Shrewsbury Town turn the tables on Sunderland by coming from behind to seal a priceless victory.
Prior to Tuesday night’s contest, Town had won just one of the 13 meetings between these sides. And when Aiden O’Brien put Sunderland ahead in the 21st minute, it appeared last season’s victory would remain the only one Shrewsbury had secured against The Black Cats.
However, a brilliant second half was started by Ethan Ebanks-Landell who drew the home side level six minutes after the break. Blackburn loanee Harry Chapman scored his 4th goal since arriving on loan with 23 minutes to go. Sunderland lay siege to the Shrewsbury goal late on, but the three points belonged to the Shropshire outfit.
Anyone who has watched the Netflix documentary ‘Sunderland Till I Die’ will be aware of the club’s recent struggles. Successive managers including the likes of Chris Coleman, Simon Grayson, and Jack Ross have tried to revive the well renowned North East club. However, a combination of terrible financial decisions, coupled with players on high wages who did not appear to be interested, and ownership mismanagement, means that the former Premier League club has spent the last three years in League One.
The board has now turned to Lee Johnson, who achieved a modicum of success at Bristol City by challenging for the play-off positions in the Championship. It is hoped from a Sunderland perspective that Johnson can steer the club back up the leagues. Although, he may be without a crucial defender for perhaps the rest of the campaign. In the early stages of the contest, centre-back Jordan Willis fell awkwardly and was forced to leave the field on a stretcher with what appeared to be a knee injury.
Following the lengthy delay, a cagey opening ensued. Shrewsbury were unchanged from the side that beat Swindon at the weekend, and any fears of fatigue quickly vanished with Town pressing as a unit, and forcing Sunderland into sideways and backwards passing. However, they struggled to mount offense in the opening 20 minutes, instead relying on long balls toward Curtis Main. The former Aberdeen man, who grew up as a Newcastle fan, was being marshalled by the Sunderland backline.
Town’s best opportunity in the opening 20 minutes fell to Josh Vela. Nathanael Ogbeta’s cross was only cleared as far as the former Hibernian midfielder, but his strike was always rising. Despite Sunderland not offering much going forward, they were handed a gift which led to the opening goal. The ball bounced around in the middle of the park and Ethan Ebanks-Landell was caught woefully out of position. A threaded pass was gathered by Aiden O’Brien who seized advantage and bore down on goal prior to producing a calm finish beyond the reaches of Matija Sarkic.
Perhaps former incarnations of this Town team would have been dejected by going a goal behind. However, this group are a different beast under Steve Cotterill and posses more bouncebackability. Ogbeta’s superb footwork allowed him to glide beyond Josh Scowen, but he dragged his final effort comfortably off target.
Then, Ebanks-Landell’s clipped pass allowed Sean Goss to ghost behind the backline. Donald Love picked up the baton and his cross was met by the head of Curtis Main, but Remi Matthews gathered easily. Shrewsbury were gathering momentum – Harry Chapman’s dangerous delivery was aimed toward Shaun Whalley at the back post, but former Wigan midfielder Max Power arrived in the nick of time to clear the danger. Curtis Main called Remi Matthews into action, but his strike whilst powerful and on target, was straight at the ex-Norwich keeper.
Sunderland were forced into last-gasp defending. Harry Chapman’s clever touch and burst of pace had Jake Vokins unable to keep up. Chapman cut the ball back to Curtis Main – a teammate of his at Middlesbrough, but this North East side managed to scramble clear.
Despite being under the cosh for a large portion of the first half, it was the visitors who almost doubled their lead. Jordan Jones’ corner was met by Charlie Wyke – the striker who scored the only goal of the game the last time these sides met a few weeks ago, saw his header blocked on the line by Josh Vela. It was recycled back into the area and Dion Sanderson was denied – Jones had rejoined the action and followed up the rebound, but Donald Love produced a crucial intervention to divert behind.
It took Town just six second half minutes to equalise. Remi Matthews flapped at Donald Love’s cross as he was under pressure from Curtis Main. Ethan Ebanks-Landell arrived on the scene to bundle home from close range.
Shrewsbury were rejuvenated. Ollie Norburn’s raking pass reached Chapman inside the area and he forced Remi Matthews into a smart save. At the other end, Donald Love couldn’t clear his lines and Aiden McGeady pounced. The ex-Celtic and Everton winger cut inside and unleashed a venomous shot from distance which was tipped over by Matija Sarkic. Town dealt with the initial corner, but the second proved more problematic – Bailey Wright’s header was clawed away by Sarkic, and the defence stood up to the task to clear their lines.
After being fairly anonymous, McGeady was starting to stamp his authority. A daisy cutter had Matija Sarkic slightly concerned, but the shot dribbled wide. Shrewsbury survived a spell of pressure and almost nudged themselves ahead. Sean Goss channelled his inner Joe Jacobson and almost scored directly from a corner – Remi Matthews did just about enough to stop it from crossing the line.
But the goalkeeper could do nothing about Shrewsbury taking the lead in the 67th minute. An inch-perfect Shaun Whalley sweeping delivery was attacked first time by Harry Chapman as he hammered the ball into the roof of the net. Sunderland’s response was poor, instead, Town were foiled by a flag from the linesman the reasons for which are unknown. Matthews spilled Goss’ free-kick and the ball crossed the line. The linesman and referee must have seen something that no one else did as the ‘goal’ looked perfectly legitimate, however, it was ruled out.
Town’s plan was to defend stoically toward the end and that was exactly what they did. Bailey Wright’s miscued header threatened to undo Shrewsbury’s hard work, and whilst Aidan McGeady’s free-kick was on target, Sarkic pushed the effort to safety.
A memorable win for Shrewsbury Town who are on something of a roll. They face Ipswich at home on Saturday, whilst Sunderland welcome Doncaster.
Team Line Ups
31. Sarkic, 17. Love, 5. Williams, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 14. Ogbeta, 6. Goss (85), 10. Vela, 8. Norburn, 32. Chapman (76), 20. Main (87), 7. Whalley
Subs: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 4. Edwards (85), 9. Pyke, 22. Daniels (76), 23. Udoh (87), 28. Davis
Subs Not Used: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 9. Pyke, 28. Davis
20. Matthews, 6. Power (75), 4. Willis (7), 5. Wright, 30. Vokins (75), 23. Leadbitter, 14. Scowen, 27. Jones (58), 28. McGeady, 10. O’Brien, 9. Wyke
Subs: 1. Burge, 2. McLaughlin, 7. Maguire, 11. Gooch (58), 13. O’Nein (75), 16. Sanderson (7), 21. Diamond (75)
Subs Not Used: 1. Burge, 2. McLaughlin, 7. Maguire
Other League One Results
Accrington 0 – 1 Plymouth
Blackpool P – P Burton (frozen pitch)
Bristol Rovers 0 – 2 Oxford
Hull 0 – 0 Lincoln
Northampton 0 – 1 Wigan
Peterborough 2 – 1 Ipswich
Portsmouth 2 – 0 Swindon
Rochdale 1 – 4 MK Dons
Fleetwood 3 – 1 Doncaster