Shrewsbury downed by Torquay in play-off first leg

Reporter:

Robert Doman

Shrewsbury Town have it all to do in the second leg of their play-off semi-final after Graham Taylor watched his side succumb to a two nil defeat against a determined Torquay United.

Torquay bossed the game at Plainmoor and undid Shrewsbury with two first half goals to bring the Shrews five game run of clean-sheets to an end as Chris Zebroski and Eunan O’Kane both found the net.

But Shrewsbury had goalkeeper Ben Smith to thank as he pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the tie alive for the second leg at the Meadow on Friday.

 

Shrews’ boss, Taylor, said: “I thought we started the game reasonably well but goals change games and we had opportunities but didn’t take our chances.

“Second half we were poor and a shadow of the side that has performed so well in the last ten or twelve matches.

“But it could have been worse and I know we can do a lot better so we need to be at our best on Friday.

 

Shrewsbury could have gone behind nine minutes in when good work from Torquay’s Gary Tomlin saw him wriggle between two defenders before cutting into the box from the left.

 

His pass found Billy Key who flicked the ball up before heading over the arms of Town ‘keeper, Ben Smith, who watched as the ball bounced just wide of his far post from a narrow angle.

 

The Shrews were dealt a blow when they lost skipper Ian Sharps to injury 22 minutes in, before James Collins dragged a shot wide four minutes later as Shrewsbury mounted their first serious threat of the game.

 

But Torquay took a 29th minute lead as Tomlin again beat his man to surge into the area, feeding Zebroski who momentarily lost his footing before regaining enough composure to control the ball and fire it into the bottom corner.

 

United’s on-loan, Jake Robinson, cleared to play against his parent club following an oversight in the contract between the two sides in January, saw his pile driver beaten away by Smith on 32 minutes, before Town were almost gifted an opportunity to equalise when a miss-kick from Torquay goalkeeper, Scott Bevan, allowed John Taylor to tee-up David Davis, whose 20-yard strike went just shy of the top corner.

 

But O’Kane doubled his side’s advantage on the stroke of half time when his 25-yarder beat the outstretched Smith to put his side in a commanding position.

 

Smith forced away Kevin Nicholson’s thunderous free-kick on 59 minutes, and he denied Tomlin two minutes later as the Gulls continued to push forward.

 

Zebroski shot wide from a good position and sub, Tom Bradshaw, cleared off the line from Tomlin as Shrewsbury defended for their lives.

 

Bradshaw was unlucky not to hit the target in the 81st minute with a volley that flew over the bar as the Shropshire side tasted some respite at the other end before Mark Wright’s dipping strike went close in injury time, but they couldn’t find a goal to take back to the Meadow in what will be an all or nothing second-leg encounter.

See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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