VETERAN LIAM IS THE MASTER
CLASSY skipper Liam Lawrence struck both goals to edge Shrewsbury another step closer towards achieving their promotion ambitions – although it was the other end of the pitch that most pleased boss Micky Mellon.
Midfielder Lawrence, the 33-year-old former Stoke City and Sunderland star, converted an early penalty and then blasted home a late free-kick to complete another good day’s work for Mellon’s men.
But it proved another disappointing afternoon for Oxford who were unable to capitalise on facing ten men for the last half hour after Shrewsbury youngster Rhys Sharpe, on loan from Derby, was sent off for two quick bookings.
And Mellon was particularly pleased with a first clean sheet in seven games, with goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler an assured presence between the posts.
“You’ve got to show different qualities at this stage of the season to what a lot of people are used to,” said Mellon.
“Fair play to the character of the team as you have to dig in and, at this stage of the season, it’s about winning games of football and we’ve managed to do that.
“We’ve come off that a wee bit so fair play to the lads, especially going down to ten men for about half an hour.
“You’ve got to just dig in and keep going, and then we get that second goal which gave us that lift to enable us to get over the line.”
Shrewsbury came racing out of the blocks to open up a secondminute lead thanks to a penalty from Lawrence. He drilled home after Oxford captain Jake Wright lunged at Cameron Gayle.
James Collins then volleyed over from close range for Mellon’s high-fliers before Oxford started to carry more of an attacking threat.
Leutwiler blocked a near post drive from Kemar Roofe and then charged out to smother an effort from Danny Hylton.
Oxford were handed a boost just before the hour when Sharpe, on his home debut, was dismissed for a second yellow card.
The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession and Hylton bent a shot just off target but lacked a killer instinct when it really mattered.
And they were made to pay eight minutes from time when Bobby Grant was hacked down on the edge of the penalty area and Lawrence hammered home a free-kick for his sixth goal of the season.
Oxford manager Michael Appleton, whose team remain six points clear of the relegation zone, said: “Apart from the opening 90 seconds or so, I think we dominated the game from the start.
“If anything, the sending off probably was a bad thing for us because they just threw everybody behind the ball, dropped very deep and made it very difficult.
“But in saying that, we still had plenty of opportunities to get ourselves back in the game. “I’ve got to be positive and the players have got to be positive because we’ve just dominated a team at the top of the table.”
MR POPULAR: Lawrence is mobbed by his Shrews team-mates STAR MAN LIAM LAWRE
bury EYES ON THE BALL: Liam Lawrence tucks away the opener from the spot