) and Alan Sheehan (13 pen), but Jon Taylor gave the visitors hope of a comeback in the 32nd minute.
A Jimmy Spencer red card ahead of the interval set up a tense second half for the home supporters. Taylor struck again on 67 before David McAllister dealt the killer blow three minutes later.
Notts fielded an unchanged starting 11 for the crucial six-pointer, as manager Shaun Derry looked for a response from his team following a disappointing defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers seven days prior. The only alteration to the 17 was on the bench, with Kyle Dixon added to the squad as a reward for his impressive displays during a loan spell with Boston United.
Buoyed by the boosted numbers in the Kop, Notts took the game to the Shrews early on. Although a series of attacks were thwarted at the final ball, Grealish gave the Magpies an early lead.
In the eighth minute, a sustained period of possession resulted in Kieron Freeman delivering a dangerous left-footed cross from the corner of the box. As the away goalkeeper, Joe Anyon, prepared to gather, Grealish’s run across the six-yard line obstructed his view and the winger was able to guide the ball into the far corner with the slightest of touches.
Grealish was central to Notts’ second goal of the afternoon, when he was upended inside the area by centre-back Tamika Mkandawire as he attempted to shield the ball. Stand-in skipper Alan Sheehan made no mistake from the penalty spot and rifled down the centre to make it 2-0.
It was just the start the Magpies needed but the Shrews almost pulled a goal back when they broke following a knock to Manny Smith. As the home defence regrouped, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was able to find a pocket of space on the edge of the box and unleashed a ferocious drive that grazed the crossbar.
County remained in charge and a mishit effort by Jimmy Spencer nearly found the bottom corner after Anyon made a mess of a routine save down to his left. Hayden Mullins also came close, following fine work on the right by Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Freeman, but his shot was well blocked.
Against the run of play, Town reduced the deficit in the 32nd minute. Target man Tom Eaves applied a hopeful flick behind the Notts backline and Taylor managed to squeeze the ball past Bartosz Bialkowski with a prodded finish.
Ahead of the interval, the Magpies suffered another blow when Jimmy Spencer was shown a straight red card. The referee felt that the striker had led with an elbow during an aerial challenge with Connor Goldson, who remained grounded as Spencer trudged towards the tunnel.
The dismissal prompted a half time substitution, as McGregor made way for Kwesi Appiah, who had extended his loan stay with the club the day before. The frontman’s first involvement saw him flick the ball away from Goldson, only to be sent sprawling by the defender’s flailing arm.
The Kop were incensed and felt that the punishment should have been the same as Spencer’s in the first half. However, Goldson escaped with a caution, as Appiah received extensive treatment for a facial injury and a change of shirt.
Despite the visitors’ numbers advantage, Notts experienced the better of the play. Following fine work by Grealish and Mullins, Andre Boucaud tested Anyon with a low drive from range.
On 67, Shrewsbury pulled level, with Taylor finding the net for the second time. The midfielder progressed into the area via a quick exchange with Miles Storey and fired into the top-left corner, out of Bialkowski’s reach.
Moments later, Eaves almost made it 3-2 when he latched onto a Paul Parry centre to head against the crossbar. On 70, McAllister went one better, as he capitalised on hesitation in the County rearguard, as they froze in defending a high ball, to nudge over the line with an improvised finish.
Grealish found the side netting after beating full-back Ryan Woods on the left, before Derry made an attacking change. Ronan Murray replaced Gareth Roberts and the Magpies switched to a 3-4-2 formation.
Notts attempted to get in behind the away defence with a direct approach but gained little success. Town were happy to play out the clock at every opportunity but hope arrived in four minutes of added time.
Enoch Showunmi was introduced as a final roll of the dice for the dying stages but Town piled bodies behind the ball. There was one final chance deep into stoppage time when Showunmi set up Murray, whose low effort skidded narrowly wide of the right-hand post.