MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 3 Shrewsbury 2

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler
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Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler makes four changes for tonight’s FA Cup second round replay clash with Shrewsbury.

Super-sub Ash Hunter did the business once again after his last-gasp goal fired Fleetwood Town into the third round of the FA Cup and clinched a prize money boost and a trip to Championship side Bristol City.

As usual the pacy striker was a fox in the box even though he was utilised in a right midfield role as he popped up in the 94th minute to divert Chris Long’s neat ball across the six-yard box into the net and add his seventh goal of the season off the bench to his two in open play.

It capped a fine fight-back from Fleetwood who ,despite potentially picking up another two injures to skipper Nathan Pond and midfielder Jack Sowerby, clawed their way back from 2-0 down to 2-2 thanks to two rare Devante Cole efforts after the Shrews skipper Adam El-Abd was sent off just moments into the second half for impeding goal bound substitute Aaron Amadi-Holloway.

Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler had made four changes for this clash with midfielder Kyle Dempsey obviously missing after the bad leg gash he sustained in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Walsall.

Midfiedler George Glendon and strikers Hunter and David Ball were all rested ahead of this Saturday’s trip to Swindon Town for the second round replay fixture that was added to the Christmas schedule after the League One rivals drew 0-0 at Greenhous Meadow earlier this month. Those changes saw strikers Cole, Long and midfielders Jack Sowerby and Eggert Jonsson recalled to the starting line-up.

Like the first full dull 90 minutes at Shrewsbury It was a dire opening half an hour with the best half chances falling to the toothless visiting striker Ivan Toney but even then Fleetwood’s strong defence were able to tame the Shrews.

Toney blasted one from distance but without the creativity of the rested Glendon and his fellow injured midfielders Dempsey, Jimmy Ryan in the engine room and the energy of forwards Ball and Hunter who were also rested on the bench Fleetwood failed to create any notable chances let alone fire up front in the first half.

Fleetwood’s normally rock solid defence stood up to every challenge thrown at them by the ugly but dominant Shrews side, up until the final two minutes of the half.

Ex-Fleetwood wing-back Junior Brown’s hopeful ball over the top went over the defensive three of Joe Davis, Nathan Pond and Cian Bolger with Fleetwood trying to play offside with both O’Brein and Toney buzzing around. Bolger completely misjudged the balland it saw both Toney and O’Brien left up against Cairns in the box, the ball fell to O’Brien and he picked his spot before rolling the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Fleetwood did not have a shot at all in the first-half and Rosler responded to that lack of goal action by throwing Aaron Amadi-Holloway on for centre-half Davis and switching to an attacking 4-3-3 formation after the Shrews had utilised the same tactics they did in the 0-0 draw at Greenhous Meadow by shutting down Fleetwood’s wing-backs and stopping their normal free-flowing football in the first half.

And Amadi-Holloway was straight in the action as he found himself with just El-Abd and the keeper to beat. The striker still managed to get an effort off despite the foul and the Shrews cleared it off the line but the referee had already blown his whistle and gave a set-piece just outside the box and gave the Shrews skipper his marching orders in the 50th minute.

Fleetwood captain Pond had a header just tipped away by Leutwiler as Fleetwood’s attacking play was reignited by the red card.

But bad news was round the corner as Pond landed awkwardly after going up for another close range attacking header, he struggled to shake it off and after he was booked for taking out Toney on the half-way line he was substituted by Rosler.

The Fleetwood boss subsequently pushed Jonsson back into the centre-half position alongside Bolger with Glendon coming off the bench to take on his usual central midfield role.

But almost seconds after Pond trudged off the Shrews doubled their lead as Dodds found space just outside the right hand corner of the box and drilled the ball past Cairns in the 60th minute.

It was a much harder chance than the many the striker was guilty of wasting in the first game at Shrewsbury but he was clinical this time at Highbury and gobbled up his first real sniff at goal.

But with 10-men Paul Hurst’s bottom of the table side always looked in a precarious position especially given Fleetwood’s bounty of attacking players on the pitch and they did reduce the deficit three minutes later.

Glendon, had added more potency to Town’s attack and it was the midfielder who rolled the ball to Sowerby on the right flank and his looping cross was nodded in by Cole at the back stick.

It would be one of Sowerby’s last kicks of the game as he came off holding his right thigh with striker Hunter deployed in a rare right midfield role to add pace and width on the right side.

The hosts did level in the 77th minute as just like buses Cole, who had only scored once prior to tonight in an EFL Trophy win over Blackburn Rovers back in August, rifled in his second of the night.

McLaughlin was felled just inside of Fleetwood’s half by Toney - who was booked for the late challenge - with Cairns stepping up to loft the ball up into the box, Amadi-Holloway flicked it on, the ball crashed into Long and bounced into the path of Cole who blasted the ball home from close range.

Despite Shrewsbury being down to 10 it could have been either sides game in the dying stages with both going for the jugular but Leutwiler the busier of the two shot-stoppers.

But Hunter once again lived up to his super-sub tag once again as he popped up in the fourth minute of injury time to tap home Long’s ball across the six yard box.

The game looked wrapped up with just seconds left on the clock but there was still a late scare as Dodds’ low effort kissed the inside of the right post before fizzing back out towards the penalty spot and just missing the run of three yellow and blue striped shirts.

The final whistle soon echoed round the ground and cheers erupted around Highbury with Fleetwood securing a trip to Championship club Bristol City and a place in the third round of the FA Cup for just the second time in their history thanks to Hunter’s late heroics.

Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Davis (Amadi-Holloway, 46), Pond (Glendon, 57) Bolger, Bell, Sowerby (Hunter, 65), Jonsson, Grant, Cole, Long. Subs: Neal, Ball, Nirennold, Jakiubiak.

Shrewsbury: Leutwiler, Sadler, Lancashire, Ogogo, Toney, Dodds, O’Brien (Black, 72), Brown, Smith, Deegan, El-Abd. Subs not used: Halstead, Riley, Whalley, Grimmer, Waring, Jones.

Referee: Mark Heywood.