BURTON ALBION 1-2 SHREWSBURY TOWNA first defeat for Nigel Clough since returning as Burton Albion boss certainly wasnt in the pre match script and it was only a stoppage time winner from Shrewsbury substitute Shaun Whalley that ensured the struggling visitors left the Pirelli Stadium with all three points at the end of a frustrating game for the Brewers.
It all looked to be going to plan when left back Damien McCrory sent a bullet of a shot into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards on eighteen minutes but as the game wore on a number of bizarre decisions from referee Graham Salisbury maybe gave a hint that this was not going to be plain sailing and not Albion's day.
There were vociferous shouts for a foul in the Burton box when Andy Mangan managed to poach the equaliser early in the second period and Albion were fully pushing for a winner in the closing stages when Whalley fired home from inside the box on a swift counter attack.
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, the ex-Shrewsbury defender was not risked in the starting line-up after slightly aggravating a groin injury. Anthony O'Connor, so impressive in the holding midfield role at the Ricoh Arena last time out, dropped into the back four with Tom Naylor deployed as the screening midfielder. Callum Reilly was the benficiary of Cansdell-Sherriff's omission getting his first League start since joining the club on a permanent basis last summer.
Albion got off to a quick start looking to try and exploit a defence that had conceded ten times in their last two league outings. A tempting ball in to the middle led to something of a scramble with a new look Shrews defence denying Albion a chance to really test out keeper Jayson Leutwiler.
Andy Mangan tried an ambitious long range effort from the first free kick that referee Graham Salisbury awarded to the visitors but it was Leutwiler called into the first meaningful save of the afternoon going full length to his left to push away a rising drive from Naylor.
Arguably Shrewsbury had slightly the better of what was a timid first quarter of an hour of the game but Albion responded in the best possible way by grabbing the lead on eighteen minutes. Calum Butcher kept the ball alive near the touchline and crossed low into the middle. The ball rebounded back out to the edge of the box for El Khayati who cleverly laid the ball perfectly into the path of the advancing McCRORY who fired low and true beyond the outstretched hand of Leutwiler to unerringly find the bottom corner of the net for his third goal of the season.
Stuart Beavon went agonisingly close to doubling Albion's lead with a header that was guided just wide of the far post from a right wing cross just a couple of minutes after McCrory's piledriver.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of much of Shrewsbury's early endeavours but the game descended into something of a scrappy phase as neither side was really able to exert themselves on the game.
Referee Salisbury was incurring the ire of both sides with some strange decisions. A number of fouls seemed to go unpunished whilst minor infringement brought the game to a halt. Visiting defender Zak Whitbread needed attention after landing heavily in a challenge with Beavon and the Albion striker was later wrestled to the ground by the big American defender who should really have been carded but Mr Salisbury kept his cards firmly in his pocket.
El Khayati almost grabbed a stunning second in stoppage time whipping in a shot from the left that had Leutwiler at full stretch and desperately checking behind him to make sure it went past the outside of the post.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Shrewsbury Town
As seems to be the trend Albion came out all guns blazing at the start of the second period with Beavon flicking a Butcher cross goalwards within a minute of the restart. Albion continued to press and Duffy stung the fingers of the big Swiss keeper after some neat and patient build up down the Burton left.
Naylor, once again, seemed to be fouled in the centre of midfield, referee Salisbury once more allowing play to go on with the dangerous Larnell Cole almost providing a defence splitting pass. It proved ultimately to be a crucial decision as it allowed Shrewsbury to build a little spell of pressure that they went on to equalise from. A corner resulted from the pressure and when it came in there seemed to be a shove on a Burton player inside the six yard box before Andy MANGAN scrambled the ball in.
Whitbread did see yellow for cynically bringing down Beavon looking to break down the left.
Phil Edwards forced a scrambling save from Leutwiler after good work from Duffy inside the box. The goalkeeper was almost deceived by a deflection on Edwards shot but still did well to claw the ball around the post.
Just after the hour mark Albion opted to make their first change. Callum Reilly made way as Mason Bennett came on for his home debut and took up a position on the right wing, Mark Duffy moving in to the centre.
Naylor talked his way in to referee Salisbury's notebook after one of the most obvious fouls you are likely to see on Beavon was allowed to go unpunished by the official.
Burton almost took their frustration out in the best possible way as Bennett came mightily close to his first Burton goal. Beavon and El Khayati linked up down the left for the Dutchman to send over a teasing far post cross that the Derby loanee can steaming in on the end of but was just unable to quite get over the ball and head it down.
McCrory also saw yellow after bundling Kyle Vassell unceremoniously on the touchline and whilst the free kick was being readied Lucas Akins replaced El Khayati.
Albion began to build up a head of steam with some late pressure. Five corners in a row had the visiting defence under immense pressure but despite knocking on the door Albion could not find a way through.
Bennett, now switched to the left after Akins introduction let fly with a 25 yarder that just didnt curl as it arrowed towards goal.
Albion, so often the masters of the late winner this time fell victim to a sucker punch goal in added time. Substitute Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro burst away down the Shrewsbury left and got to the ball ahead of Anthony O'Connor coming across on the cover. A square ball into the middle picked out fellow substitute Shaun WHALLEY who drilled a low first time shot into the bottom of the corner in the third minute of added on time.
A real blow at the end of a strange game that had frustrated throughout. The Brewers will not have long to sweat on this set back with another big game at fellow promotion chasers Peterborough on Tuesday evening.