Shrewsbury Town 1 Bradford City 0
Despite occupying a lowly league position after struggling for the majority of the first half of the campaign, Shrewsbury started this one pretty well. The first chance of the game belonged to Paul Hurst’s men but after Adam El-Abd had connected with Joe Riley’s corner, he could only watch as the ball looped onto the roof of the net.
After Timothee Dieng was hauled to the ground just outside the area, City were presented with a decent opportunity to try and test Jayson Leutwiler in the Shrewsbury goal. Tony McMahon and Josh Cullen stood over the ball and the latter saw his attempt blocked by the wall before Romain Vincelot went down in the box looking for a penalty which wasn’t awarded by the referee, Charles Breakspear.
In the space of around thirty seconds, Louis Dodds forced Doyle into a really comfortable stop with a tame shot from the edge of the box before Mark Marshall cut inside Mat Sadler and onto his left foot before testing Leutwiler with a thumping shot which was probably a little close to the Swiss stopper for him to be left picking the ball out of his net.
Dodds tried his luck again a few minutes later and his attempt on this occasion looked much more menacing. The former Port Vale attacking midfielder cut inside onto his right foot and from an acute angle he lashed a shot that went a few inches over the bar.
Alex Jones kept his place in the team after making his City debut last weekend and his first sniff of goal came from a chance that he engineered for himself. With his back to goal inside the box, he turned away from Aristote Nsiala before seeing the ball skew wide after he kicked the ball unfortunately against his standing leg to leave Leutwiler untested.
The best chance of the opening half hour belonged to Shrewsbury’s Freddie Ladapo. After getting the return pass from Dodds in the box, he closed down on goal before seeing his side-footer towards the bottom corner clawed away by Doyle to keep the scores level; certainly a presentable opportunity spurned by the Crystal Palace loanee.
Shrewsbury looked the more likely to open the lead in this one and they did just that five minutes before the break. Returning to his former club for the first time since leaving for Bradford in the summer, Nathaniel Knight-Percival mis-controlled a high ball and allowed Dodds to surge away down the right hand side and into the box; his shot was kept out by Doyle but the ball fell to Ladapo who couldn’t miss from a couple of yards out.
Marshall was presented an opportunity from a set-piece situation after Jones was fouled 25 yards from goal, and although his free kick was well-executed it went about half a yard or so over the crossbar before Knight-Percival saw a header from McMahon’s delivery loop towards goal before being held by Leutwiler as he looked to make up for his first half error which led to Town’s opener.
Alex Rodman had the next opportunity as he turned into space before seeing a shot from 20 yards go a yard or so over the bar before good work by the midfielder who only arrived earlier in the January window, teed up substitute Shaun Whalley who hammered the ball over the bar to leave City breathing a sigh of relief.
Stuart McCall’s men were bound to try and force the issue as the half wore on and McMahon was the next to go close, forcing an acrobatic save from Leutwiler with a 25 yard free kick that looked bound for the Shrewsbury stopper’s top left corner. Dieng tried to beat the home keeper from distance with a curling shot on his weaker left foot but the ball went a couple of yards wide much to the frustration of the French midfielder.
The goal scorer, and ultimately the match-winner, Ladapo was causing some problems for City and after going close with a header just seconds earlier he floated a precise cross to Whalley at the far post and he saw a volley flash agonisingly wide of the target with Doyle rooted to the spot and hoping for the best.
The free kick duties were being passed around amongst the City ranks and Cullen had another attempt to try and test Leutwiler after Jones was fouled; he curled his attempt superbly over a fairly tall Shrewsbury wall but the ball couldn’t quite dip enough and landed on the roof of the net.
Alex Gilliead was introduced in the latter stages for his City debut but the visitors struggled to break down a resilient Shrewsbury side and were left limited to half chances in all honesty on a hugely frustrating afternoon in Shropshire. It’s a result that leaves the Bantams ten points outside the automatic promotion places and the Shrews inside the drop zone on goal difference.