A spirited Mansfield Town display wasn’t enough as the Stags’ fell to a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat against Shrewsbury Town at One Call Stadium.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts who produced a hard-working performance against the Sky Bet League Two high-flyers, which deserved at least a point.
The match started with a minutes silence for life-long Stag’s fan Chris Taylor, who recently lost his life, and the team produced a performance, if not a result, that would have pleased him.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray made two changes to the team that lost 2-0 to Southend United on Good Friday. Both changes came in midfield with Jamie McGuire and Jack Thomas replacing Ricky Ravenhill and Simon Heslop, with McGuire also taking the captain’s armband.
The game looked set to be a fiery encounter when Jack Thomas’ high-boot on Connor Goldson in the fifth minute was penalised by the referee despite it looking like an accidental coming together, resulting in the Shrewsbury players being aggrieved that Thomas didn’t collect at least a booking.
A slow start to the game saw no clear opportunities arrive in the first 10 minutes as the Stags attempted to get the ball forward quickly to Vadaine Oliver without any real success.
It was the Shrews’ who created the first real chance of the game in the 12th minute when Liam Lawrence scuffed a 20-yard effort into the arms of Lenny Pidgeley in the Stags’ goal.
Shrewsbury again looked to take the lead not long after, when James Collins’ close-range flicked attempt from a corner went straight into the arms of the thankful Pidgeley.
The performance of Thomas in midfield delighted the home fans with a Man of the Match performance with the midfielder being at the centre of everything Mansfield did in the opening and the midfielder found himself in behind the Shrews’ defence on 24 minutes, but saw his lobbed effort beat both bar and goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler.
Thomas was again involved a minute later when Goldson’s header back to Leutwiler was intercepted by the 18-year-old, but the ‘keeper managed to clear-up the danger for Salop.
Stags’ looked to catch the Shrews on the counter-attack and it nearly worked to perfection when Goldson failed to cut out Reggie Lambe’s cross and the ball came to Oliver, who could only win a corner.
Thomas found space behind the Shrews’ midfield countless times in the first 40 minutes and his persistence nearly paid off when he latched on to a great ball over the top and struck a speculative effort from 35 yards that forced Leutwiler into a save.
Despite a lack of guilt-edge chances in the first half, it was an impressive hard-working performance by the Stags and Murray must have been delighted with the display from his players with Thomas starring as Mansfield looked a match for their high-flying opponents.
Shrewsbury made first change at half-time with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpo being replaced by Tyrone Barnett in attack.
It was the worst possible start to the second half for the Stags’ though when Shrewsbury took the lead in the 49th minute as substitute Barnett bundled home from close-range after Liam Lawrence’s lobbed cross deflected over Pidgeley and left Barnett with the easiest of opportunities to open the scoring for Salop.
Referee, Tim Robinson brought the game to a halt in the 54th minute when he deemed himself unfit to continue and after a five minute delay he was replaced by fourth official, Stephen Wade.
Murray made his first roll of the dice to try and get the Stags’ back into the game when Matt Rhead replaced Terry Hawkridge.
The new refere didn’t have to wait long for his first major call of the game when he denied Oliver what looked like a blatant penalty after the striker was bundled to the ground by Jermaine Grandison – a decision which denied the Stags their first penalty in 76 games.
Mansfield nearly got themselves back on level terms 20 minutes from time when a brilliant bit of hold-up play by Rhead brought the ball down into the path of Thomas, who picked a great pass to find Chris Clements, who just couldn’t keep his shot on target.
With 15 minutes left, Mellon made his second substitution of the afternoon with Andy Mangan replacing James Collins in attack.
Rhead’s arrival added an added attacking force for the Stags’ good work from a Clements free-kick found Thomas in space on the edge of the area, but he couldn’t find the finish his performance has deserved.
Murray made his second change of the match with Rakish Bingham replacing McGuire as the hosts looked to get back into the match.
Bingham nearly had the perfect introduction seconds after coming on, when he latched onto a knock down by Rhead but could only scuff his finish into the arms of Leutwiler.
Alex Fisher was thrown into the action with 10 minutes left when he came on to replace the injured Oliver.
The final 10 minutes of the game was attack versus defence as the Stags’ hammered hard on the door of the best defence in League Two, but just couldn’t find their way through a stubborn Shrewsbury defence.
The Stags had Shrewsbury penned inside their own half as Pidgeley continued to fire long balls into the air for Rhead to flick on fantastically but the ball just wouldn’t fall for the on-rushing Bingham and Lambe.