Blackpool 0-1 Shrewsbury Town: Disputed Fejiri Okenabirhie penalty downs frustrated Seasiders

It was a day to forget for the Seasiders, who came closest through Armand Gnanduillet
It was a day to forget for the Seasiders, who came closest through Armand Gnanduillet
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There was no Christmas cheer for Blackpool at Bloomfield Road as they suffered a narrow defeat to Shrewsbury Town.

READ MORE: Blackpool v Shrewsbury Town as it happened

There was no Christmas cheer for Blackpool at Bloomfield Road as they suffered a narrow defeat to Shrewsbury Town.

Fejiri Okenabirhie’s disputed second-half penalty proved to be the difference as the visitors claimed a smash-and-grab win which sees the Seasiders drop out of the play-off places.

While Blackpool had struggled to break down Shrewsbury’s stubborn backline, they created the more clear-cut chances with Armand Gnanduillet going close on two separate occasions.

The defeat, Pool’s fourth of the league campaign, brings an end to Blackpool’s seven-game unbeaten run, which stretched back to mid-October.

It also means the Seasiders are still without a win against their bogey team Shrewsbury since 1997.

Ben Heneghan returned to Blackpool’s line-up as Simon Grayson made two changes to the side that drew at Sunderland last time out.

Curtis Tilt was the man to make way, dropping back down to the bench despite an impressive display at the Stadium of Light.

Elsewhere, Sullay Kaikai was only fit enough to be named among the substitutes after only training on Friday - due to a recent pelvic issue.

Jordan Thompson took his spot in the team, the Northern Ireland midfielder starting a league game for the first time since the 0-0 draw at Burton Albion at the end of October.

Pool, who switched ends to kick towards the North Stand in the opening half, threatened early on as Armand Gnanduillet volleyed wide from a quickly-taken Jordan Thompson corner.

They looked to get at Shrewsbury right from the off, playing on the front foot and closing down the visitors with aggressive pressing high up the pitch.

Pool continued to enjoy the best of the early exchanges, with Thompson fizzing a low ball across the face of the six-yard box only to see his cross go to waste.

Things began to settle down at this point, although it remained a case of Pool enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory.

Liam Feeney and Armand Gnanduillet almost combined once again on 16 minutes, the Frenchman coming inches away from meeting the winger’s cross from point blank range.

Gnanduillet came even closer a few moments later when his header from Jay Spearing’s deflected cross seemed destined for the back of the net.

But Shrews keeper Max O’Leary did well to backpedal before superbly tipping the effort over the bar.

The away side started to grow into the game after being second best for the opening 20-minute spell.

They came inches away from taking the lead through Donald Love, whose low shot dribbled inches past the far post after Jak Alnwick had failed to deal with a looping cross.

The same player again threatened for the Shrews, Love rifling a bullet shot just over from all of 25 yards.

Gnanduillet continued to enjoy a good battle with centre back Omar Beckles, who did well to crowd out the striker after he had chested down Nathan Delfouneso’s cross.

Feeney, meanwhile, continued to cause Shrewsbury problems and - four minutes before the interval - one of his chipped crosses almost inadvertently caught out O’Leary only for the delivery to narrowly miss the back stick.

But the visitors, who prior to kick-off had only conceded 20 goals in 19 games, frustrated Grayson’s men with some stubborn defending.

The first goal was always going to prove crucial and the Seasiders couldn’t have come much closer at the start of the second half.

Thompson delivered a corner towards the penalty spot where Gnanduillet stooped low to send a diving header towards goal, only to see his effort ricochet off the post.

A similar flicked header, this time from Delfouneso, was comfortably claimed by O’Leary a few moments later as Pool continued to press for that breakthrough.

Ten minutes into the second period, the game turned on its head in a matter of moments following penalty appeals for both sides.

The first one came the way of Blackpool as Delfouneso claimed a Shrewsbury defender handled the ball as he attempted to bring the ball down in the box.

The referee remained unmoved, but just two minutes later he did signal for a penalty - only for it to come the way of the away side.

Gnanduillet was the man adjudged to have handled the ball as he attempted to head away a long free kick into the Blackpool box.

Despite Pool’s remonstrations, Fejiri Okenabirhie stepped up to give the Shrews the lead as his spot kick ended up in the roof of the net, despite Alnwick getting a leg to the strike.

Grayson didn’t wait long to change it up, making a double change with Joe Nuttall and Sullay Kaikai the two to enter the fray - the latter facing his former side.

Pool struggled to make hay due to Shrewsbury’s game management, although Ben Heneghan did glance a header towards the back post which was begging for a final touch - but no teammate was there to capitalise.

Shrewsbury squandered a huge opportunity to make it 2-0 with two minutes of normal time remaining, Shaun Whalley blazing over the bar after getting in behind Pool’s backline.

Try as they might, Pool were unable to fashion any late chances and the six minutes of injury time came and went without any late drama.

TEAMS

Blackpool: Alnwick, Turton (Kaikai), Edwards, Heneghan, Husband, Spearing, Virtue (Nuttall), Thompson, Feeney, Delfouneso (Macdonald), Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Sims, Tilt, Guy, Scannell

Shrewsbury: O’Leary, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre, Beckles, Love, Golborne, Edwards, Walker (Goss), Laurent, Whalley (John-Lewis), Okenabirhie (Udoh)

Subs not used: Murphy, Williams, Giles, Thompson

Referee: Seb Stockbridge

Attendance: 7,695 (540 Shrewsbury)