Oxford United secured another excellent 3-0 win against Shrewsbury Town at the Kassam Stadium this evening.
Liam Manning's exciting side were already a goal up through Fin Stevens' first senior goal before a red card for defender Joe Anderson left the Shrews short-handed for half an hour. Ciaron Brown swiftly exploited that with a second goal, and a spectacular goal from top scorer Greg Leigh ensured that the points went United's way.
In truth, United dominated throughout against a rigid and disciplined Shrewsbury side who were happy to soak up pressure right from the start
That’s a dangerous game to play and after 17 minutes Stevens deservedly volleyed the U’s ahead with an excellent first goal for the club. Greg Leigh made it with a peach of a cross that keeper Marko Marosi could only get fingertips to and the ball continued to the back post for the eager Stevens to thump acrobatically home.
That forced the Shrews out of their shell and the familiar figure of Chey Dunkley blasted their best chance of the night into the fans who used to sing his name as the visitors began to open up.
That, in turn, gave the home side more space to work in and the returning Mark Harris should have taken advantage of that when the excellent Ruben Rodrigues sliced the Shrews open and gave him a clear run at goal. For once, the Welsh forward was off target and slid the ball wide of the mark.
The overworked Marosi tipped a Cameron Brannagan drive over after 32 minutes, but with Marcus McGuane running the show alongside Brannagan, the U’s were in complete control at the break, although forced into a change at that point with Tyler Goodrham replacing Billy Bodin for the second 45 minutes.
Shrewsbury's task was made harder just before the hour when Anderson slid in on Stevens and was shown a second yellow, and from that free kick it was practically game over for Matthew Taylor's side as Brown doubled the lead.
Brannagan was the provider this time with a low free kick that Brown initially flicked goalwards. It hit a defender but came back to Brown who forced it home at the second attempt to score his first of the season and United's fifth in a row by defenders.
Now United began to coast. McGuane stung the palms of Marosi with a well-struck effort on 63 and, as game as Shrewsbury were, a quick glance at the table (and why wouldn't you?) also shows that United have the joint-meanest defence in the division and they weren't about to give up a third clean sheet in four games.
In the 95th minute they scored three for the fourth game in a row as Marosi went walkabout and was robbed by the touchline. Leigh sent the ball goalwards and there was nobody even close to being able to stop him scoring his fourth of the season.
So much to admire, so many great performances, and a chance to do it all over again when we welcome Bristol Rovers to the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.
These are good times to be an Oxford fan. Come and join us...
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by JasonPix, Steve Daniels Steve Edmunds and Darrell Fisher. Stats by OPTA