Oxford Utd 4-1 Shrewsbury Town: United turn dominance into victory
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/ Getty Images)

Ravenous and authoritative, United built more momentum on Tuesday night, conquering a Shrewsbury side that had a strong defensive record before the beginning of the game. The U's added to their impressive repertoire of the season, scoring their tenth goal in two games. Even more impressively, though, was that each scorer was different. 

In a week where Oxford United had already equalled their biggest away win with a 6-0 scathing at Crewe, and key members of the squad had displayed their loyalty to the club by signing new contract deals, a lot of emphases was stowed on building upon their rose-tinted trajectory. 

Despite a second-half consolation goal from Shrewsbury Town's Harry Chapman, United found goals from Sam Long, Matty Taylor, Rob Atkinson and Elliot Lee to cruise to victory, securing their first back to back victory since February. 

The win sees Oxford budge into seventh in League One, while Shrewsbury fall to 18th, as they look all but safe regardless. The U's are playing with their heads held high. There is still an undying belief that United can book themselves in the playoffs and, with the unusuality of the 2020/21 season, why not?

  • The match

Confidence was high in the United camp heading into the game, and an unchanged teamsheet was named in the hope of adding to their ascendancy in the business end of the season.

The decision proved to be a hindrance more than a success as Brandon Barker, a key figure in Saturday's attacking trident, went down injured early on.

It wasn't the energetic start that U's fans had quickly become accustomed to, however, with Shrewsbury producing the early scares.

Josh Vela lofted a cross to the back post, but Josh Ruffels headed away. The Shrews man picked up the second ball and had another go; Jack Stevens gathered the low shot after a brief fumble.

However, it was the U's who found the first goal after successfully weathering the early storm.

Through their first corner, on the 13th minute, a deep cross from James Henry met the head of Rob Atkinson, who towered above the Shrewsbury defence, rifling the ball on to the underside of the crossbar. 

United dictated play and controlled the tempo after finding the deadlock breaker. Shrewsbury Town ceased their high-press, rarely venturing into the offensive third, with much owed to the coordination of Oxford's possessive football.

On the 30-minute mark, Mark Sykes, who received a barrage of praise at the weekend, won the ball deep into the Shrewsbury half. The ball found its way to a United attacker on the edge of the box, who shot over. 

Elliot Lee added breathing space to Oxford's lead just ten minutes from the half-time whistle.

Fast build-up play on the left, crafted by Olamide Shodipo, led to a driven pass into the box, ending with a swivelling strike from Lee that wrong-footed Matija Sarkic, leaving the goalkeeper on his haunches. 

Robinson's hard-working men grew into the game, annexing suave and verve to their dominant first-half shift. Brannagan's deeper role was re-established to give Sykes and Henry the licence to drive forward, dumping  Shrewsbury in a quandary for the second half. 

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  • Second half

Darkness descended over Grenoble Road at the start of the second half, but Shrewsbury found a new lease of life. United's lax of concentration was punished just five minutes into the restart.

Nathaniel Ogbeta's deep cross to the far post was headed away by Ruffels, only as far as Harry Chapman. The Striker sold a dummy to carve some space and lashed a goal past Stevens within 10 yards. 

The Shrews played fearlessly, ignoring the sorry state that Crewe Alexandra had positioned themselves in after applying the same outlook on Saturday.

But, it wasn't long until their ambition was disenthralled and they were brought back down to Earth. 

Vowing not to rest on their laurels, Shodipo gallivanted forward, injecting much-needed pace to the united forefront, sliding a through ball into Matty Taylor.

The prolific Englishman ran through on goal with one thing on his mind, to score. Taylor broke into the box, taking a shot in an attempt to dink Sarkic, but the goalkeeper stood tall and got a strong hand to it.

On 66 minutes, Taylor had another chance to alleviate the pressure of United's slender lead, and he took it. As he has proven on many occasions, Taylor isn't one to dwell on a missed opportunity, so often burying the hatchet and compensating later on. 

Ruffels propelled forward, passing to Henry, who angled a threaded ball into Taylor. The striker made no mistake in looking up, angling a shot, and smashing the ball into the goalkeepers near post. 

It was a goal that notched Taylor up to 15 goals for the season. 

United domineered after elevating their lead to a two-goal cushion, adding a fourth to cherish on 77 minutes.

Sam Long marked a week that started with him signing a new contract with the club he has been tied to since the age of eight with a goal. Mopping up after a pinball in the box, the local boy swept the ball into the top right corner of the goal from close range. 

Robinson brought on Jamie Hanson and Anthony Forde for Long and Lee to see the game out, with Shrewsbury’s only remaining chance of note, a Chapman snapshot that struck the base of the post in stoppage-time.

Though the defeat means very little to Shrewsbury, who look safe for next season, the victory for United reverberated the idea that the players are refusing to accept their season is over. Promotion is still a dream for the U's. 

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