Oxford United moved to within one place and one win of a play-off place with a second successive convincing win this evening.
After a 6-0 win at Crewe on Saturday, United continued where they left off with a 4-1 win over Shrewsbury Town. Goals from Rob Atkinson, Elliot Lee, Matty Taylor and Sam Long gave them the win, with the Shrews only truly causing concern at the start of the second half when Harry Chapman got them back in to the game at 2-1.
United did it despite being hampered when Brandon Barker was forced off after just five minutes with what looked like a knee problem.They overcame that pretty quickly and on 13 minutes were ahead when Atkinson thumped home a header from a deep corner from James Henry, the defender’s first goal for the club in a massively impressive first season.
He nearly got his second ten minutes later but was unable to guide his header on target this time, and by that stage United were dominating the game, not just from Henry’s excellent set pieces but also from open play, where Long's and Lee’s growing understanding was creating plenty of problems down the right flank in particular.
Lee went close, Long even closer and the on 36 it was 2-0 and United were, temporarily at least, cruising again. Mide Shodipo, on for Barker, crossed, Taylor touched on and Lee spun on a sixpence to wrong foot goalkeeper Matija Sarkic and make a tricky finish look simple.
When the Shrews did get a sight at goal, captain Elliott Moore made a superb challenge to block Chapman and for the second game in a row United seemed to be in complete control at the break, even if they had scored from their only two efforts on goal.
Nobody mentioned it to Shrewsbury, clearly. Rather than accept their fate and the inevitable 'taming of' headlines, the Shrews roared back and were back in the contest straight after the break when a deep cross was taken down neatly by Chapman who drilled it past Jack Stevens to make it 2-1 and open the game up again.
It took a decent save from Stevens to stop the same player levelling on 57 minutes, but United really should have been two goals up again on 61 when Shodipo fed Taylor for a run at goal only for a poor final touch to take him too close to the keeper, who blocked his shot with his body.
The one thing you know about Taylor is that he won't brood on a miss like that. Four minutes later and a flowing move started by the excellent Ruffels saw Henry in space and he slipped a cute pass through for Taylor who thrashed into the roof of the net for a well-taken 15th goal of the season.
Shrewsbury, safely on 50 points and with little to prove, stuck to their guns and played some neat football, but United refused to accept that their own season is over and done with and on 76 were three goals ahead when Long, denied from a set piece initially, was alert enough to seize on the loose ball and fire it in to the roof of the net to make it 4-1.
Back-to-back wins and ten goals scored to one against. Even more remarkably, ten goals from ten different goalscorers! Talk abut everyone playing their part.
This season has set all sorts of strange records. Keep the faith - who knows where the adventure is going to end.
Five to go. You never know...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA