A pulsating tie had entered the 92nd minute when Sam Ricketts convulsed in despair on the sideline. The Shrewsbury Town manager was in touching distance of the finest victory of his brief reign at New Meadow when Ireland international Matt Doherty shattered those dreams with a stoppage-time equaliser for Wolves. Nuno Espirito Santo was reprieved.

Shrewsbury, 18th in League One, led by two goals against the Premier League visitors with 15 minutes remaining. Greg Docherty, the 22-year-old on loan from Rangers, had given Ricketts‘ side the advantage with a superb finish before Luke Waterfall headed them into dreamland. They finished in despair instead thanks to Raúl Jiménez and Doherty‘s header for a Wolves team showing six changes from last weekend‘s win over Leicester City.

The visitors created the better of what few opportunities arose in the first half but there was little between the teams on the balance of play. Ricketts drew plenty of encouragement from how his Shrewsbury side contained and unsettled their Premier League guests, who may be 54 places above them in the English football pyramid but struggled to impose their superiority throughout. Two 3-5-2 formations made for a congested midfield, limiting the influence of Rúben Neves and Morgan Gibbs-White and leaving the Wolves forward line of Adama Traore and Hélder Costa frequently isolated.

Traore engineered the first chance of the tie when he spun away from Shrewsbury captain Mat Sadler and released his strike partner clear of the home defence. Costa‘s first touch was heavy, however, and gave central defender Luke Waterfall a valuable second to clear the danger with a perfectly-timed challenge.

Gibbs-White sliced high and wide when well placed inside the Shrewsbury area before Traore missed the clearest opening of the half from Doherty‘s inviting pass. The right wing-back weaved his way past three Town players and picked out the striker from the bye-line. Traore lofted his shot wastefully over.

Shrewsbury‘s back three sat deep and were well protected by wing-backs James Bolton and Ryan Haynes. It took Wolves 34 minutes to produce a shot on target and that was straight at goalkeeper Steve Arnold from Costa. The home performance grew in confidence the longer Santo‘s side were frustrated and spread to the forward line as the interval approached. Docherty served notice of the trouble to come for John Ruddy with a vicious, swerving drive from 25 yards that Wolves‘ stand-in ‘keeper parried back into the danger area. Conor Coady was on hand to clear the danger.

Docherty drove another shot wide from distance on the stroke of half-time. He found his range and spot in sensational style with his third attempt moments after the restart. Wolves were caught cold by Okenabirhie, who muscled his way clear of the visiting defence before finding the Scot in space on the right. Docherty, Shrewsbury‘s “Duracell Bunny” according to his manager, cut inside to unleash a ferocious shot from an acute angle that flew through Ruddy‘s guard and found the far top corner. New Meadow erupted.

Wolves almost levelled quickly when Neves‘s shot from 25 yards struck Ollie Norburn and deflected just wide. Neves squandered a better opportunity seconds later and Jiménez, seconds after his introduction for Leander Dendoncker, sidefooted horribly wide when found unmarked in the area by Ryan Giles.

Shrewsbury were in dreamland with 15 minutes remaining after Coady conceded a corner heading Docherty‘s free-kick away from the lurking Omar Beckles. The resulting set-piece was delivered to perfection by Norburn and the commanding Waterfall powered a header past Ruddy from close range.

That was the cue for an ugly stand-off between rival supporters in the West and North Stands. Objects were thrown by the Wolves fans, who were also involved in scuffles with stewards and police.

Jiménez set up a nervous finale for the home crowd when he despatched a calm finish beyond Arnold from a cross by fellow substitute Ivan Cavaleiro.

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Shrewsbury were holding firm, Ricketts shoring up his defence with his substitutes, but just when a victory to savour seemed within their grasp it was ripped away by Doherty. Wolves were encamped in the home penalty area when Traore sent over an inviting cross from the right. The defender soared above the crowd and broke Shrewsbury hearts with a fine header into the bottom corner.

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

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