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Battling victory for Cherries
Cherries maintained their spirited League Two promotion push this afternoon with a battling victory in testing circumstances.
Having suffered the loss of influential pair Anton Robinson and Shwan Jalal to injury during the Dean Court clash against Shrewsbury, Eddie Howe’s men displayed their fighting qualities to claim a dramatic late win.
With rain again hammering the stadium in a similar scene to last weekend’s FA Cup defeat against Notts County, Cherries came out on top on this occasion thanks to a fortuitous 85th-minute winner.
The goal came when captain Danny Hollands chased a Steve Fletcher flick-on and, with the central midfielder closing in, Shrews midfielder Terry Dunfield diverted the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Paul Simpson’s side attempted to find a way back into the match as the minutes ticked away, but a Cherries defence led by the outstanding Jason Pearce held firm.
Despite the nature of the goal, Cherries were not complaining as the result kept them within a point of leaders Rochdale.
Cherries boss Howe named an unchanged side from the one which drew 1-1 at Barnet on Tuesday, while the visitors were forced to replace injured, eight-goal top scorer Dave Hibbert with Nathan Elder in attack.
But Elder saw little of the ball in the early exchanges as Cherries made a promising start in front of their own fans.
With Sammy Igoe and Alan Connell featuring prominently in a bright opening, Shrewsbury were made to work hard as Cherries set about finding a way through the defence which shut out high-flying Rotherham in an impressive midweek win.
Connell came close as early as the fifth minute when he received Ryan Garry’s pass and turned sharply, but his attempted lob failed to test David Button, the Tottenham Hotspur keeper who had an unsuccessful spell with Cherries last season.
Howe was forced into an early substitution when Marvin Bartley replaced Robinson in the heart of the Cherries midfield, with the former Weymouth captain clearly struggling with an injury.
Despite their strong start, though, it was the hosts’ keeper who was called into action first on 17 minutes. Shrewsbury fired a warning to Howe’s men when, in space 20 yards from goal, Dunfield forced Jalal to parry his shot. As the visitors grew in confidence, Jalal was again required moments later to save low down from a Jamie Devitt shot.
Cherries’ response was swift, with Igoe and Connell again at the centre of things. The ex-Bristol Rovers playmaker picked out Connell with a lofted pass and the forward’s attempt at a Marco van Basten volley looped over.
As Shrewsbury began to grow into the game, Jalal again had to be sharp to collect Devitt’s low drive from a tight angle.
With Cherries struggling to get any joy in the final third as the half wore on, wide men Liam Feeney and Igoe switched flanks to give Howe’s side a different attacking dimension.
Feeney was involved as Cherries had an effort on goal three minutes before the break, although it came from a set piece.
The winger’s corner was headed goalwards by the excellent Pearce and his defensive partner Garry arrived just to late at the far post to add the finishing touch.
Moments later, ex-Salisbury City star Feeney had Cherries’ best attempt of the opening period as Shrewsbury had Button to thank for saving them.
With Feeney sent clear by a Connell flick, the livewire showed the visiting defence a clean pair of heels and would have scored but he saw his firm, low shot well claimed by Button.
As the action livened up ahead of the interval, Garry denied Paul Murray a clear shot before blocking a powerful effort from Shane Cansdell-Sherriff.
The eventful proceedings continued after the break and Cherries suffered a double scare within seven minutes.
Key man Jalal, who missed last weekend’s FA Cup defeat, required treatment after appearing to sustain a thigh injury.
Moments later his fitness was tested by Devitt, with Jalal springing to his right to produce an excellent save.
Howe decided he had seen enough on 54 minutes and threw powerful veteran targetman Fletcher on in place of Connell.
The Cherries boss was forced to make another change five minutes later when Jalal failed to fully recover from his injury and hobbled off, to be replaced by 18-year-old rookie Dan Thomas.
With rain now lashing down, Thomas was called into duty in the most difficult of conditions, as he was against County.
Despite neither keeper being likely to relish the increasingly slippery surface, both sides failed to get a shot on target for much of the second half, with goalscoring chances drying up at a wet Dean Court.
It took until the 79th minute for a clear opportunity to come, but Dunfield failed to direct his powerful left-foot drive on target as it flew wide from 18 yards.
But just when it looked as if the game was destined to finish goalless, Cherries struck.
After Lee Bradbury had delivered a long free-kick deep into Shrewsbury territory, flick-ons from Fletcher and Pearce put the ball in the danger area and, with Hollands in close proximity, Shrewsbury's Dunfield appeared to head the ball past Button and in off the far post.
Cherries: (4-4-2) Jalal (Thomas, 59); Bradbury, Pearce, Garry, Cummings; Feeney, Robinson (Bartley, 14), Hollands, Igoe; Pitman, Connell (Fletcher, 54). Unused subs: Goulding, McQuoid, Partington.
Shrewsbury Town: (4-4-2) Button; Holden, Coughlan, Langmead, Cansdell-Sherriff; Devitt, Dunfield, Murray, McIntyre; Elder (Bright, 76), Fairhurst (Riza, 80). Unused subs: Robinson, Leslie, Hooma, Simpson, Arestidou.
Booked: Cansdell-Sherriff, Holden, Langmead
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex)
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