Last minute heart-break for City in Shropshire as Shrewsbury come back from two goals down to defeat the Grecians in added time.
Despite Exeter being 2-0 up just 20 minutes in, the Grecians couldn’t hold on at the Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium as the Salops scored twice before the break and in the 93rd minute to take all three points.
After a 10-day break without football, Matt Taylor made two changes to his starting line-up from City’s win over MK, with Tim Dieng and Cheick Diabate dropping out of the squad with injuries and being replaced by Jake Caprice and Rekeem Harper. These changes meant that wing-back Josh Key began in an unusual role – playing on the right of City’s back three, with Pierce Sweeney shifting into the centre.
A steady opening to the match indicated that both teams may need a bit of time to get going after their extended lay-off, but City did threaten with a few corners and Jevani Brown firing over the crossbar from the edge of the box early on.
However, all hell proceeded to break loose in the 16th minute, as Sam Nombe forced the Grecians’ third corner of the match with a low fizzing shot, pushed out of play by Salop keeper Marko Marosi. Brown sent in a corner in front of the Town fans behind the goal and the ball flicked off Harper and fell perfectly for Sweeney, who lashed it into the back of the net for his first goal in 16 months.
City didn’t rest on this opening goal though, immediately pushing forward after Shrewsbury re-started the game. Goal-scorer Sweeney sent a long ball forwarded that was delicately knocked back by Brown to Harry Kite, who’s effort deflected out for another corner.
That corner fell perfectly on the edge of the box for Jack Sparkes, who used his lethal left foot to hammer the ball goalwards. Unintentionally, the ball took a deflection off Jonathan Grounds to divert it past the Shrews’ defence and goalie, bouncing into the back of the net off the post.
The goals didn’t stop there, as Shrewsbury halved the deficit almost as quick as City had doubled their lead. Continuing with the evening’s theme, Town won a corner on their first attack after kick-off, resulting in the ball being bundled home by right-back Matt Pennington from close range.
Heart rates inside the stadium didn’t slow down anytime soon still; the Grecians attempted to immediately regain their two-goal advantage just minutes after conceding, with Jevani Brown looping a cross to the back post for Sparkes, who couldn’t direct his header on target, missing the inside of the post by mere inches.
Then, still getting used to playing centre-back, Josh Key made an uncharacteristic error, giving the ball away and allowing for a Shrewsbury break at City’s defence, which resulted in a shot by Rekeil Pyke which had to be palmed away for a corner by Jamal Blackman.
Blackman couldn’t stop what came from that corner though as, in tune with the rest of the match so far, the set-piece fell for Tom Bayliss inside the box, who produced a composed finish to level the match.
The Grecians’ heads didn’t drop though, and they responded to being drawn level by rattling the crossbar. Archie Collins’ brilliant footwork allowed him to shuffle his way past three Shrewsbury players pressing in City’s half before he laid off the ball to his fellow central midfielder Kite. Kite then found Brown who let fly from 25 yards, smashing the top of the bar.
More corners followed for the Grecians as they finished the half on top, with both Sweeney and Grounds seeing headers saved and go over respectively.
Tom Bayliss had the first chance following the break, as his low shot was palmed away by Blackman.
City replied with two efforts – Archie Collins found a couple yards of space to let fly on the edge of the box but his shot missed the target before Brown played through Sam Nombe whose high shot was parried away.
As the game entered the final 25 minutes, Shrewsbury brought on fresh legs in the form of former Grecian Ryan Bowman and Town began to get on top of the Grecians.
Man-of-the-match Bayliss dragged a shot wide and then proceeded to head the wrong sides of the posts just 60 seconds later. Salop skipper Luke Leahy then sent another header straight at Blackman before Town’s best chance of the half so far fell to George Nurse.
That man Bayliss sent another ball across the box which was completely miss-hit by Bowman. However, that failed shot turned into a perfect pass for Nurse, who had acres of space but sent his shot off the top of the bar and out for a goal kick.
As the clock ticked towards 90, Kite lost possession in the centre circle to Shrews’ Taylor Moore, who drove forward creating a 3 on 2 situation in Town’s favour, but Bowman’s placed shot didn’t end up where he wanted it, falling wide.
That wasn’t to be the final chance of the match though, as in the 93rd minute, Nurse made up for his earlier miss by spotting centre-half Chey Dunkley free in the box with a long throw, and he fired home to send City back down to Devon empty-handed.
Shrewsbury Town: Marosi, Leahy ©, Pennington, Moore, Street (Bowman), Pyke, Bayliss (Winchester), Dunkley, Nurse, Shipley (Saydee), Flanagan
Subs not used: Burgoyne, Bloxham, Caton, Craig
Exeter City: Blackman, Caprice, Key, Sweeney (C), Grounds (Smith), Sparkes (Stansfield), Kite (Jay), Collins, Harper (Hartridge), Brown, Nombe
Subs not used: S. Brown, Chauke, Cox
Attendance: 4803 (322 away)