Shrewsbury Town 0 Charlton 3 - Report and pictures
Shrewsbury Town were humbled on home soil as their 10 match unbeaten Montgomery Waters Meadow run was put to bed by Charlton.
The impressive Addicks easily punished lacklustre Sam Ricketts’ Shrews with a comfortable 3-0 victory that, if not for goalkeeper Steve Arnold, could have been much more.
Not even the highly-anticipated return of Dave Edwards, back after 12 years away, could draw many blue and amber smiles as Town fans left the stadium seeing their side soundly beaten.
Lyle Taylor scored in the first period before Darren Pratley and a Karlan Grant penalty helped the visitors to an easy three points.
It was the first home defeat since Sunderland won 2-0 at the Meadow on October 20.
Luke Waterfall in particular struggled to deal with the Addicks’ pace but was not alone in having a bad afternoon.
Shrews dropped down to 18th in League One but the gap to the bottom four remains four points after one of Town’s poorer displays of the season.
The Town fans got what they wanted to hear an hour before kick-off as news began filtering through that Edwards had earned a place on Ricketts’ bench.
There had been plenty of debate after the midfielder’s homecoming on Monday whether, after a number of months out injured for Reading with a knee problem, he would make the 18.
But after a good couple of days training the former Wales international was included and supporters clamoured around the hoardings during warm-ups at the Meadow to catch a glimpse of the Pontesbury man.
Edwards, back after 12 years, received a huge roar as his name was announced by PA man Ryan Jervis just before kick-off on a bitterly cold afternoon.
It was the 32-year-old’s first place in a Town matchday squad since a 2-2 draw with Grimsby on May 5, 2007 - the final regular league game at Gay Meadow.
Edwards had returned since, sporting Wolves gold and black, but nothing near as special as this.
Ricketts, meanwhile, reverted to the midfield diamond that has been the normal for much of his tenure to date, including places for Fejiri Okenabirhie and Aaron Amadi-Holloway in attack.
The headline news to follow Edwards’ inclusion on the bench was that of another familiar face.
After sending back-up goalkeeper Joel Coleman back to parent club Huddersfield and with youth keeper Cameron Gregory injured, there was a place for first-team coach Danny Coyne on the bench after the Welshman was registered to feature.
Coyne, 45, was on the bench last season at Gillingham with Dean Henderson on international duty but hasn’t featured competitively since January 29, 2012, for Middlesbrough.
Town had lost just one home game in 18, that coming against Sunderland in October, a run taking them right back to the opening week of the season.
Bowyer’s Charlton, Shrewsbury’s victims back in a two-legged play-off semi-final in May, were flying high in fourth in League One after an impressive campaign to date.
Boasting one of the most lethal strikeforces in the division, Town knew they had to keep pacy and powerful duo Taylor and Karlan Grant quiet to extend their good home form.
There was a palpable buzz around the Meadow ahead of kick-off and Ricketts’ side almost used that to their advantage as Josh Laurent sent a looping left-footed volley goalwards inside 120 seconds but dropped narrowly wide.
That trend did not continue as neither side grasped the initiative. Town fans were urging their side to wake up as Charlton, with new signing from Crystal Palace Jonny Williams central to things, were looking to work quick set-pieces and catch Salop cold.
Karlan Grant had an effort heading to the top corner scooped over by Steve Arnold as the ball took an unfortunate bounce off the referee.
Town looked the side with more intent in the opening stages as it became clear the visitors were delighted to operate with pace on the break.
Taylor and Karlan Grant were living up to their billing, giving Luke Waterfall in particular a torrid time with outbursts of pace when Town’s midfield were caught in advanced positions.
Signs of sleepiness in the early stages were a worry but Town were knitting some decent midfield moves together, with crosses in the final third looking for Amadi-Holloway, whose powerful presence again proved a nuisance.
The big frontman latched on to an Okenabirhie cross to head down well for Laurent, whose crisp first-time shot from six yards arrowed at the keeper’s legs and stayed out. It was a big chance.
But Town’s lack of pace in the backline was highlighted in the few minutes that led to the opener.
Taylor and Grant had already shot over and seen a strike turned behind by Arnold before they made Salop pay.
A resulting corner was flicked on at the near post before Waterfall headed against his own post, somehow staying out, leaving Taylor the simple task to poke home in the busy area.
The hosts were sluggish for the next five minutes as they looked to recover.
Ricketts’ side did improve before the break, with Amadi-Holloway bouncing a tame header at the keeper, Okenabirhie’s sharp shot from distance forcing a save and left-back Ryan Haynes, skillfully shaping on to his right foot, firing one towards the bottom corner that Phillips kept out.
Town were not particularly poor in the first half and did keep the ball well at times, but needed more sharper movement and decision-making in attack.
A very good Charlton frontline were catching the eye.
Ricketts applauded Town’s first move of the second half as Amadi-Holloway knocked down James Bolton’s cross for Okenabirhie but he couldn’t quite connect.
But the visitors flexed their considerable attacking muscle shortly afterwards and left Town standing. Although the Addicks were given a helping hand to start it off.
Ollie Norburn played a risky blind backpass and left it short, leaving Karlan Grant on goal against Arnold, but the Town shot-stopper made himself huge to superbly make the one-on-one save and deny his team-mate’s blushes.
But it kept coming. Taylor showed his class with a subtle flick to help a long ball on to partner Grant who was again denied in the personal battle with Arnold, as the keeper came out to close the angle and force a chip which dropped wide.
But Shrewds could not shake off the Addicks. Williams, a former Wales international colleague of Edwards, showed super footwork down the left and his cross evaded Waterfall who, again, could not clear.
The ball dropped the way of experienced midfield Pratley to hammer a rocket into the top corner leaving Arnold helpless less than 10 minutes after the restart.
It was another error from the defender who had been given the runaround.
Ricketts sent on Alex Gilliead for the quiet Greg Docherty before the hour, with little on show for watching Rangers assistant boss Gary McAllister to take note of.
Winger Gilliead showed a couple of flashes of imagination but Town were off the pace in a poor second period where Bowyer’s men just kept coming.
Waterfall swung at air again just after the hour and was fortunate to see Taylor’s finish drop inches wide as the defender looked low on confidence.
The only player coming out of the Meadow with any credit was Arnold. He made another save to deny Karlan Grant who raced through on goal again, leaving defenders in his wake. The keeper made another big one-on-one save.
His keeping though, which went out of play on a handful of occasions, requires improvement.
The scoreline could have been anything as Taylor, who looked a cut above the level, headed wide from six yards when he should have scored.
Ricketts sought to raise the energy inside the Meadow by sending for Town’s new No.4.
Shrews fans rose to their feet to welcome back their hometown hero with a couple of renditions of ‘Super Dave Edwards’.
But, in keeping with the afternoon, it did nothing to alter the flow as the talented Karlan Grant skinned Bolton and drew a sliding foul in the box from namesake Anthony Grant.
Charlton’s Grant finally got his name on scoresheet, long overdue, with a cool penalty from 12 yards.
Shrews fans headed for the exits on a rare day to forget at Montgomery Waters Meadow where they were outclassed by the better side.
2 - Josh Laurent’s looping left-footed volley from distance drops just wide of the far post.
8 - Steve Arnold has to reach to tip over as the lively Karlan Grant looks to curl one into the top corner.
20 - Town’s big chance. Fejiri Okenabirhie’s cross knocked down by Aaron Amadi-Holloway for the unmarked Josh Laurent six yards out and his fierce strike hits Dillon Phillips.
24 - Trouble for Town. Lyle Taylor outpaces Luke Waterfall and flashes over, then K Grant gets away from the defender and his low shot is turned around the post by Arnold.
25 - Goal Charlton. From the resulting corner by Albie Morgan the visitors lead. Flicked on at the near post, Waterfall heads against his own post trying to clear and Taylor turns in from close range.
40 - Okenabirhie breaks from the halfway line and hits a well-struck strike at goal from the edge of the box and well held by Phillips.
45+2 - Good play Ryan Haynes on the left, chops back on to his right foot and a good strike from outside the box forces Phillips into a diving save.
48 - Poor blind backpass from Ollie Norburn and Arnold has to make a big save to deny Grant.
51 - Super Taylor flick for Grant and he tests Arnold again. The keeper gets out well to close the gap and force a chip which lands wide.
54 - Goal. 2-0 Charlton. Jonny Williams works it down the left, his cross is missed poorly by Waterfall and it deflects back the way of Darren Pratley who slams into the top corner in super style.
63 - Taylor shoots wide after Waterfall misses another cross. Should’ve scored.
71 - K Grant through on goal again for Charlton and Arnold makes his best save of the bunch to keep it at two.
76 - Taylor heads wide from six yards out. Should score.
77 - Dave Edwards returns for Shrewsbury after 12 years coming on to replace Josh Laurent.
80 - Goal Charlton. 3-0. Karlan Grant picks himself up to finally score after being fouled by Anthony Grant for a clear penalty.
Shrewsbury Town (4-4-2 diamond):
Arnold; Bolton, Waterfall, Sadler ©, Haynes; Grant, Norburn, Docherty (Gilliead, 60), Laurent (Edwards, 77); Amadi-Holloway (Angol, 82).
Subs not used: Coyne (gk), Beckles, Sears, Eisa.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2 diamond):
Phillips; Solly ©, Sarr, Bauer, Purrington; Bielik (Dijksteel, 82), Pratley, Morgan (Lapslie, 58), Williams (Marshall, 80); Taylor, Grant.
Subs not used: Maxwell (gk), Clarke, Fosu, Hackett-Fairchild.
Attendance: 5,995 (580 Charlton fans)
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Position in the table - 18th (30 points from 27 matches)
Man of the match - Steve Arnold. Made a number of save as it could have been more.