Oxford United 2 Shrewsbury 0
Oxford United's season ended with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Shrewsbury Town this afternoon. Two quickfire goals in the first half from Curtis Nelson and Rob Hall eased the U's to a last-day win to see them end the season in eighth place* after an excellent first season back in League 1.
Wearing their splendid new home shirts for the first time, the U’s started well but were forced into two changes inside the first ten minutes when both full backs hobbled off. First to go was Joe Skarz with a broken nose after a typically brave challenge, giving Sam Long a chance to shine in an unfamiliar role at left back. Skarz was swiftly followed by Christian Ribeiro, whose home debut was curtailed by a hamstring injury, allowing Canice Carroll to provide the right side of a home-grown full-back partnership.
It was their central partner Nelson who thumped the U’s into the lead. A neat back heel from Marvin Johnson set the free-flowing U's on their way and allowed Hall to roll the ball clear for the centre half who roared forward with great composure before lashing the ball past the stranded Jayson Leutwiler for a tremendous goal.
A minute later it was 2-0 and game over. This time it was Joe Rothwell who started things with a clever pass with the outside of his boot to send Chris Maguire into acres of space behind the static Shrews defence. Maguire’s delivery was low across the six-yard box and Hall got across his man, former United midfielder Junior Brown, to force the ball home.
It was party time. Maguire tried to volley home from the half-way line, dummies were thrown and flicks were, um, flicked. Hall’s dipping effort in injury time almost caught the keeper out, Maguire drew laughter when he kicked the corner flag before the ball as he took a corner and, generally, all was well with the world.
Shrewsbury did have a chance when Ryan Yates headed a Shaun Whalley cross wide on 23 minutes but were themselves victims of the Curse of the Full Back when Joe Riley - another former United man - left on a stretcher ten minutes before half time, meaning a change at right back for the visitors.
The second half drifted along in 'end of season' mode. United looked comfortable at the back despite Stefan Payne touching one chance wide and heading another over, while Johnson clipped the outside of the right-hand post with United's best effort. The crowd of over 9,000 had one last chance to applaud their team's efforts with a lap of honour and then the curtain fell on a terrific season.
United are on the way back and if they can strengthen over the summer then 2017/18 promises so much. See you in August...
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
*It IS possible to state where you finish in a match report, even if not everyone does so.