Town settle for point in Shropshire
AFC TELFORD 0
The Town missed a string of second half chances as they had to settle for a point at AFC Telford.
Having been under pressure in a low-key first 45 minutes in which Telford hit the crossbar, the Hatters were a different proposition in the second and were only denied victory by a combination of wayward finishing and fine goalkeeping.
Striker partners Andre Gray and Jon Shaw spurned the best of them, firing over when well-placed inside the penalty area and, despite a number of further chances to snatch it, the Town couldn't find a winner at a freezing New Bucks Head.
It all started with the Town, showing eight changes from the side that beat Skelmersdale in the Trophy, starting on the back-foot against a Telford side aiming to end a 13-match winless streak.
The opening 15 minutes were dominated by Andy Sinton's side but the Hatters had the first half-chance when Jonathan Smith saw a deflected shot from distance roll into the arms of home goalkeeper Ryan Young.
It was constant Telford pressure and the Hatters had Mark Tyler to thank on 21 minutes to keep the score goalless when he reacted smartly to keep out a low shot from Steven Leslie following a dangerous left-wing raid.
Telford continued to press with Tyler punching clear the danger as the Bucks threatened with their aerial presence and the Town stopper was unhappy with his defenders on 31 minutes when Leslie was free to try his luck with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area that flew high and wide.
The Town were struggling to find much joy in attack and Leslie again failed to hit the target for Telford two minutes later with a shot from the edge of the box that curled high and wide.
As the temperature dropped further below freezing, brave defending from Greg Taylor prevented Tyler being called into action once more seven minutes before the break when his block got in the way of Jake Reid's goal-bound volley from 20 yards.
As half-time approached the Town upped the ante. A great long throw by Tyler set Scott Neilson is way down the left and after his cut-back from the byeline was half-cleared Gray, once a loanee with the Bucks, saw a shot on the turn blocked.
The Town won their, and indeed the match's, first corner a minute before the break but despite two attempts the hosts were able to clear the danger.
Having been under the cosh in the first half the Town came close to falling behind three minutes after the restart when Gerard Kinsella's ambitious effort from 22 yards bounced off the top of the crossbar with Tyler beaten.
Back came the Town moments later. Gray found a pocket of space in the box to wriggle clear and cut the ball back for Neilson who mis-kicked before Shaw's follow up was blocked.
It was end-to-end stuff at the start of the second period and the hosts spurned a great chance to take the lead on 53 minutes when defender Daniel Preston failed to make a decent connection when unmarked four yards when attacking a right-wing free-kick.
It was then the Hatters' chance to miss a good chance on 57 minutes when Gray again found space in the box to carve out a low cross for Shaw who ballooned a first-time shot over the crossbar when well-placed eight yards out.
All of a sudden it was all the Town, and Gray warmed the fingers of home goalkeeper Young two minutes later with a stinging drive from just inside the area.
Gray got the ball stuck in his feet with the goal at his mercy on 70 minutes as the Town continued to pin the hosts back in their own half before Gray teed up Arnaud Mendy to slice a shot over the crossbar from 18 yards.
The Town continued to pile on the pressure and Gray missed a gilt-edged chance on 74 minutes when he saw his goal-bound header clawed away by Young from point-blank range following Ronnie Henry's perfect right-wing cross.
Paul Buckle made his first chance with 15 minutes left with Jake Howells replacing Neilson and a minute later Smith blasted wide following another fine Town move involving Lawless and Gray.
Telford had barely threatened the Town goal since the opening of the second half but Tyler had to be on his toes to keep out a low shot from Steve Jones on 81 minutes.
Again back came the Hatters, Gray winning a free-kick 25 yards out that was worked to Taylor to hit but his effort was wayward.
Gray's evening ended with him substituted with eight minutes left with Stuart Fleetwood partnering Shaw in attack but despite three added minutes and some half-chances at the death, the Town couldn't find a winner and it ended goalless.
TOWN: Tyler; Henry, Kovacs, Rowe-Turner, Taylor; Lawless, Mendy, Smith, Neilson (sub Howells 75); Gray (sub Fleetwood 82), Shaw. Subs not used: Brill, Rendell, Ainge.