Mansfield Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1
Vital would like to thank Adam Clift for the following report.
The Chairboys picked up only their second away point of the season as they drew 1-1 at Field Mill in a game that was overshadowed by referee Brett Huxtable.
In well over 500 Wanderers matches, the man in middle put in the worst refereeing display I’ve ever seen, although he can’t be blamed for a second half performance from the Blues that failed to back up a very impressive first half display.
Gareth Ainsworth went for a 433 formation with Dom Gape, Danny Rowe and Matt Bloomfield in midfield and Paris Cowan-Hall and Paul Hayes in a front three either side of Adebayo Akinfenwa.
One big boost for the Blues, who were wearing their white change kit this afternoon, was Myles Weston`s return to the squad for the first time since the opening day of the season. Scott Brown also warmed up meaning he can’t be far away.
Wanderers started in lively fashion as they looked to win their first away game since February.
Cowan-Hall found space in the box early on but couldn’t shoot with his left foot and only won a corner.
Mansfield were also looking lively in the opening exchanges, and after Anthony Stewart gave the ball away, Pat Hoban rounded Blackman but Danny Rowe got back in time to clear off the line.
Wycombe then began to stamp their authority on the game. Gape started off a spell of pressure by forcing a fine save from Blues` former keeper Scott Shearer.
Both Bloomfield and Cowan-Hall were inches away from turning in a Hayes` through ball but Wanderers were soon to take a fully deserved lead.
After some neat play in midfield, the ball found Hayes, his excellent through ball sent Bloomfield free and he calmly waited for Shearer to move before putting the ball the other side to send Wycombe into the lead.
The visitors didn’t sit on this lead either. Akinfenwa was causing problems, first heading over the bar and moments later on the half hour, peeling off his man at the back post and forcing a wonderful save.
Mansfield tried to get back into the game before half-time but Wycombe weren’t letting them, and Krystian Pearce resorted to a nasty challenge to stop a break from Cowan-Hall, who was thankfully ok after treatment.
Wanderers went in at half-time 1-0 up, and you have to say it was a deserved lead.
The hosts made two changes at the break in a bid to add an extra impetus to the game. Strikers Matt Green and Jack Thomas entered the fray.
Wycombe naturally sat back in the 2nd half as they looked to get their first away win since February, and a Green overhead kick and Rhys Bennett header both went wide early into the second period.
Green again missed the target before Darius Henderson came on in place of former Oxford man Hoban for Town.
The game was becoming stop-start as referee Huxtable blew for anything, admittedly this probably helped Wycombe but decision after decision was questionable.
Malvind Benning then shot high and wide for the hosts before testing the hands of Blackman.
Ainsworth introduced Garry Thompson for Hayes, although with Wycombe sitting back the game was crying out for the returning Myles Weston as the counter attack was always on for the Chairboys and his pace could have been pivotal.
It was a Thompson long throw however that caused problems in the Stags` defence as both Cowan-Hall and Bloomfield couldn’t quite get on the end of an Akinfenwa knock back.
With ten minutes to go Mansfield did equalise, which was probably deserved based on how the second half had panned out.
Rowe and Stewart both went for the same long ball. The first flick on was won, and when Pierre was beaten to the second, it was Green who was able to fire past Blackman to level proceedings.
The referee`s afternoon had already been questionable, and when he gave a fussy drop ball, Mansfield ‘returning’ it for a Wycombe throw near their own corner flag showed his lack of authority.
Gape was then booked after winning the ball on the the edge of the area, and thankfully Blackman saved the resulting Benning free-kick.
Sam Wood was a 89th minute substitute for goalscorer Bloomfield.
Four minutes stoppage time were added and after Stewart had headed a corner into the side netting, Wycombe had Chelsea loanee Jamal Blackman to thank when he produced a world class save to deny Henderson at the death.
From the resulting corner Huxtable summed his afternoon up. Gape turned his man to leave Wanderers two on one about 60 yards from goal and he inexplicably blew for a foul. It’s arguably the worst decision I’ve ever seen on a football pitch.
Blues managed to defend the free-kick and see out the 1-1 draw, but that wasn’t the end of the drama.
The full-time whistle went and Ainsworth immediately charged onto the pitch towards the incompetent official. Thankfully, for Ainsworth, Akinfenwa and Cowan-Hall managed to push him away and stop him getting into trouble.
It was a point many would have taken before the game, but after dominating much of the first half it was disappointing to not see the game out and play the same way after the break.
This report probably isn’t an appropriate place to discuss referees` performances as a whole. But after attending the fans forum at Adams Park in the week, one thing stuck with me. Ainsworth wanting professional referees.
The fact that our officials aren’t professional was news to me, and today’s evidence proves Gareth’s point. Our players are professional, it’s their career. Why aren’t our referees?
Today`s performance was an improvement again though, and with the home form remaining strong, Wycombe will be hoping for three points next week when Barnet visit Adams Park.
Blackman 7 – World class save in stoppage to save the point.
Harriman 6 – OK and seems to be right-back every game now.
Stewart 6 – Could be blamed for goal.
Pierre 5 – Still not convinced he looks fully interested.
Jacobson 6 – Solid game for JJ.
Rowe 5 – Under par and never really seemed to be in the game.
Gape 6 – Not quite as influential as we’d like.
Bloomfield 7 – Good finish for the goal and did well back in the team.
Cowan-Hall 7 – Great to have him fit. Worked hard and lively in attack.
Akinfenwa 7 – Outlet throughout, some brilliant touches too.
Hayes 6 – Great ball for the goal, not as central as he’d like but did a job for the team.
Thompson 6 – Came on just before the goal as we became happy to sit back.
Wood n/a – Came on too late to rate.
Brett Huxtable 0 – Worst refereeing display you’re ever likely to see.
Awayday rut extended by Stags
Mansfield Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1