OXFORD United were unable to provide their supporters with any Christmas cheer as they were well beaten by a strong Shrewsbury Town in their Boxing Day clash.

The visitors, looking every inch a side in the automatic promotion places, scored twice in the space of five minutes early on.

James Collins fired home the opener and Mark Ellis doubled the lead with a header before the 20-minute mark had been reached.

United's best spell came before the break, but they were unable to find a way back into the game.

Instead they looked more disjointed as the game wore on and never threatened to stage a comeback.

Shrewsbury, who went top of Sky Bet League Two as a result, might have won it more comfortably and the woodwork came to United's rescue to keep out a header from Nathaniel Knight-Percival.

It spared them a more emphatic scoreline, but there was little doubt the home side were second best.

The United line-up saw one change from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Hartlepool United, as Jon Meades replaced John Campbell.

Incredibly it was the Welshman's home debut, 19 months on from signing for United, with his five previous appearances this season all coming on the road.

Shrewsbury's lofty position in the table owed much to an impeccable record in front of their own fans, but Micky Mellon's side quickly made themselves at home.

They had already shown an intention to get men forward when the first goal arrived, on 13 minutes.

Bobby Grant broke forward and spotted a gap on the right side of United's back four.

He played in Scott Vernon, who squared to give Collins the straightforward task of finishing from ten yards.

United immediately lost Meades to an injury, playing for a couple of minutes with ten men.

The hosts looked momentarily rattled, even when Alfie Potter came off the bench to bring them back up to the full complement.

Shrewsbury sensed blood and took full advantage, making it 2-0 without breaking sweat.

A corner was scrambled only to the edge of the box and after United wasted a couple of opportunities to clear, Liam Lawrence stood up a cross to the back post for Ellis to ram a header into the net.

Danny Hylton almost provided an immediate response, forcing a smart save from goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler with a low shot.

The Shrewsbury stopper also had to be alert midway through the half to turn a 30-yard free-kick from Joe Riley round the post.

It was enough for the big home crowd to find their voice as United belatedly got a grip on the game.

They went on to have most of the ball in the 20 minutes before the break, but struggled to really worry the visitors' back three.

United were hamstrung by a startling lack of quality with their final ball, which meant a host of promising moves broke down.

Shrewsbury, with a two-goal lead in their pocket, were content to keep their hosts at arm's length and break with purpose when they got the chance.

Twice they launched rapid breaks from United corners to carve out openings, with Collins curling a shot just wide from one such counter-attack five minutes before the break.

The half-time whistle was accompanied by a smattering of boos from the home fans and their mood was not helped when Shrewsbury almost made it 3-0 eight minutes after the restart.

Lawrence's set pieces caused problems all afternoon and from a whipped corner Nathaniel Knight-Percival headed against the crossbar.

U's boss Michael Appleton responded by switching to a back three, bringing on Chey Dunkley for Joe Riley.

But the home side were if anything less effective on the ball than they had been before the break.

In driving rain the ball became like a bar of soap, which hardly helped, but Shrewsbury used it far better.

Only a couple of excellent blocks prevented Collins from bagging his second of the afternoon around the hour mark.

At the other end, Leutwiler was largely untested beyond the odd cross which came his way.

There was ironic applause from the home fans when, two minutes from time, the goalkeeper was finally pressed into action to deny a long range effort from Hylton.

It was not the cue for a rousing finish and despite the large crowd, the Kassam Stadium was largely empty by the time United's players finished their lap of the pitch after the final whistle.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Clarke, Riley, Mullins, Wright, Meades, Whing, Rose, Hylton, Collins, Holmes-Dennis, Burns.

Subs used: Potter (Meades 16), Dunkley (Riley 54), Roberts (Whing 79).

Unused subs: Crocombe, O'Dowda, Ruffels, Campbell.

Booked: Shrewsbury Tn (3-5-2): Leutwiler, Goldson, Ellis, Knight-Percival, Passley, Woods, Lawrence, Grant, Demetriou, Collins (Akpa Akpro 90), Vernon (Mangan 90).

Unused subs: Halstead, Griffith, Vincent, Clark, Grandison.

Booked: Goldson, Grant, Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 7,502 (624 visitors).