Joey Barton praised the late heroics of substitute goalkeeper Jordi Van Stappershoef after securing his first win as Bristol Rovers boss.
When Joe Day suffered a nasty facial injury while diving at the feet of a Shrewsbury player deep into stoppage time, his number two was summoned from the bench to face a corner from the right.
It was headed on the far post, where Shrews substitute David Edwards looked certain to score. But Van Stappershoef raced across his line to parry the header and protect his side’s lead.
Rovers had looked comfortable defending the advantage provided by Luke Leahy’s first-half goal and Brandon Hanlan’s second-half strike before Daniel Udoh’s stoppage-time tap-in made it 2-1.
Barton said: “We controlled the game against League One’s form team and it would have been a travesty if we had not won.
“But all credit to Jordi, who has not had the easiest of times. His father passed away recently and he wasn’t able to do the things you would normally do at such a time because of the pandemic.
“It shows his mental state that he was able to go on and make that save when he must have felt he wouldn’t be needed. The lads gave him a round of applause in the dressing room.
“The whole team showed character for the way they responded to dropping into the relegation zone in midweek.
“Shrewsbury didn’t have a shot before their goal, which is testament to how well we played.
“If the team go on improving at the rate shown since I arrived we will be in the Champions League before long!”
Shrews assistant manager Aaron Wilbraham, who continues to deputise while Steve Cotterill recovers from Covid-19, had no complaints about the outcome.
“Our lads looked tired and off their game today,” he said. “It’s the first time I have had cause to say that since becoming involved in early December.
“It was the third game in a week and they did a lot of running in the last one against MK Dons on Tuesday night.
“I’ve told them that their disappointment today is a reflection on how well they have been doing.
“It was probably the wrong time to play Bristol Rovers with their new manager in charge and it was a scrappy performance from us.
“We didn’t get going in the first half against a side with a spring in their step. They got into our box too easily for the goals.
“Steve Cotterill is back home from hospital, but still a long way from getting back to the technical area, driving the team on. So we need to bounce back quickly without him.”