Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Blackpool: Frustration for the Seasiders as they suffer narrow defeat in their final fixture of 2020
Blackpool lost for the first time in eight matches as they ended 2020 with a narrow one-goal defeat to Shrewsbury Town.
Dan Udoh’s opportunistic first-half strike proved to be enough for the Shrews, who picked up their first home league win of the season.
The goal came after debutant goalkeeper Sam Walker had saved an Ollie Norburn penalty, again denying the hosts on the rebound before Udoh tapped home on the goalline.
Blackpool, who still haven’t beaten Shrewsbury since 1997, squandered two or three good chances to level but it wasn’t to be, as the home side claimed the three points in a scrappy battle played out in near-freezing conditions.
Neil Critchley opted to make five changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Accrington Stanley 10 days ago.
Dan Kemp replaced CJ Hamilton, who was missing through injury, while Sam Walker made his debut in goal having joined on an emergency seven-day loan from Reading.
Chris Maxwell and Matty Virtue were unavailable, the pair self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, while Ollie Turton and Jerry Yates dropped down to the bench.
Jordan Gabriel, Ethan Robson and Sullay Kaikai, starting against his former side, all came into the starting XI.
The likes of Daniel Gretarsson, Jordan Thorniley, Teddy Howe, Ben Woodburn and Oliver Sarkic were all left out.
The game, which was played in front of 2,000 fans with Shropshire remaining in tier 2, went ahead despite Shrewsbury confirming one of their players had tested positive for Covid.
After a slow start to proceedings, the first shot on goal came from Blackpool’s Dan Kemp.
The winger, starting a league game for the first time since October, cut inside from the right following a driving run from Jordan Gabriel before unleashing a low shot which was well claimed by Shrewsbury goalkeeper Matija Sarkic, the twin brother of Oliver who was a rumoured target for Pool during the summer.
The Seasiders continued to pose more of a threat, with Gary Madine seeing a swerving effort from all of 30 yards fly narrowly wide of the top corner.
The Shrews, roared on by their supporters, slowly began to assert some pressure, but debutant Walker still had the luxury of a quiet start.
Pool ought to have done better on a break, as the combative Kenny Dougall played an incisive forward ball into Keshi Anderson, who delayed rather than play in Dan Kemp first time with the opportunity then going to waste.
Walker made his first meaningful save on 33 minutes, although it was still a fairly comfortable one from Josh Vela’s rising long-range strike.
The Reading loanee was called into action a couple of minutes later, parrying Aaron Pierre’s powerful drive back into the danger zone where Marvin Ekpiteta made a crucial block to deny Shaun Whalley.
Keshi Anderson squandered a priceless chance to open the scoring at the other end, blazing wastefully over with a rushed effort after the ball had dropped invitingly to him in the box.
Pool were made to pay for that miss barely two minutes later when the home side were awarded a penalty, which Critchley’s side could have no real complaints with.
Former Salop man Sullay Kaikai made a lazy tackle on Whalley, who was wiped out completely - the referee given no option but to point to the spot.
Ollie Norburn’s effort from 12 yards was well saved by Walker, who again saved on the rebound only for Dan Udoh to have the simple task of tapping home on the goalline.
With Shrewsbury only conceding one in their last four games leading into this game, it was no surprise to see Steve Cotterill’s side give little away.
But Pool, who were struggling without the attacking presence and pace of Hamilton, had to offer more going forward in the second period.
The Seasiders had the first chance of the half, with Luke Garbutt seeing his curling 25-yard free-kick tipped behind by Sarkic, who was at full stretch.
His Blackpool counterpart Walker was also called into action to make a fine stop to deny Shrewsbury a second just before the hour-mark.
The tall, rangey shot stopper did superbly to dive low down to his left to tip Charlie Daniels’ close-range poke away from goal.
Critchley had seen enough by this point, choosing to make a quadruple change with Ollie Turton, Demetri Mitchell, Grant Ward and Jerry Yates all being introduced.
The changes almost paid dividends right away, as Mitchell provided a dangerous cross from the right which Madine met, only to see his glancing header superbly saved by Sarkic.
Blackpool were now on top, penning the Shrews back into their own half thanks to a strong, sustained spell of pressure.
The visitors continued to knock on the door and came within a whisker of levelling seven minutes from time, when Marvin Ekpiteta was inches away from meeting Kenny Dougfall’s teasing cross towards the back post.
Pool’s pressure subsided as the clock ticked towards the 90th minute, with Shrewsbury going close to adding a decisive second with Norburn seeing a low drive deflect just wide of the upright.
Despite five minutes of time being added on, the Seasiders were unable to find a way through Shrewsbury’s resolute backline - the home side holding on for a narrow victory.
Shrewsbury: Sarkic, Pierre, Shaun Williams, Zamburek (Edwards), C.Daniels, J.Daniels (Tracey), Norburn, Vela, Ebanks-Landell, Whalley (Golbourne), Udoh (Clarke)
Subs not used: Burgoyne, Pugh, Cummings
Blackpool: Walker, Gabriel (Turton), Ekpiteta, Ballard, Garbutt, Dougall, Robson (Ward), Anderson (Lubala), Kemp (Yates), Kaikai (Mitchell), Madine
Subs not used: Sims, Husband
Referee: Neil Hair
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