OXFORD United were denied back-to-back home victories as Shrewsbury Town rescued a late draw at the Kassam Stadium.

Gino van Kessel looked to have earned the U’s all three points in a match they seldom looked like winning for large parts of the game.

The forward tapped home on 75 minutes in the Sky Bet League One encounter after Shrewsbury’s Junior Brown cleared off the line.

But the visitors, who arguably deserved at least a point, dug deep and substitute Stefan Payne sent the travelling fans home happy.

United made one change from the side which lost to Scunthorpe United last weekend, with van Kessel leading the attack in place of Wes Thomas.

But Marvin Johnson dominated the team news, once again, as despite training all week after a hamstring issue, the winger was left out of the squad with rumours still swirling about a move away.

United had the first opportunity of the game when Ricardinho stormed forward from left back and met Christian Ribeiro’s cross, but the Brazilian blazed high and wide.

However, the home side would find chances hard to come by in a half Shrewsbury arguably dominated.

The visitors were constantly targeting the wide areas, but a rare foray forward from United sparked two penalty shouts for both sides in the space of a minute.

After a corner, Ryan Ledson robbed Brown on the edge of his own area and squared to Mike Williamson, who looked to be nudged in the back, but referee Nicholas Kinseley waved away the protests.

Shrewsbury broke and United were a little fortunate not to give away their own penalty as Shaun Whalley raced into the area and Ricardinho nudged the forward off the ball - fortunately, Kinseley saw nothing wrong with the Brazilian’s challenge.

The visitors went onto enjoy the better chances as the game went on, continuing to exploit the wide areas.

Whalley cheekily chipped a free-kick over a two-man wall, completely catching United off-guard, and Jon Nolan fired straight at Eastwood from a narrow angle on 26 minutes.

Just moments later, the Shrews went close again, but former Oxford loanee Carlton Morris fired wide after Alex Rodman’s nod down.

The visitors were looking sharp up front and another ex-United player in Brown was causing problems down the left.

His cross found Rodman on 33 minutes, but, luckily for the hosts, his header hit Williamson and Eastwood was fouled in attempting to clear.

United looked a little at sea, but saw out the half without any further threats on their goal, while Jack Payne and van Kessel showed a few glimpses they could cause Shrewsbury problems.

However, the hosts started the second half ponderously, giving the visitors too much time on the ball and were slow in possession.

A Whalley free-kick flashed across United’ six-yard box on 52 minutes and the warning signs continued to come.

Another mis-placed pass meant Payne was needed to intercept a cross destined for Abu Ogogo in the area, before Nolan saw a shot deflect wide from 20 yards minutes later.

Shrewsbury continued to dominate the midfield and Nolan raced forward again and, to United’s relief, fired wide.

The hosts needed a spark and Pep Clotet made a double change before the hour with Jon Obika and Joe Rothwell replacing Rob Hall and James Henry.

This saw van Kessel move out wide, with Obika now leading the line and the presence of a taller, more powerful striker helped.

The former Swindon man worked a chance on 63 minutes, tricking his way into the area, only to be brilliantly denied by goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

However, moments later Shrewsbury could well have been ahead.

Morris raced onto a long ball and lobbed over an advancing Eastwood, only for his effort to bounce onto the bar, off the line and to safety.

United could breathe a sigh of relief, but needed their No 1 to be on high alert on 72 minutes as the goalkeeper brilliantly palmed away a Rodman effort from the edge of the area.

For all their chances, Shrewsbury were still not ahead and they were made to pay with 15 minutes to go.

Payne’s corner was inadvertently flicked towards goal by a visiting player and van Kessel was on hand to slot home after Brown had cleared off the line.

United’s tails were suddenly up and van Kessel stormed forward again, stinging the palms of Henderson.

However, Shrewsbury did not give up and equalised with seven minutes to go.

Rodman just kept the ball in play and crossed to the back post, where Lenell John-Lewis’s shot was blocked by Ricardinho, but Stefan Payne was on hand to stroke home.

United still had time to find a winner with five minutes added on, but Shrewsbury came closest.

The visitors countered and Whalley squared for Stefan Payne, who looked certain to score, but the striker somehow skewed wide from ten yards.

The Shrewsbury man was given another chance moments later, though, and this time Curtis Nelson was on hand to make a vital block.

That was to be the last chance as both sides were forced to settle for a draw in a frantic finish.

Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Eastwood, Ribeiro, Williamson, Nelson, Ricardinho, Henry (Obika 59), Ledson, Ruffels, Hall (Rothwell 59)¬, Payne, van Kessel.

Unused subs: Shearer, Tiendalli, Martin, Xemi, Carroll.

Booked: None.

Shrewsbury Tn (4-3-3): Henderson, Bolton, Sadler, Nsiala, Brown, Godfrey (John-Lewis 83), Ogogo, Nolan, Whalley, Rodman, Morris (Payne 74).

Unused subs: MacGillivray, Beckles, Dodds, Gnahoua, John-Lewis, Adams.

Booked: None.

Referee: Nicholas Kinseley (Essex).

Attendance: 7,120 (442 visitors).