Scunthorpe manager Graham Alexander hailed his side's work-rate after David Mirfin's header sealed a 1-0 win at Shrewsbury to send them top of League One.
Mirfin glanced in a header from an inswinging free-kick by Josh Morris, the central defender's final contribution before having to be replaced at the break due to an eye injury.
Alexander, whose team are a point clear of Bolton with a game in hand, said: "We didn't manage to play the football we've played in recent weeks but you've got to give Shrewsbury credit for that.
"They made their team compact and they dropped deep at times to try and stop us doing that.
"We found a few dead ends in the first half and probably got frustrated by that, but we managed to get the goal just before half-time through a great set-piece and it made Shrewsbury come out of their shape a little bit more and commit more bodies forward.
"With a little bit of care at times, we could have maybe nicked another goal, but the rearguard action from the whole team, the work-rate to make sure we kept a clean sheet was superb, and we're glad to get the three points on board."
On Mirfin's injury, Alexander added: "He's got a swollen eye and he's got stitches in it.
"It closed up at half-time and there was no way he could continue. He was a danger of doing something else, plus it was affecting his vision.
"He's tough boy. We've got a few tough boys in that group and they're desperate to stay on and win games for the team.
"It was a fantastic header. I think it was his first of the season, so it was good."
Shrewsbury started brightly with Jim O'Brien's free-kick just clearing the crossbar before Shaun Whalley's shot from outside the box was well saved by Iron goalkeeper Luke Daniels.
The result, a fourth home defeat in six league and cup games this season, saw Shrewsbury slip to 22nd place in the table.
Shrewsbury manager Micky Mellon said: "I feel the frustration and I feel the pain all around the ground.
"I feel for the crowd obviously because I've been here for a while now and I know what they're like and I know an awful lot of them, so it's a real painful one and we've lost again from just a ball tossed into the box and a flick on.
"It felt like a bit of a sucker-punch to be honest. I think we were maybe the better side in the first half."
Shrewsbury found second-half chances hard to come by as Scunthorpe defended well, with Junior Brown closest to an equaliser when he curled a free-kick just off target.
"The margins are very small for the group," added Mellon.
"We all believe that there's a lot of ability in the group, I know that. I think everybody who watches us knows that. It's all about those fine margins."