Match report: Shrewsbury 4 Exeter City 0Exeter City’s eight-game unbeaten run came to an end at Greenhous Meadow at the hands of a rampant Shrewsbury Town side, who won 4-0 to keep pressure on leaders Burton Albion at the summit of Sky Bet League 2.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro had the home side in the ascendency at half-time, and his second was Shrewsbury’s third after James Collins had doubled the lead.
Then sub Tyrone Barnett hammered in a thunderous effort from just inside the area to seal the win in stoppage time.
The pre-match team news saw Scot Bennett replace the injured Jordan Moore-Taylor, and with Jamie McAllister deemed fit enough to start, he was due to start alongside Craig Woodman in the defensive ranks with Alex Nicholls making way.
However it transpired with kick-off that it was in fact Danny Butterfield rather than Woodman that began in a five-man defence, due to a late withdrawal.
And Butterfield was called upon early to make an important block with Akpa Akpro threatening down the right-hand side of the box.
Liam Sercombe then threatened to burst through before a well-timed tackle arrived from Jermaine Grandison, and then a ball over the top from McAllister was just too long for Graham Cummins to chase and allowed Jayson Leutwiler to come out quickly to collect.
Despite all their possession, the Shrews weren’t finding many openings in the Grecians’ well-drilled defensive line. And at the other end Lee Holmes cut in off the right and fired, and saw his effort twice take deflections, the latter of which was off teammate Cummins on its way behind.
But the breakthrough came at the other end – Jordan Clark had an initial effort which was deflected, but it fell fortuitously into the path of Akpa Akpro who hit home confidently to give the home side an 18th-minute lead.
With the two teams trying to keep the game tight in the difficult windy conditions, the game entered something of a lull while they contested a midfield battle. The best chance fell for Clark, having been teed up by Bobby Grant, but a block came in.
Exeter then began to probe again and Lee Holmes was perhaps a little unfortunate not to be awarded a free-kick when he was taken down just outside the box. And then when the Preston loanee linked up with Ryan Harley outside the area, he forced a fingertip save from Leutwiler with a piledriving effort with his left.
A loose clearance from goalkeeper Leutwiler almost gifted City a way back into the game before the interval – however it didn’t quite stick to Harley’s foot which allowed a challenge to come in before he could get a shot off at an open goal.
Half-time: Shrewsbury Town 1 Exeter City 0
Shrewsbury continued their dominance of the ball early in the second half and after Grant was knocked over on the left, captain Liam Lawrence had the chance to whip in a free-kick. Mark Ellis met the cross at the far post but misdirected his header.
Some tidy play down the right between captain Matt Oakley and Liam Sercombe nearly saw Oakley released in the area, but some good covering by Grandison saw the ball shepherded out well.
With the game at the hour-mark, Clinton Morrison and David Wheeler added fresh legs to the attack as Cummins and Butterfield made way.
But within minutes of Exeter’s change, Shrewsbury were two goals ahead. Lawrence’s corner from the right wasn’t cleared effectively, allowing Collins to hammer in a half-volley as he swivelled six yards out.
Alex Nicholls, on as a sub midway through the second period in place of Oakley, dispossessed Mickey Demetriou high upfield and defender Grandison became the first name in then book as he handled after slipping on the turf. Sercombe took the resultant free-kick but couldn’t work the defence with his delivery.
And the third goal again went the way of the hosts as a neat build-up down the right saw Lawrence find Clark, whose low delivery was met with a first-time shot by Akpa Akpro and nestled in the far corner.
Exeter continued to work hard but the Shrews were impressive in possession and countering quickly whenever they managed to turn over possession.
Defender Bennett won the ball high upfield and stepped past Demetriou – a low early cross into the middle was scuffed clear and Nicholls’ shot with his left was over the bar.
Shrews sub Scott Vernon almost added a fourth for the hosts as he improvised a clever effort as the ball came in from the right, but goalkeeper James Hamon saved smartly with his feet and Bennett made a key block on the follow-up.
But another goal was forthcoming as sub Andy Mangan played a ball into the feet of Barnett just outside the area, and the ball just sat up nicely to rifle a stoppage-time goal into the top corner.
Full-time: Shrewsbury Town 4 Exeter City 0
Shrewsbury Town: Leutwiler; Gayle, Ellis, Grandison, Demetriou; Southern, Clark (Mangan 84), Lawrence, Grant; Akpa Akpro (Barnett 84), Collins (Vernon 84).
Unused subs: Halstead, Ginnelly, Sharpe, Mandron.
Goals: Akpa Akpro (18, 73), Collins (62), Barnett (90).
Exeter City: Hamon; McAllister, Bennett, Ribeiro, Davies; Oakley (Nicholls 67), Butterfield (Morrison 60), Harley, Sercombe; Holmes, Cummins (Wheeler 60).
Unused subs: Pym, Keohane, Tillson.
Attendance: 5,442 (445 away).
Referee: Charles Breakspear