Goals from Leitch-Smith and Whalley give Town the winTown: Halstead, Grimmer, El-Abd ©, Lancashire, Sadler; Deegan; Ogogo, O’Brien (64); Dodds (91); Toney, Leitch-Smith (76)
Subs: Burton, Black (64), Whalley (76), Smith (91), Sarcevic, Waring, Jones
Northampton: Eastwood, Raglan, Nelson, Dunkley, Skarz (77); Sercombe (94), Rothwell, Ledson (71), Johnson; Maguire ©; Hemmings
Subs: Lundstram (94), Crowley, Thomas (77), MacDonald, Ruffels, Hall (71), Stephens
Ref: Carl Boyeson
Assistants: Mark Griffiths, Mark Duncan
Fourth Official: Darren Strain
Attendance: 5491 (900)
Paul Hurst continued his unbeaten start as Shrewsbury Town boss as AJ Leitch-Smith’s fourth goal in three games and a late strike from Shaun Whalley secured a 2-0 win over Oxford United.
Leitch-Smith had only scored once in his first 16 appearances of the season but he now has five thanks to a stunning run of form under his new boss.
Substitute Whalley’s late effort was a welcome relief after Town came under some real pressure in the second period, but his cool finish didn’t reflect the stress of the situation as he wrapped up his side’s first league win since 3rd September.
The result ensured that Town have now won three games on the spin for the first time since March, and in doing so have lifted themselves off the bottom of the League One table.
The threat early on came on the break from the visitors with captain Chris Maguire firing a shot at goal but Mark Halstead – making his first league appearance of the season – got down well at his near post to make the stop.
Ivan Toney fired away Town’s first effort on 18 minutes with a powerful free kick from range that went just wide, although it seemed to wrong foot Simon Eastwood in the Oxford goal.
Eastwood’s uncertainty allowed Town to take the lead just a minute later, although it took some stunning build up for the move to come about.
Toney’s flick with the outside of his foot was sublime and set up Louis Dodds for an effort on goal, and Eastwood could only touch the ball onto the crossbar and Leitch-Smith was on hand to bundle home.
The flair in Town’s play continued with Dodds setting himself up for a Thierry Henry-esque flick up and volley, but his time Eastwood made a stunning save high to his left.
The home side continued to monopolise possession and they should’ve had a third with half an hour gone, as Abu Ogogo was played down the right after another sublime flick from Toney, and after he pulled back for Dodds, the midfielder forced another good block by the keeper.
Half Time: Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Oxford United
Oxford looked like a different team after the break as they attacked with purpose in search of a vital equalizer.
Just five minutes after the break Halstead was forced to produce a magnificent save from Maguire’s header, after the forward had somehow found himself totally unmarked in the area.
The Oxford captain again came close five minutes later and forced another top save from Halstead with a whipped near post free kick.
Further efforts from Ryan Ledson and Sercombe followed but the away side were lacking the cutting edge necessary to draw level.
Sercombe spurned United’s final chance with seven minutes remaining with his effort trickling just wide of the far post.
Adam El-Abd came close to doubling Town’s lead from a set piece with just three minutes to play, but Eastwood produced a superb save from his header to keep the deficit to one going into the final few minutes.
Town did get a second though deep into added time, as Whalley ran clean through from his own half after Oxford piled men forward, and he produced a lovely chipped finish to secure the three points.
Full Time: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Oxford United