REPORT: SHREWSBURY 2-1 TOWNTown met defeat in Round One of this season’s EFL Cup at the hands of Sky Bet League 1 side Shrewsbury Town, with the Terriers never hitting the heights of their opening weekend performance.
After starting Saturday’s game against Brentford in superb fashion, it was the polar opposite at the Greenhous Meadow on a chilly Shropshire evening as the hosts took the lead inside 24 seconds.
Jim O’Brien picked up the ball on the Town left from kick-off and fed the ball into the penalty area, where striker AJ Leitch-Smith was afforded too much time to turn onto his left and fire a deflected shot home.
David Wagner’s side dominated the rest of the half, but it took until the 38th minute to equalise when Elias Kachunga got his second in as many games.
However, Shrewsbury improved in a much more competitive 45 minutes and took the spoils when Louis Dodds squeezed home a late effort.
With Aaron Mooy in exceptional form, the Terriers bossed the opening half after the early shock of the goal inside 24 seconds. The Australian international pulled the strings, whilst Danny Ward was a virtual passenger behind Christopher Schindler and debutant Jon Gorenc Stanković; one of three changes to the line-up.
Jack Payne was also lively in the first half and should have scored at least one of two good chances inside 13 minutes.
The first – after Kachunga’s flick from Schindler’s pass took centre half Adam El-Abd out of the running and paved the way to goal – saw the diminutive striker put the ball wide from inside the area.
His second, seven minutes later, saw Schindler step over Mooy’s infield pass after a corner was half cleared to give Jack possession. He stepped inside centre back McGivern in the area before taking aim with his right foot, but placed his drive too close to the goalkeeper.
Payne and Kachunga both scuffed set-piece corners wide of target as the half progressed, but the deserved leveller did come in the 39th minute. Van La Parra’s inside pass found Mooy’s run into the area and the midfielder stood a cross up to the back post brilliantly, where Kache sent a header back across the ‘keeper and inside the post.
Captain Jonathan Hogg was withdrawn at half time with a yellow card hanging over him as the Terriers started slowly again, with Louis Dodds’ snapshot hitting Ward in the middle of goal.
Town responded as van La Parra curled just wide of the far post from outside the area, but the dominance shown in the first half wasn’t present in the second as the tempo slowed and Shrewsbury improved.
Weekend match-winner Kasey Palmer was introduced on the hour and soon forced Leutwiler into a flying save with a free kick from out wide, whilst at the other end Stanković did well to prevent Ivan Toney from getting a header at goal with some good back post defending.
The winning goal followed in the 77th minute through a counter-attack; something Town had allowed Shrewsbury to do much more in the second half. With Löwe caught up the pitch, sub Ethan Jones raced down the wing and found Toney in the area. The striker laid the ball off to Dodds just inside the area and his side-footed effort rolled over the line, despite Ward getting a hand to the ball.
With Town now struggling to pick a pass through Shrewsbury’s massed ranks, Wagner threw on Michael Hefele for his Town debut – in attack! Town went long into the big German and it almost paid dividends, with his flick finding Kachunga. Unfortunately, the Ingolstadt loanee placed his quickly-taken volley too close to the ‘keeper.
In the end, Ward was the busiest goalkeeper; saving two snapshots from Jones and Toney.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe (Michael Hefele, 84), Christopher Schindler, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Martin Cranie; Jonathan Hogg (c) (Ivan Paurević, 46), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Jack Payne (Kasey Palmer, 58), Sean Scannell; Elias Kachunga
Joel Coleman, Tommy Smith, Joe Lolley, Nahki Wells