WHEN the half-time whistle blew last night, you felt for Karl Robinson.

That was before we found out the Oxford United head coach was desperately trying to salvage his Zoom link to the Kassam Stadium’s home dressing room.

But there was sympathy for how frustrated he must have been, sat 40 miles away in Milton Keynes, after a ponderous first-half display.

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Shrewsbury may have beaten MK Dons on Saturday, but here was an opponent that has scored just ten goals and claimed a single away point in Sky Bet League One.

United should have started the first half like they did the second, but misplaced passes and poor decision-making littered the opening 45 minutes.

A lot has been said about the atmosphere at Grenoble Road in recent days, but on a wet and windy night the 5,542 home fans took it upon themselves to get their team moving.

The U’s had the majority of possession, as normal, but rarely strung together a pattern of play that would threaten the Shrewsbury goal before the break.

In the circumstances, Matty Taylor did well to have a goal disallowed for offside, head over the crossbar and see a shot blocked at point-blank range.

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The post-match interviews suggest players and staff – including Robinson watching from home – were in agreement that United had to up the tempo after the break.

That is exactly what they did and Mark Sykes deserved the slice of fortune that saw his 46th-minute cross evade everyone and nestle in the far corner.

The Irishman is a contender for United’s player of the season so far, probably alongside Cameron Brannagan and Jordan Thorniley, and showed a willingness to track back alongside his creative qualities.

In truth, that first 15 minutes of the second half was all the U’s needed to get the job done against a Shrewsbury side who never really looked like finding an equaliser.

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That is not taking anything away from United’s defence, who were alert to any danger before it threatened Jack Stevens’s goal.

Elliott Moore read the game particularly well, sweeping up several attacks before they had really begun.

The back four won 23 headers between them – 12 thanks to Thorniley – to stop Shrewsbury causing many problems from crosses and set-pieces.

United have not conceded from a corner or free-kick since September 4 and have noticeably tightened up in that area.

Few teams finish near the top of the table without a strong defence, so hopefully we will not have to wait another seven games for the next clean sheet.