Town v Southend UnitedTown: Leutwiler; Riley, Nsiala, Sadler, Brown; Whalley, Yates (79), Ogogo ©, Rodman (79); Morris; Payne.
Subs: Halstead, Humphrys (79), Smith, McGivern, Deegan (79), Leitch-Smith, El-Abd.
Southend: Walton; Demetriou, Thompson, Ferdinand ©, White; Atkinson, Leonard, Timlin (69), McLaughlin (63); Cox, Ranger (69).
Subs: Bexon, O’Neill, Fortuné (69), Amos, McGlashan (63), Hines, Robinson (69).
Referee: Darren England
Assistants: Matthew Parry and Steven Plane
Fourth Official: Alan Clayton
Attendance: 7341 (1297)
Shrewsbury Town moved to the brink of League One safety as Junior Brown scored the only goal to secure a tight 1-0 win over promotion chasing Southend.
The left-back’s fifth goal of the season was enough to earn the points as Paul Hurst’s side showed their steel to shut out a side looking to push for the final play-off position.
Hurst was forced into a late change of his starting XI after Louis Dodds picked up an injury in the warm up, with Bryn Morris replacing him in the attacking midfield role behind Stefan Payne.
The visiting support were buoyed by the early two goal lead established by Oxford at promotion rivals Millwall, but their side were comfortably second best throughout the opening stages of the half
Shaun Whalley has been integral to Town’s attacking play in recent weeks and he continued here, causing constant problems with his pace and trickery down the right.
It was his lay-off that set up Joe Riley on the overlap just eight minutes in and the right-back’s clever flick towards the far post was inches away from giving Town the lead.
Payne led the line superbly once again as he looked for his third goal in as many Greenhous Meadow appearances.
He stung the palms of Southend keeper Christian Walton on two occasions, and former Premier League star Anton Ferdinand had to be well on his game to cope with his threat in the air.
The away side’s best chance of the half came on the breakaway after a Town corner, a long ball in behind found Will Atkinson but Abu Ogogo – making his second start in a week after a knee injury – stopped him in his tracks with a crucial challenge.
Phil Brown’s side grew into the game and put on a sustained period of pressure, keeping Town pinned back in their half with a series of corners.
Town’s failure to clear led to the best chance of the half as Steven McLaughlin’s effort was deflected just wide of the target by Junior Brown.
Half Time: Shrewsbury Town 0-0 Southend United
Southend started the second period as they finished the first and took total control for large spells, albeit without creating any clear-cut chances.
Nile Ranger posed the most potent threat, hitting the side netting with an angled effort before blasting over the bar from range.
Ex-West Brom striker Simon Cox had a low strike kept out by Leutwiler, but Town took a huge stride towards safety with just over an hour played.
Whalley again was the inspiration as his swinging corner found Brown, who powered a flying header past Walton to put Town in front.
The home side had a nervous moment just minutes later as substitute Theo Robinson went down under the challenge of Toto Nsiala, but the referee wasn’t interested.
Town introduced Gary Deegan with just over ten minutes to play in an effort to solidify the midfield with the clock ticking down.
The away side piled on the pressure and again had a succession of corners, but Nsiala and company continued to stand firm.
Town are now six points clear of Port Vale in 21st place, but Hurst will be keen for his side to keep their focus and mathematically secure safety next weekend at Oxford.
Full Time: Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Southend United