Shrewsbury Town sign off their EFL Trophy group campaign in style by netting four times against Crewe at Gresty Road.
Victories in cup competitions may not be enough to appease some supporters, but Sam Ricketts will hope it provides a springboard to improving his sides league form.
Credit must be given where it is due, and Shrewsbury have backed up their clean sheet in the FA Cup by notching four in an enthralling encounter.
Tottenham loanee Shillow Tracey netted an impressive hattrick, whilst Australian full-back Matt Millar opened his account for the club. Crewe did respond through a Powell double and Zanzala’s goal – but it is Shrewsbury who win the group and thus get a home tie in the next round.
Sam Ricketts made seven changes from the side that beat Cambridge 2-0 at the weekend. Starts were given to the likes of Sean Goss, Jan Zamburek, and Ryan Barnett. Josh Vela’s ban does not seem to apply in the EFL Trophy – as incorrectly stated in the match preview. Donald Love made a surprise return to the bench.
David Artell’s outfit almost gifted Town the opener early on. Former Sheffield Wednesday defender Eddie Nolan’s woeful pass was collected by Josh Daniels. The Northern Irishman who was operating down the middle, was unable to work Crewe goalkeeper Dave Richards.
But despite the early scare, the Railwaymen settled well and should have nudged ahead in the 10th minute. Callum Ainley found Zanzala with precision, but the striker fluffed his lines and the chance was gone.
At the other end, the flamboyant Ryan Barnett stormed forward but his final effort flew over the bar. Town’s next opportunity led to the opening goal. Jan Zamburek fed Ryan Barnett who in turn crossed into the danger area – Matt Millar arrived on the scene to nod home.
The contest became end to end – this time Zanzala looked to profit from lackadaisical defending but he guided wide.
Shrewsbury doubled their advantage in the 25th minute. Dave Richards failed to deal with Sean Goss’ corner and the ball eventually reached Ryan Barnett. His half-volley was guided in by Shillow Tracey on the touchline.
Crewe registered a goal themselves to keep the contest in the balance. Regan Griffiths’ pass was eye through the needle stuff and former MK Dons forward Daniel Powell gleefully tucked away his chance. The home side should have levelled things up moments later. Offrande Zanzala forced Harry Burgoyne into a good save, but will be disappointed that he didn’t score.
Yet that disappointment would not have lasted for long, as Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s failure to deal with the danger, led to Zanzala converting from close range.
The second half began in a positive fashion for Shrewsbury. Jan Zamburek showed good ball retention before sending a drive just wide of the target.
Town went behind for the first time in the game on the hour mark. Zanzala bulldozed past Aaron Pierre with the ball eventually reaching Powell who put Crewe 3-2 up.
With 15 minutes remaining, Shrewsbury evened the score. Donald Love sent Shillow Tracey free down the flank. The Macclesfield loanee shrugged off the advances of a Crewe defender before chipping the ball into the net.
And Town went ahead as the game drew to a close. Shillow Tracey completed the hattrick by tapping home after Richards could only palm Goss’ shot into the path of the winger.
There was still time for one final Crewe opportunity. Daniel Powell, who was their best player of the evening, smashed the post from a tight angle.
Shrewsbury will hope to register their first home league win of the season on Saturday when they welcome Swindon, whilst Crewe are at home to Peterborough.
Team Line Ups
13. Richards, 23. Johnson, 16. Lancashire, 6. Nolan, 21. Adebisi, 11. Ainley, 18. Griffiths, 14. Finney, 19. Dale, 15. Zanzala, 7. Powell
Subs (all unused): 1. Jaaskelainen, 2. Ng, 3. Pickering, 4. Wintle, 8. Lowery, 10. Kirk, 29. Beckles
1. Burgoyne, 5. Williams, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 2. Pierre, 14. Millar (45), 6. Goss, 13. Zamburek, 10. Vela, 19. Barnett, 22. J. Daniels (81), 20. Tracey (89)
Subs: 17. Love (45), 25. High, 30. Caton (81), 33. Iliev, 36. Lloyd (89), 37. Aris
Subs Not Used: 25. High, 33. Iliev, 37. Aris