Shrewsbury Town 1 - 0 Oldham Athletic | League One | 01/01/2018

Since the last home match, Shrewsbury Town had picked up 4 points from two difficult away games at Wigan Athletic and Southend United.  This run saw Shrewsbury return to the Montgomery Waters Meadow looking to complete the festive period by gaining 10 points from a possible 12.

Oldham started the game in 19th position, having had a small revival under former Shrewsbury player Ritchie Wellens. Upon looking at the team sheet, the return of Anthony Gerrard (who left under a cloud for Oldham) and Tope Obadeyi both of whom played for Shrewsbury since the move to the New Meadow stood out for me along with striker Craig Davies who started his youth career with Town before becoming a bit of a journeyman of Leagues One and Two.

Shrewsbury: Henderson; Bolton, Nsiala, Sadler, Beckles; B Morris (Godfrey 67), Whalley , Nolan, Ogogo, Gnahoua (John-Lewis 77); Payne (C Morris 84)
Subs: Riley, Godfrey, C Morris, John-Lewis, MacGillivray, Adams, Rodman

Oldham Athletic: Placide, Dummigan, Gerrard, Bryan, Hunt, Gardner, Fane (Green 85), Flynn (Holloway 61), Byrne, Obadeyi (Menig 77), Davies

Subs: Wilson, Holloway, Wilson, Menig, Nepomuceno, Green, Maouche

First Half
The first opportunity of the game came from Stefan Payne who forced Oldham goalkeeper Placide in to a good save from 20 yards after Mat Sadler slid the ball through to him from the half-way line.

A neat passage of play saw the impressive Byrne have a shot from 25 yards, but Dean Henderson stopped the initial shot and clutched the ball to his chest at the second attempt.

As Omar Beckles and Abu Ogogo lost possession just on the edge of the Oldham box the ball broke to Arthur Gnahoua, who dipped a shoulder to go past Gerrard and fizz a right footed shot at goal.  Although the goalkeeper blocked the shot the ball broke to Shaun Whalley who score passed the helpless goalkeeper.

Shrewsbury almost sneaked in a second as first Payne had a header pushed away by the keeper, but Ogogo couldn't quite beat Gerrard to the rebound.

Second Half
The second half saw Oldham improve dramatically, and they had the first chance to score as Gerrard flicked a header towards goal from a free kick, only for Henderson to stop the attempt on the goal line.

Shrewsbury's first attempt of the second half came from a Shaun Whalley corner which found it's way to Toto Nsiala whose side-footed shot flew inches over the crossbar.

Oldham were growing in confidence as Shrewsbury sat back on their lead and Byrne again came close to scoring as his bobbling shot almost tricked Henderson, who just scrambled the ball around his post for a corner.

Shortly afterwards the Oldham fans and players had a strong case for a penalty as Byrne played a quarterback style pass forwards to Davies who brought the ball down (possibly using his arm in my opinion) got bumped by Nsiala and he then fell to the floor. I've seen them given in other games.

Final Thoughts
After the first (and as it turned out only) goal of the game, I was thinking that if a second was scored quickly the game would turn into a rout and it could easily see another two or three goals after that. Shrewsbury were dominant and Oldham decidedly average.  However, despite a few forays forward in the second half, Oldham were the ones dictating play and even a shift in formation didn't see Shrewsbury recover their composure

The result did mean they finished the festive period unbeaten, close the gap to Wigan to two points and extend their lead over Blackburn Rovers in third to five points.  Next up sees West Ham United make their first trip to the Montgomery Waters Meadow in the FA Cup next Sunday, Blackpool in the EFL Trophy and a potentially season defining game against Blackburn the following Saturday, that could see the gap to third build to a massive eight points.

Man of the Match - Arthur Gnahoua & Dean Henderson
In a proper game of two halves, I've decided to split my MotM between Arthur Gnahoua and Dean Henderson.

Until the half time whistle, Gnahoua was really impressed me particularly as it was only his second start at this level.  It was his shot that resulted in the only goal of the game but he looked a threat whenever he ran at pace towards the defenders.  But in the second half he didn't look the same player, but Dean Henderson really stood out with several good saves to preserve his clean sheet.

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