Cheltenham Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 2
Wycombe Wanderers got the new year off to a great start by beating Cheltenham 2-1 at Whaddon Road to climb into the automatic promotion places for the first time since August.
For only the fourth time this season the Blues found themselves 1-0 down in a league game. On the other three occasions they went on to lose, but today they battled back to pocket all three points – courtesy of two fine goals from Stuart Beavon and Gareth Ainsworth.
Yet again it was the Blues’ second half performance that caught the eye. Before the break, they looked no better than their opponents and created far fewer chances.
The Robins started brightly and took the lead after only 12 minutes when Danny Andrew flighted a 25 yard free-kick to perfection – the ball almost kissing the inside of the post on its way into the back of the net with Nikki Bull well beaten.
Dave Winfield headed a Matt Bloomfield corner wide a few moments later, but it was the home side who looked more dangerous and they were soon threatening Bull’s goal again.
Wesley Thomas latched onto a long ball and darted goalwards only to be thwarted by a double save from Bull with Leon Johnson also in close attendance.
Bull was back in action moments later, narrowing the angle and making another fine stop from Jeff Goulding who had been put in the clear by a great ball from JJ Melligan.
Melligan himself put a back-post header just over the bar seconds later as the Robins continued to probe for a killer second goal.
Andy Sandell forced Robins’ keeper Scott Brown into a fingertip save when he tried his luck with a 35 yard free-kick, but apart from that Wycombe had been restricted to a couple of harmless long range efforts until Beavon worked his magic for the equaliser.
With 45 minutes on the clock, the dynamic little striker played a superb crossfield pass to Kevin Betsy who beat his man before returning the ball to Beavon who created space for himself and lashed it into the net with his left foot. It was a sickening blow for Cheltenham and a hangover cure for the Blues.
Brighter in every department after the break – and roared on by a noisy travelling support – Wycombe set about their hosts and were rewarded for their efforts when Ainsworth headed home the winner after 58 minutes.
Prior to the goal, Bloomfield had a long range strike comfortably saved by Brown, and Wesley Thomas forced another fine save from Bull, but most of the pressure was now coming from Wycombe and it was no surprise when they finally made it count.
Chis Westwood was the provider with an inch-perfect cross which Ainsworth headed goalwards – the ball dropping just under the crossbar and into the top corner to give keeper Brown no chance.
The Blues continued to look the better side, but Cheltenham had several chances to equalise and will be cursing their wastefulness in front of goal.
Junior Smikle squandered a great chance when he put a header wide after 70 minutes, but he wasn’t alone – Thomas mishit a shot from close range and substitute Shaun Jeffers somehow missed the target altogether with a free header in stoppage time.
Bull was also called upon to race off his line and turn a Thomas effort round the post.
For the Blues, substitute Scott Rendell looked lively and almost converted a difficult chance at the back post, while Matt Bloomfield’s tenacity nearly paid dividends when an attempted clearance hit him and trickled narrowly wide of the post with Brown only able to stand and watch.
Rendell then played Bloomfield in again but this time Brown turned the midfielder’s shot round the post for a corner.
Cheltenham may feel they did enough to deserve a point, but it’s all about taking your chances and that’s something Wycombe appear to be getting good at.
Nikki Bull will be disappointed with his first-half kicking but yet again his prowess between the sticks was as valuable as the winning goal.
A match-fit Leon Johnson is almost back to his best now and was the pick of the defenders in my book.
Stuart Lewis popped-up everywhere, tackled like a lion, closed the Robins down quickly and used the ball well. Signing him on a permanent deal in January would help the cause.
Gareth Ainsworth gave his full-back a torrid time and chipped-in with the winning goal. It was a quality performance from the captain.
Stuart Beavon was magnificent – again.
Men of the Match – Stuart Lewis & Stuart Beavon
Bull, Westwood, Winfield, Johnson, Sandell, Ainsworth (Rendell 77), Bloomfield, Lewis, Betsy, Strevens, Beavon (Montrose 87).
Blues come from behind to shoot down Robins
Cheltenham Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 2