Bolton Wanderers were scintillating in the early spring sunshine as they recorded their fifth successive win to strengthen their promotion charge.
Second half goals from Mark Beevers and Adam Le Fondre – both set up by the magician Filipe Morais - ensured the three points went back to BL6 and secured a fourth consecutive win on their travels for the first time since the promotion winning side of 2001.
Phil Parkinson made just one change from the side that beat Oxford United in midweek with Jay Spearing dropping to the bench in place of Derik. Spearing was carrying a knock from that victory but Adam Le Fondre, Mark Beevers and skipper Darren Pratley were all passed fit.
Wanderers earned two successive corners early in the game as they pressed forward with the intention of getting an early goal. On both occasions the home side struggled to clear their lines.
The visitors’ first effort on target came from Darren Pratley after ten minutes but the volley lacked sufficient pace to cause Jason Leutwiler any danger.
Shrewsbury immediately went up field and Tyler Roberts put his shot through a crowd of bodies narrowly wide.
Moments later Ben Alnwick had to be at full stretch to tip away Louis Dodds’ looping effort from distance as the Shrews’ threatened to steal an early advantage.
The game had an ebb and flow feel about it with either side creating plenty of half-chances and forays into each other’s penalty areas.
Wanderers suffered a blow just before the half hour mark when Gary Madine limped off with an injury. He was replaced moments later by Chris Long, who impressed off the bench at Kassam Stadium.
Gary Deegan was the first player to have his name taken when he dragged Long’s shirt with the Wanderers sub threatening to break on goal. From the resulting free-kick, the visitors won another corner.
Pratley spurned a good chance to break the deadlock on the cusp of half-time after Leutwiler spilled Morais’ free-kick. The ball fell to the Wanderers’ skipper whose volley blazed over the bar.
Wanderers only had to wait five minutes after the restart to opening the scoring. It came in familiar fashion too.
A Morais long throw was met by a glancing header off Beevers. Home ‘keeper Leutwiler was left stranded as he missed the ball leaving the sun-soaked 1,500 travelling supporters cheering in unison.
It was the centre-half’s fourth goal in five games and third in succession.
Alnwick made a comfortable save from Robert’s drive from distance a the hosts tried in vain to restore parity.
Andrew Taylor was forced to hobble off after the hour mark with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Dean Moxey came on in his place.
Le Fondre doubled Wanderers’ lead on 66 minutes with Morais once again orchestrating the move.
The Shrews lost possession when the Portuguese wideman intercepted his low cross into the box was met with a rasping drive from Alfie who found the roof of the net.
However, before the ensuing restart Parkinson had to make his third enforced substitution when Alnwick was brought off with a leg injury suffered in the build up to the goal.
And despite there being six minutes of injury time, Wanderers coasted to victory to solidify their promotion ambitions.