SHREWSBURY 1 LATICS 5Latics sent out the most powerful possible message by notching another devastating win on the road, going top of Sky Bet League One for the first time this season in the process.
The unbeaten run now runs to 19 matches and crucially, the gap to 3rd place has been extend to nine points.
Last week in Swindon it was three early second half goals in four minutes, here it was three in nine early second half minutes as Shrewsbury Town were simply blown away by a hurricane in black shirts, Yanic Wildschut, Jason Pearce and Will Grigg adding to a brilliant Conor McAleny strike in the first half. Grigg added a second in injury time to make it even more emphatic a win.
Gary Caldwell’s men could have had more too, as another huge away following greeted every touch in the second half with jubilation. And there was further good news when Michael Jacobs returned the pitch after an absence of 11 matches through injury as a late substitute.
Caldwell, who was taking charge of his 50th game since becoming the club's manager a year ago, made two changes going into the match, McAleny and Donervon Daniels returning to the starting line-up in place of Ryan Colclough and the injured Craig Morgan.
After a cagey opening half hour in which Latics had enjoyed most of the possession but created only a couple of half chances, the game exploded into life with both sides finding the back of the net in quick succession.
Latics gave away a cheap corner on 28 minutes when Jussi Jaaskelainen wasn’t able to prevent Pearce’s back-pass from going out for a corner. Shaun Whalley fired it in, Reece Wabara sliced the ball horribly in trying to clear, forcing Jasskelainen to save on the line but Sulley Kaikai was first to pounce on the ball and looked to have got the decisive touch. Latics responded in the best way possible.
McAleny had already tried his luck from distance on a couple of occasions, but if at first you don’t succeed…the ball reached him after Jermaine Grandison’s poorly cleared header under pressure from Grigg on the edge of the box. He chested it down and volleyed superbly past Mark Halstead to add another to his collection of spectacular Latics goals.
He could have doubled his tally before the break, picking up the ball after a good run down the left by Yanic Wildschut. He crossed to Grigg, who held it up and teed up McAleny, but the shot was brilliantly blocked by Zak Whitbread.
Shrewsbury’s only other moment before the break came when Kyle Vassell swivelled and shot just wide.
Caldwell made a surprise early substitution after the break, Wabara making way for Leon Barnett as early as the 49th minute, with Donervon Daniels slotting in at right back but Latics made light of the change and scored another devastating three goal blast in the 57th, 61st and 66th minutes.
Grigg has been the marksman so often this season, but he played a big part in the first two goals, and put the icing on the cake by netting the third.
Latics’ leading goalscorer firstly set up McAleny to run at goal, who pulled the ball back and struck the upright with Halstead beaten. The ball fell at the feet of Wildschut on the edge of the box and with Halstead still on the floor, he smashed it home, despite the best efforts of Whitbread on the line.
Four minutes later and Grigg was at it again, running clear at goal and forcing Halstead into conceding a corner with a great save. Max Power swung it in from the left and Pearce powerfully headed home at the far post.
Grigg was not finished yet. He once again wriggled free to find himself clear in the area, Whitbread scythed him down, the referee having no choice but to point to the spot and brandish the red card. Grigg made no mistake from the spot, sending the ball high to Halstead’s right to score his 18th of the season in Sky Bet League One.
The 1,535 delirious Latics fans in the sold-out away stand at the Greenhous Meadow had just witnessed their side tear apart their hosts and had to more to shout about when Michael Jacobs made a welcome return to the pitch replacing Wildschut. Both players were given a rapturous ovation.
Shrewsbury struck a post from Dom Smith’s header, but Halstead saved well from Power late before Grigg scored his second with virtually the last kick of the game, turning in Power’s cross from close range – what an afternoon.