NATHAN JONES’ bet365 Stadium debut ended in despair on Tuesday evening as Stoke City bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup at the hands of League One side Shrewsbury Town.
The Welshman appeared to have been on course for a perfect start in North Staffordshire with Tyrese Campbell netting two superbly executed goals to earn the home side a comfortable advantage at the break.
The youngster’s first, midway through the opening 45, oozed class and composure, with the frontman busting through on to Tom Ince’s intelligent through ball and disposing sublimely well from 12-yards past the helpless Steve Arnold.
Campbell, making his maiden start for the Club, added to his tally with an opportunistic volley shortly before the break, letting rip a crisp volley which flew low into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
There were further opportunities to have put the game to bed with Ince twice dragging wide when well positioned, before the impressive Charlie Adam, one of eight fresh inclusions into the starting XI, whipped a free-kick just over from 30-yards.
The hosts appeared to have been cruising into the fourth round of the competition, and setting up a mouth-watering showdown with Wolverhampton Wanderers in little over one week’s time.
However, there was a major twist to the script as the home side capitulated during a crazy nine-minute spell late on in the encounter.
Former City Academy graduate James Boulton handed Salop a reprieve with a thumping strike in the 70th minute after being freed down the right-hand side, moments before the visitors incredibly back on level-pegging from the penalty spot.
Sam Clucas was the culprit, needlessly tripping Josh Laurent right on the edge of the penalty box, but close enough for Geoff Eltringham to adjudge the infringement to have occurred inside of the line.
Fejiri Okenabirhie stepped up to the plate and powered the ball straight down the middle, past the helpless Australian stopper Adam Federici, who opted to go down low to his left in a bid to preserve the hosts slender advantage.
At two apiece it was the visitors well in the ascendancy, and whilst the winning goal wasn’t entirely surprise, the manner of it certainly was, as Sam Ricketts’ men, almost at ease, cut through the City backline to gift Josh Laurent the easiest goal of his career from five-yards.
There was still time for further drama deep into stoppage time when substitute James McClean powered through on goal, only for his rasping drive to be saved by the brave Shrewsbury number one Steve Arnold.
It proved to be a frustrating end to an utterly astounding encounter in North Staffordshire - one which should have seen Jones’ men march into the last 32, but culminated in them being stung by a stunning late Shrewsbury fightback.