Wycombe Wanderers 1 Scunthorpe United 1
The Blues banked a hard-fought point at the end of a full-blooded encounter with the Iron at Adams Park this afternoon.
The visitors were playing in the Championship last season, and for the first 20 minutes of today’s game, it looked as if they might have too much quality in their side for the newly-promoted Chairboys to contain.
Taking the initiative right from the start, the Iron should have opened the scoring after 12 minutes when an unmarked Jordan Robertson volleyed the ball over the bar from a central position inside the box.
Five minutes later, winger Mark Duffy took advantage of some indecisive defending from Andy Sandell and fired a low shot inches past Nikki Bull’s post.
The pattern of the game changed when Wycombe opened the scoring against the run of play.
An earlier corner from Scott Donnelly cried-out for contact as it flew untouched across the Scunthorpe box, but when he repeated the trick after 23 minutes, new-signing James Tunnicliffe rose to the occasion and planted his header into the top corner of the net for a fine debut goal.
All of a sudden the Iron didn’t look so confident and Gareth Ainsworth came close to making it two for Wycombe when he met Sandell’s cross at the back post and flashed a header narrowly wide.
As usual, the Blues had plenty of reasons to thank Nikki Bull, and his first vital contribution was a stunning save to keep out a header from Robertson just after the half-hour mark.
There was little Bull could do about Scunthorpe’s 40th minute equaliser which saw Michael Nelson head home a corner despite a crowd of players in the six yard box trying to keep it out.
Wycombe’s best spell of the match came immediately after half time.
Within moments of the restart, Ainsworth lashed a fierce 30 yard drive against the foot of the post, and before you could catch your breath, both Donnelly and Sandell had fired shots inches over the top corner of the visitors’ goal.
When the storm abated, the game began to swing from end to end, but the Iron were crafting the better chances and Wycombe were fortunate to see Chris Dagnall’s glancing header creep just wide of the post.
The Blues had another lucky escape when Michael O’Connor fluffed his lines and shot tamely into Bull’s hands having been put clean through on goal with only the keeper to beat.
O’Connor probably thought he’d made amends when he curled a free-kick towards the top left-hand corner of Bull’s goal only for the keeper to make a breathtaking save that had several Scunthorpe players holding their heads in their hands in amazement.
It was a fiesty game by now, but although the Blues were competing in the way the fans have recently come to expect, they rarely threatened to snatch a winner.
A double substitution after 75 minutes saw wingers Gareth Ainsworth and Joel Grant replaced by Stuart Beavon and Kadeem Harris.
As far as the wingers on show were concerned, Scunthorpe’s Duffy and Ryan had looked far more threatening than the Wycombe pair, but while Ainsworth had put in his usual shift and shone on occasion, Grant had seen so little of the ball that it’s difficult to make any sort of judgement on his debut.
Harris certainly looked lively when he came on, showing good footwork before firing in a shot that was blocked, and later almost getting on the end of a cross deep inside the penalty area.
Bull kept Wycombe in the game with another fine save from Dagnall, and the Blues also had to survive a goalmouth scramble as the clock ticked towards ninety minutes.
The drama continued as the referee inexplicably played 8 minutes of action-packed stoppage time, during which Ben Strevens was sent off for wrestling with Sam Togwell and Dagnall thought he’d won the game for the Iron only to have his header disallowed for offside.
All in all, an entertaining game and not a bad start to the season.
Wycombe’s Men of the Match – Nikki Bull & James Tunnicliffe
Wycombe line-up & ratings
Bull (8), Foster (6), Winfield (7), Tunnicliffe (8), Sandell (6), Ainsworth (7) (Beavon 75 (6)), Donnelly (6), Halls (5), Grant (5), (Harris 75 (6)), Strevens (6), Rendell (6)