As I said when I watched Hartlepool United vs Sunderland U23’s, I totally understand why people are boycotting the Checkatrade Trophy. It is an absolutely flawed competition and hopefully the FA will figure that one when they come to review the idea. I wasn’t going to go to this game tonight but I was at university when it was suggested. Me and Rory Drake went and found out how much of an awful idea the whole thing is (again). It was going to be Ryhope CW vs Seaham Red Star tonight but I decided to go to this game when it was suggested as it was something slightly different and it isn’t very often I get the chance to watch Shrewsbury. One of the problems I find with this tournament (and there’s a lot of them!) is ticket prices. For u23 football, you would normally pay £3 for adults while you would pay about £20 for League One or League Two football. So, when they go head-to-head, what do you charge? Sunderland are charging £10 and £5 tomorrow against Notts County and I know a lot of people who think that is too steep to watch and u23 side. But tonight we were paying £5 to watch a League One side which is an absolute bargain really. That’s just a minor problem, there’s a bucket load really! I remember sunbathing by the pool in Santorini in July/August and watching the Checkatrade Trophy draw come in. When it happened, I remember just thinking “Imagine having to travel to Middlesbrough U23s when you’re Shrewsbury.” Shrewsbury is three and a half hours from Middlesbrough. Imagine being an away fan who travels all that way to watch your side play a youth side in front of 300 fans! It just simply isn’t correct. By the way, the attendance tonight shows how bad of a tournament it is. There was a mere 308 there tonight with about 25 from Shrewsbury. Fair play to every single one of them. That takes commitment and they were good fans. Hats off to them.
AJ Leitch-Smith bags a brace as Shrewsbury bow out of the Checkatrade Trophy with victory at Middlesbrough.
With both sides already out of the competition following two defeats, Shrewsbury came out on top with a AJ Leitch-Smith strike either side of Ivan Toney’s strike.
Leitch-Smith gave Shrewsbury the lead in just the ninth minute and Toney doubled the League One outfits lead in the 13th minute. Leitch-Smith added a third in the 59th minute to put the game beyond any doubt.
It could have been even more but Toney’s curling free-kick struck the crossbar in the dying minutes.
Shrewsbury manager Paul Hurst made four changes from Saturday’s FA Cup win over Barnet with Mark Halstead, Shaun Walley, Ollie Lancashire and Dom Smith all coming into the side.
Despite Middlesbrough winning a corner in the opening minute, it was Shrewsbury who created the first chance as Louis Dodds threaded the ball into Leitch-Smith but his shot from a tight angle was unable to find the target.
As Middlesbrough looked to apply pressure on the side currently bottom of League One, a teasing corner was met by the towering Bryn Morris but he could only head wide.
Toney, currently on loan from Newcastle United, could have given Shrewsbury the lead in the seventh minute but he could only drag wide and the same man had another chance a minute later but once again he failed to find the target.
In what was only the ninth minute, Leitch-Smith gave Shrewsbury Town the lead with a composed finish. The former IBV man collected the ball just inside the penalty area and once he had shrugged off a defender, Leitch-Smith powered an effort beyond Jo Fryer.
The Shrews doubled their lead only five minutes later as Toney curled a free-kick over the wall and into the near top corner giving Fryer no chance.
Less than quarter of an hour had been played at this point but Shrewsbury were in total control as Middlesbrough looked to be struggling against a well organised professional outfit.
Following a slight quiet period, Middlesbrough’s Carlos de Pena took responsibility of a free-kick but Halstead was quick to get across and save.
Middlesbrough were settling into the game at this point and playing some decent football without applying any real pressure on the Shrewsbury back-line.
With only five minutes of the first half remaining, quick flowing football from Middlesbrough saw Callum Cooke, Junior Mondal and Lewis Maloney link up well to feed the ball into de Pena but his powerful drive was well saved by Halstead.
With the final chance of the first half, Leitch-Smith managed to weave a way through for the away side but when in a shooting position, he couldn’t find the desired power on a shot which was comfortably saved by Halstead.
It could have and maybe should have been nil-three in the 51st minute as a Junior Brown corner found the totally free Dodds but he couldn’t find the target with a free header.
Carlo de Pena was looking Middlesbrough’s liveliest outfit and in the 55th minute, the ball was worked around to the former Nacional forward but Halstead was once again equal to his effort.
Just before the hour mark, Leitch-Smith netted his second and Shrewsbury’s third in a goal which sealed the win. A well-worked routine eventually found Leitch-Smith and he fired home sparking scenes of joy among the 20 or so travelling supporters.
Another quiet period then followed with numerous substitutions and injuries eating up the time. With 18 minutes left, Cooke burst into the Shrewsbury penalty area for the hosts and pulled the ball back to Johnson who’s effort was well saved by Halstead.
Whalley could have made Shrewsbury’s lead even more comfortable in the 76th minute when a cross luckily bounced the way of the former Southport man but he could only balloon over the crossbar in a wasted chance.
Middlesbrough’s Morris was looking for what was surely just a consolation three minutes from time but his promising run came to an end with a crucial block.
A fourth was almost added as Toney almost collected his brace in the 90th minute. Taking control of a free-kick 22 yards from goal, Toney curled it over the wall but it bounced off the crossbar and bounced behind for a goal-kick.
There was still another chance for Toney to follow though after good work from Jack Grimmer. Grimmer danced a way through before playing a simple ball to Toney who fired a ball across goal but Fryer was able to clear.
Soon after, the referee’s final whistle blew and despite an impressive win, Shrewsbury crash out of the Checkatrade Trophy with Scunthorpe United and Cambridge United qualifying for the knock-out stage.
Full-time: Middlesbrough U23s 0-3 Shrewsbury Town
Next up for me is possibly Sunderland U23s vs Notts County tomorrow.
Middlesbrough U23s Team: Fryer, Johnson, McGoldrick, Elsdon, Fabio, Morris, Maloney (Wheatley, 62′), de Pena, Cooke (c), Mondal (McAloon, 62′), Morelli (Coulson, 83′)
Unused subs: Pears, Kitching, McGhee
Shrewsbury Town Team: Halstead, Lancashire, Whalley (O’Brien, 77′), Ogogo (c), Toney, Dodds, Brown (Sadler, 63′), Grimmer, Smith, Deegan, Leitch-Smith (Jones, 61′)
Unused subs: Burton, Black, Waring, Sarcevic
Admission: £5 adults, £3 concessions
Team sheet: Free
Chips (you get very few!): £2