A battling performance from Stevenage nearly saw them come away from Shrewsbury with a hard fought point only for a late goal to give the Shrews a 3-2 win in Sky Bet League 2.
A frantic first half saw Adam Marriott put Boro ahead on 10 minutes only for the game to turn on its head with goals by James Collins and Liam Lawrence in quick succession putting the hosts ahead by the 25th minute mark. Dean Wells volleyed home an equaliser before the break and both sides had chances in the second half before Collins struck late on to win it.
Team news saw Graham Westley name the same starting XI that won at York with the only change being on the bench, where David McAllister replaced Andy Bond.
For all the pre-match hype about Shrewsbury’s excellent home form it was Stevenage out of the blocks quickest in this one with the first chance of the game falling to the visitors; Adam Marriott turning in the box on six minutes and stinging Leutwiler’s hands from a narrow angle.
Tom Pett found himself in the book two minutes later when he arrived a split second late on a challenge with Mickey Demetriou, with the home crowd baying for blood immediately, perhaps unsurprisingly after all the pre-match hype about discipline.
Prior to today the Shrews had only conceded three times at the Greenhous Meadow in the league however it was Stevenage who took the lead on 10 minutes. Whelpdale pushed forward from midfield and found Pett, who in turn played in Marriot to show great composure and fire the ball home over Leutwiler.
The game continued at its frenetic pace with challenges from Charles, Parrett and Okimo earning Shrewsbury free-kicks amongst howls of derision from the home crowd, who appeared shocked and somewhat inconvenienced that a side might dare to challenge them on their own patch.
However for all of Boro’s good start the home faithful were soon on their feet in celebration as the game turned on its head in the space of three minutes.
Moments after Marriott was denied what looked a clear free-kick at one end, Shrewsbury broke on 23 minutes and James Collins was given time to cut inside his marker and coolly slot home into the bottom corner. The enthusiastic celebrations of Micky Mellon towards the visiting bench at the equaliser perhaps showing the hot tempered nature of the opening quarter of the game.
Pett hobbled off shortly afterwards with a knock, to be replaced by McAllister who was given a warm reception on his return to the Greenhous Meadow.
Within two minutes of the equaliser referee Harrington awarded the hosts a debateable spot-kick and up stepped Liam Lawrence to send Day the wrong way and put the Shrews 2-1 to the good.
Still the action continued with Marriott just thwarted on the 25th minute as he went to pull the trigger after a good through-ball by Whelpdale, as the Shrews maintained their lead.
From then on the hosts dominated large parts of the half with Collins twice denied by Day – firstly with a 28th minute header from a corner and secondly five minutes from the break when he tried to dink the ‘keeper after being played through, but found his effort saved.
However a period of pressure from Boro in the final few minutes resulted in an equaliser. Marriott saw a shot blocked in the box and Lee’s follow-up took a deflection to give Stevenage a 41st minute corner. Parrett’s deep delivery found Wells in acres of space at the back of the box and although initially looking to head the ball, he readjusted well to volley home via a deflection.
An eventful half soon came to a close, but not before Mangan curled a free-kick over the wall but straight at Day.
The second half was one of significant pressure as the hosts flooded forward and often found themselves in plenty of space out wide. Two minutes into the second period and a Wells slip out wide provided the Shrews with space to work the ball for Collins in the box, but there was Day again to deny the striker.
Sub Akpa-Akpro headed wide from a 54th minute Demetriou cross before Wells denied Collins with a last gasp prod from close-range as the striker looked to pounce again. Walton and Lee combined well to clear the resulting corner, although the ball was soon coming back at the visitors with Wells blocking behind again for another corner.
Still the Stevenage defensive rearguard continued with a header cleared off the line on the hour, the follow-up cleared behind and both Lee and Wells providing further blocks behind as the heroic defending went on.
Just past the hour Boro found themselves on a rare counter. Parrett burst found and found Henry, whose ball into Whelpdale saw the winger beat his man on the edge of the box before curling an effort just over the angle of post and bar.
Back up the other end Okimo defended well to give the Shrews their umpteenth corner on 65 minutes, with Day then called into action to deny a Demetriou header and then save comfortably from Akpa-Akpro from distance.
With 20 minutes remaining the tireless Marriott started and nearly finished a great move around the Shrewsbury box only for Leutwiler to deny the striker down low. From the resulting corner Charles met Parrett’s ball at the back post and Wells guided his own header just over the bar. It was a fantastic chance and arguably easier than the volley he’d already steered home in the first half.
Still the end-to-end action continued with Day saving acrobatically from a Lawrence volley and Parrett forcing Leutwiler to produce his save of the game from the midfielder’s free-kick, after another marauding run forward
With seven minutes remaining Lee played in Marriott down the right and his fierce cross was nearly met by McAllister, but a dream strike against his former employers eluded him and it was to be the hosts who eventually struck late on.
A good 87th minute ball by Demetriou found Collins, who weaved his way in the box and slotted past Day at his near post to send the Greenhous Meadow into raptures. The ecstasy in the stands at beating Stevenage was matched by the over-the-top player celebrations directed at the Boro dugout.
So Shrewsbury’s impressive home run continues but they’ll know they’ve been in a contest today after being pushed hard by Graham Westley’s men. Defeat ends Stevenage’s recent run of good results however they’ll be looking to bounce back immediately next weekend at home to Oxford. Tickets for that game are available now at www.borotickets.co.uk
Shrewsbury: Leutwiler, Ellis, Goldson, Knight-Percival, Gayle (Grandison 90), Woods (Southern 90), Lawrence, Grant, Demetriou, Collins, Mangan (Akpa-Akpro 50)
Subs not used: Halstead, Vernon, Clark, Randall
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells (Beardsley 90), Charles, Okimo, Pett (McAllister 23 (Zola 90)), Walton, Parrett, Whelpdale, Lee, Marriott
Subs not used: Beasant, Dembele, Conlon, Deacon
Referee: Tony Harrington
Attendance: 4,602 (142 away)