There could be light at the end of the tunnel for Shrewsbury Town as they secure safe passage to the second round of the FA Cup.
Alan Durban was the manager the last time Town secured a win at Cambridge 46 years ago. As a result, there would have been a pang of anxiety amongst those of a Blue and Amber persuasion – but the current custodian of the Shrewsbury hotseat was able to celebrate a much-welcomed victory.
The visitors took the lead just after half time – when Charlie Daniels opened his Town account and also scored his first FA Cup goal in the process.
Brad Walker, who was operating in defence, scored a blockbuster of a strike to ensure that Sam Ricketts’ side are in the hat for the second round; a feat they have achieved during the last six attempts.
Sam Ricketts elected to make four changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Burton on Tuesday night. Dave Edwards started for the first time this season after recovering from a stress fracture, whilst Brad Walker, Josh Daniels, and Marc Pugh were drafted in. Shaun Whalley, Daniel Iliev, and Matt Millar were back on the bench following their respective injury issues. Sean Goss, who has been frozen out recently, was also included in the squad.
Shrewsbury started the contest at a frenetic pace. A Cambridge ricochet saw the ball fall invitingly for Marc Pugh and the ex QPR man struck an acrobatic shot narrowly over the crossbar.
Haphazard defending in recent weeks has cost Sam Ricketts’ side, and there was a sense that an error would be the only way Cambridge would take an early lead. This almost proved to be the case when Brad Walker seized possession and Harvey Knibbs took control. Ro Shaun-Williams was on hand to produce a vital block to deny the former Aston Villa man.
The half chance appearance to galvanise the League Two outfit. Harry Burgoyne produced a magnificent stop to deny Robbie Cundy from close range. Then another mistake from Brad Walker gifted the ball to Tunisian forward Idris El Mizouni. The Ipswich loanee sent a low drive narrowly wide of the target.
The pendulum swung in Salop’s favour as the first half drew to a close. Scott High’s weak effort was comfortably gathered by former Charlton Athletic keeper Dimitar Mitov. Josh Daniels also dragged an effort off target as Shrewsbury cranked up the pressure on their hosts.
Daniel Udoh threaded a ball through to Marc Pugh who collected it in his stride – his shot was clawed to safety by Mitov. The final chance of the first period also fell to Pugh but a Cambridge defender did just enough to clear.
Town made the perfect start to the second half. Adam May’s shocking pass was gathered by Charlie Daniels and the full-back stormed forward before firing the ball beyond Mitov and into the corner of the goal.
The opener gave Town a new lease of life as they looked to add to their lead. Daniels and Pugh were linking up superbly and the latter spun but saw his final attempt blocked.
Charlie Daniels was producing another fine display and his latest delivery was whipped into the box, but no Shrewsbury player could take advantage.
It was Cambridge’s turn to lay siege to the goal. Luke Hannant’s low cross was palmed away by Burgoyne, and the ex-Port Vale winger also saw his swerving half volley beaten away by Burgoyne. Hannant was the U’s best outlet to locate an equaliser – his radar was very slightly askew from distance as Ricketts was able to breath a sigh of relief on the touchline.
But the afternoon belonged to Shrewsbury and they sealed the win in the 89th minute. Brad Walker, who had a sketchy afternoon, left fly from distance and Mitov had no chance of keeping it out.
Sam Ricketts will hope that this victory provides the springboard to improve his side’s poor league form. However, they will first contest a dead rubber EFL Trophy clash against Crewe on Tuesday, whilst Cambridge host Peterborough in the same competition.
The draw for the 2nd Round of the FA Cup takes place prior to Northampton’s trip to Oxford City on Monday evening.
Team Line Ups
1. Mitov, 2. Knoyle, 16. Cundy, 5. Taylor, 11. Dunk, 7. Hannant, 19. May (67), 18. El Mizouni (76), 44. Boateng, 3. Iredale (76), 26. Knibbs
Subs: 6. Darling, 9. Dallas (76), 14. Hoolahan (67), 17. Davies, 23. Knowles (76), 25. Burton
Subs Not Used: 6. Darling, 17. Davies, 25. Burton
1. Burgoyne, 5. Williams, 16. Walker, 2. Pierre, 15. C. Daniels, 25. High, 4. Edwards (83), 8. Norburn, 22. J. Daniels (69), 23. Udoh, 27. Pugh (91)
Subs: 6. Goss, 7. Whalley, 14. Millar (91), 19. Barnett (69), 24. Ebanks-Landell (83), 33. Iliev, 35. Cummings
Subs Not Used: 6. Goss, 7. Whalley, 33. Iliev, 35. Cummings