Oxford United kept up the pressure on the teams in the play-offs with an important win over Shrewsbury Town tonight. Goals from Mark Sykes and Cameron Brannagan gave them a win despite boss Karl Robinson's enforced absence.
Robinson, waiting at home on a PCR test result, will have been delighted to see his side overcome a stubborn Shrews side and get back to winning ways after losing their unbeaten home record to leaders Plymouth on Saturday.
He chose a good first half to miss though as his side struggled to get their usual passing game going against a very disciplined away defence.
Shrewsbury, who had stolen their away kit design from the laboratory of Bertie Bassett, had two early chances with Nathanael Ogbeta and Tom Bloxham both off target from good positions, but they faded as an attacking force after that and in the end didn't manage a shot on target all night.
To be fair, United's first was their goal.
Matty Taylor had their first effort after 17 minutes, a shot on the turn blocked by two sprawling defenders, and Alex Gorrin saw another effort deflect over the bar as United began to hit their stride, but what the game was crying out for after a disjointed first 45 minutes was a goal.
A minute into the second half Sykes provided it with a long-range effort that went through a sea of legs before rolling into the bottom right corner, with Marosi well beaten. There was a suspicion of a touch from Taylor on the way through but the striker pointed immediately to Sykes, seemingly settling any doubt over the scorer.
United were better after the break; Sykes very influential from the left wing, Gavin Whyte dangerous on the right, and the recalled Gorrin doing an excellent job of breaking up any Salopian danger in front of the back four.
Brannagan should have done better when Herbie Kane gave him the ball on the edge of the box, but the U's were as comfortable as it is possible to be when you only have a single goal advantage, and with three minutes to go were home and hosed when Brannagan again fired through a forest of bodies to beat Marosi and settle things for the night.
An important win in adversity. And one positive result that their watching boss will have enjoyed....
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA