The Chairboys got their new season off to a good start by beating a well-organised and dogged Morecambe side 2-0 at Adams Park this afternoon.
Westwood Bennett Winfield Foster
Ainsworth (Phillips 77) Montrose Bloomfield (Murtagh 68) Betsy
Strevens Rendell (Pittman 77)
In a game with plenty of goalmouth incident, Wycombe had enough chances to be at least three goals up before half-time but had to be content with a 1-0 lead at the break thanks to Scott Rendell’s 35th minute penalty.
Kevin Betsy was at the heart of most of Wycombe’s best moves, and in the first 15 minutes alone, his intelligent movement off the ball split the Morecambe defence apart on several occasions, the last of which saw his cheeky chip narrowly clear the crossbar.
The Blues continued to relentlessly attack in search of the opening goal, with Lewis Montrose rifling a shot into the side-netting and the Shrimps enjoying some luck when an attempted clearance hit Alan Bennett and almost rebounded into the goal.
The visitors had only created one clear-cut chance during the early stages when Paul Scott headed the ball over the bar, but after 30 minutes they finally gave Wycombe keeper Nikki Bull something to think about.
An over-hit crossfield pass from Dave Winfield put Alan Bennett in a bit of trouble, and when he lost the ball to Morecambe’s tricky winger Adam Rundle it needed a fine double save from Bull at his near post to prevent the visitors from taking an undeserved lead.
Within minutes, Wycombe had their best chance of the first-half when Betsy worked his magic on the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross which new striker Scott Rendell could only head wide when it seemed easier to score.
Rendell started today’s game ahead of Jon-Paul Pittman – who must be wondering exactly what more he has to do to impress manager Gary Waddock after scoring eight goals during pre-season. Anyone who has seen Pittman’s performances in recent weeks could be forgiven for thinking that it looked suspiciously like a case of starting the big-money signing ahead of the in-form striker.
Not that Rendell played badly, he didn’t, but his fellow debutante striker Ben Strevens caught the eye more. Strevens showed some silky skills in possession, seems to have developed a good understanding with playmaker-in-chief Kevin Betsy, and could also be found tracking back to make important defensive contributions when necessary.
It was Rendell though, that opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 36 minutes, tucking his low shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net after Matt Bloomfield had been brought down in the box.
Bloomfield had also impressed during the early part of the game, making several intelligent runs and also crafting a few defence-splitting passes himself. He clearly had licence to push forward while his central-midfield partner Lewis Montrose did a fine job in a more defensive role.
There was still time before the break for Strevens to take advantage of more sterling work from Betsy, this time on the left flank. Dazzling the Morecambe right-back with his trademark tricky footwork, Betsy cut the ball back to Strevens whose fine shot cannoned off the underside of the crossbar with Shrimps’ keeper Barry Roche beaten.
In the final minute of the first-half, Betsy broke clear himself only to see his shot saved by Roche’s legs and the rebound fired over the crossbar by Bloomfield.
The second-half was a different matter. A Wycombe defence – which included a central-defender playing at right-back and a right-back playing at left-back – was made to look distinctly shaky at times by the visitors. It was enough to make you grateful that the Shrimps’ finishing wasn’t to the standard we faced last season in League One.
Morecambe striker Phil Jevons headed narrowly wide within seconds of the restart and when Alan Bennett lost his bearings a few minutes later, Adam Rundle shot wide when he really should have scored.
The Shrimps created several further chances during a second-half that they probably just about shaded, but fortunately for the Blues they failed to even trouble Bull.
For Wycombe, the chances were falling to the wrong players. Defender Chris Westwood had a couple of headers, neither of which hit the target, while centre-half Bennett also struggled to control a loose ball inside the Shrimps’ box.
There was almost a magic moment when a free-kick straight from the training ground saw Bloomfield tap the ball to Gareth Ainsworth who flicked it up in the air and volleyed it goalwards, forcing the Shrimps’ keeper into a diving save.
Betsy should have sewn the game up when he skinned a Morecambe defender yet again, made a bee-line for the near post, and fired his shot straight into the side-netting when a cut-back to a teammate would have surely resulted in a goal.
The home crowd’s jangling nerves were finally settled after 84 minutes when substitute Jon-Paul Pittman scored yet another superb goal to add to his recent tally.
Collecting the ball on the right-flank, Pittman cut inside and dispatched a screamer beyond the outstretched hands of the diving keeper and into the bottom corner of the net.
It was another reminder to Waddock that Pittman is in the form of his life.
Man of the Match
Kevin Betsy – He was a class apart.