Paul Hurst’s League One Shrewsbury Town put in a dominant performance against David Moyes’ Premier League West Ham United to earn a deserved draw in their FA Cup Third Round tie at the Montgomery Waters Meadow yesterday afternoon.
The home side had the best of the chances throughout the tie, testing out Irons Skipper Joe Hart on numerous occasions, whilst the visitors would only manage four touches in the opposition’s box in the whole affair.
However, the rather eventful matchup did have its other talking points, including more than its fair share of head injuries, Mat Sadler and young midfielder Josh Cullen the most notable sufferers either side of the half-time interval.
The sharing of the spoils was the first time that the two outfits have drawn competitively in any Competition, meaning that a Replay, expected to be played on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week will be needed to decide who progresses to Round Four.
From the start in Shropshire, Salop Boss Hurst decided on just two changes in the wake of his side’s New Year’s Day home victory over Oldham Athletic in League One.
Departing from the team were Stefan Payne and Arthur Gnahoua, they saw their places taken by Alex Rodman and Ben Godfrey, while Manchester United gave goalkeeper Dean Henderson, on loan from them, permission to keep his place for the tie on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Hammers Manager Moyes made double that number of alterations, four, to his starting Xl from Thursday night’s Wembley Stadium draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
Former Shrewsbury man Joe Hart came in for Adrian San-Miguel in goal, whilst the young pairing of Reece Burke and Josh Cullen were recalled from their loans at Bolton Wanderers to replace Pablo Zabaleta and Mark Noble respectively, while Manuel Lanzini was rested in favour of Andre Ayew, as many as six Development Squad stars occupied the bench.
From the very start at the Meadow, Hurst’s men were able to dictate the play in most areas of the pitch, although their first sight at goal didn’t arrive until the 12th minute.
This came in the form of a free-kick from Jon Nolan that was blasted into the defensive wall, this came moments after a rare attack from the away side had seen Cullen out two dangerous balls into the area.
However, it was clear to see that Moyes’ boys weren’t at the races by a long-shot and it hardly took Salop long to start exploiting this in much more dangerous fashion.
Shaun Whalley’s deep delivery came very close indeed to picking out Man of the Match contender Godfrey, although Hart was quick to gobble the ball up, a short while after donning a cap that was kindly thrown onto the field for him by a travelling West Ham fan.
The England keeper was soon forced into two saves out of the very top drawer as the break approached, eventually keeping the scores level against his former employers.
Sadler came up with the shot for the first, whilst blood still poured from his head, slipping in on the left side and with the goal bearing down, being unable to force the ball past the 30-year-old.
The second, not quite as spectacular as the first, arrived a mere two minutes later with Rodman seeing an attack fall to him on the very edge of the penalty box.
The former Notts County man looked to find the far corner, Hart pushing the ball away once more, the East Londoners may have been up against it, but they made it to the end of the first period.
Moyes’ tactics may have changed slightly for the second-half, however, the complexion of the match didn’t, Rodman popping up early to threaten, the best that could muster up was an Ayew flick that was easily saved by Henderson.
As the tie progressed, Rodman and Nolan looked the most likely to net, although they did get in each other’s way when attacking promisingly just before the hour.
The introduction of young Spanish striker Antonio Martinez, in place of the quiet Javier Hernandez, did encourage the visitors slightly, although still nothing clear-cut was created.
15 minutes from time, as they launched a rare counter, Cullen received a nasty knock to the face from the boot of Abu Ogogo, a youth star with Arsenal, not for the faint-hearted replays showing the former Bradford City man’s tooth being knocked clean out of his mouth and falling onto the turf.
To his credit, the composed central man carried on, being rushed to Hospital straight after the full-time whistle was blown, although defender Winston Reid was forced off with injury a short while after.
Just as the affair looked to be simmering out even Stevens, the hosts almost dramatically won it with two fantastic late opportunities, the clearer of them being the first on 88 minutes.
Substitute Payne was able to kick the ball off Cullen before teeing up Nolan, his effort blazing well over the bar to the groans of the home supporters behind the goal.
If the wounded Cullen had been sluggish moments earlier, he was detrimental in stopping an added-time break by Shrewsbury as Nolan released Payne, the attack and the affair ending after play was pulled back by Referee Paul Tierney for a foul.
There was little doubt that the Shrews deserve a Replay, but in hindsight probably should have progressed, next up for them will be a Checkatrade Trophy clash with Blackpool at home.
Meanwhile, after a hectic week or so, the Irons will now get six days off before turning attention back to the League with a trip to the John Smith’s Stadium to face off with Huddersfield Town, the date for the replay will be announced in due course.