Striker looks back on 3-2 win against the ShrewsGrecians striker Tom Nichols felt that the 3-2 win against Shrewsbury Town at St James Park was just about as enjoyable a game as he has been involved in at first-team level.
City were trailing to two James Collins goals at the break as the Shrews impressed, but 21-year-old Tom – making his 16th appearance of the season – sparked a resurgence within 60 seconds of the restart as he controlled Matt Grimes’ cross and calmly placed in.
David Wheeler, on as a second-half sub, got the Grecians back on terms when he rose above a crowd to guide a header just inside Jayson Leutwiler’s post to make it two-apiece.
And when Liam Sercombe’s stoppage-time cross was flicked on in the six-yard box, forward Nichols kept a cool head to nod the ball up and over the despairing goalkeeper to give the Grecians the most dramatic of winners.
“It was unbelievable – it was probably one of the best games I’ve experienced along with Plymouth away last season, but that probably tops it to be honest,” said Nichols.
“The atmosphere was electric. And to get two goals and the winner was brilliant.
“It wasn’t a nice place in the dressing room at half-time. We were at home, losing two-nil, and getting battered to be honest. They absolutely pummelled us in the first half and we should have been more down.
“But Grimesy put a cross in and it landed at my feet with no-one anywhere near me – the goalie dived out the way which is always helpful, and it went in.
“As soon as the second one went in we thought ‘it’s ours now’. We knew we just had to keep pushing and putting pressure on their back four, and eventually a chance would come. Thankfully it did and it went in and we won the game.
“The boys were saying that it feels like we’ve won three games. Everyone is absolutely buzzing. Shrewsbury are probably the best team we’ll play in this league – in the first half they were very good, and we’ve beaten them by absolutely mauling them in the second half.
“The atmosphere is great at the moment – we’ve just got to keep picking up these wins and see where we are in May.”
Tom’s winner took a remarkable degree of composure, with the pressure of the situation not even coming close to fazing the striker.
Swiss stopper Leutwiler had committed to closing down Nichols at the back stick rather than staying on his line, and the Grecians’ man showed an innovative edge to loop a header back over the stopper from a tight angle.
Shrewsbury’s defence scrambled despairingly but couldn’t keep the ball out of net as the three points were secured.
“I saw the ball flicked over the goalie and he came rushing towards out – I thought ‘if I power this, it’s going to hit him and not go in’,” explained Tom.
“As he was coming I thought I’d loop it over him – they almost kept it out but thankfully it went over the line and we got the three points.”
Despite netting twice, Tom was still keen to pick the bones out of his own performance and stress that he is looking to improve the teamwork aspect of his game.
His brace against the Shrews took him to six for the campaign – already level with his return last season – but he was keen to keep mucking in with the workmanlike side of the game too.
“I don’t actually think I played that well today, in terms of on the ball,” Tom explained. “I gave it away too much – I need to work on that side of my game really.
“It’s not easy, but it’s what I’ve got to improve on really. I’m not pleased with that side of the game – obviously I’m delighted that I’ve scored two goals, but there’s a lot of improvement to be done. If I can score goals and do the other side well, then happy days.
“I set high standards for myself and I know that I can do the other side of the game well, and I’m not doing it as well as I can do. That needs to improve – if I stop scoring goals and I’m not doing the other side either, I’m not going to play – simple as that. I’m hoping to improve on that in the coming weeks.
“I’ve already equalled my tally from last year, and it’s not even Christmas yet. But I’d rather improve the other side of my game at the same time. I haven’t really got a target of goals. I just want to score as many as I can and play as well as I can.”