John Sheridan claimed his first victory back in charge of Oldham Athletic, beating Shrewsbury Town 0-1.
Carl Winchester’s 23rd minute strike was enough to seal the valuable win but Latics were forced into defending late on.
The returning Anthony Gerrard proved to be a rock in the heart of the defence as Athletic rise above Colchester United and now sit five points behind the Shrews.
John Sheridan named Anthony Gerrard in his side after the defender rejoined the club yesterday morning, making him eligible for selection.
Gerrard slotted straight into the central defensive role alongside Tim Dieng, whilst James Wilson filled in for the injured Brian Wilson at right back.
It was a bright start from Latics as Mike Jones and Jonathan Forte almost combined to present a chance on goal but Shrewsbury just managed to clear.
The home side started to get into their stride and Jack Grimmer saw Joel Coleman off his line but Dieng cleared, whilst a minute later, James Wallace tested the palms of the goalkeeper.
Dieng received the first booking of the game very early on as Kyle Vassell drew the defender in to cause the foul but the resulting free kick sailed over the crossbar.
In what was a frantic opening 10 minutes, Latics had their first real chance of the game as Danny Lafferty’s pull back found Matt Palmer but the Burton loanee struck over the crossbar.
Jones’ delivery was causing the Shrewsbury defence into problems but Latics just could not get a telling touch on the ball to guide it home.
Midway through the first half, it was Latics that took the lead through a powerful Winchester strike.
After good work from Dominic Poleon and Lafferty, the ball fell to Palmer who fed Winchester to shoot from 25 yards and it thundered past the goalkeeper to give Latics the lead.
That was the midfielder’s first goal of the season and Latics quickly went in search of further goals to extend their advantage.
Jones’ shot from 25 yards on the half hour mark was deflected into the palms of the goalkeeper whilst a minute later, Palmer sliced wide from the edge of the box.
Lafferty was getting a lot of joy down the left hand side and when called upon to defend, he did it with a calmness and won the ball well.
Minutes before the break, Poleon had a chance to extend the lead but could not connect properly with a header and the chance was lost.
It was a good first half from Latics and they continued to dominate in the early parts of the second half.
Captain Liam Kelly tried his luck from 40 yards which forced the goalkeeper into a smart save on 55 minutes as Sheridan made his first change just after the hour mark.
Rhys Murphy replaced Poleon, who had previously gone down with an injury, and he almost made an instant impact.
The striker picked up the ball on the left, took it around one man but his shot was saved by the legs of Shrewsbury goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler.
The home side started to gain some momentum and Latics were forced into last ditch defending as Wilson cleared from underneath his own crossbar.
However, whilst the Shrews enjoyed possession, the defence was standing resolutely, quelling attacks.
Micky Mellon threw all three substitutions on, including former Latics striker Scott Vernon in a bid to get something out of the game.
Whilst there was a brief stoppage for the linesman to be replaced by the fourth official, Latics continued to press for another and defend their goal.
Goalscorer Winchester was replaced to a standing ovation five minutes before the final whistle as Lee Croft came on.
Andy Mangan almost caught Coleman off his line on 86 minutes as it started to become tense, with Shrewsbury throwing everything forward.
With corners scrambled clear, it was the returning Gerrard who won every header from crosses that flew into the box.
After the fourth official announced six additional minutes, Latics almost had the chance to seal the game in the 91st minute.
After great football playing out from the back, Murphy was presented with a sight of goal but a last ditch challenge from Whitbread denied the striker.
Latics were slowing the game down as much as possible and they ultimately came away with the valuable three points as Sheridan claimed his first victory back in charge of the club.
Shrewsbury Town: Leutwiler, Whitbread, Black, Vassell (Vernon 70’), Wellens (Akra Akpro 56’), Brown, Grimmer, Mangan, Knight-Percival, Cole (Whalley 46’), Wallace.
Subs not used: Halstead, Sadler, Clark, Smith.
Oldham Athletic: Coleman, Dieng, J.Wilson, Gerrard, Lafferty, Kelly, Jones, Winchester (Croft 83’), Palmer, Forte (Cassidy 88’), Poleon (Murphy 64’).
Subs not used: Cornell, Mills, Vassell, Edmundson.
Goals: Shrewsbury Town 0-1 Oldham Athletic (Winchester 23’)
Attendance: 4,157 (187 visiting supporters)