Wycombe Wanderers 2 Hartlepool United 1
A rejuvenated Dean Morgan inspired Wycombe to a thrilling second-half comeback as they extended their unbeaten run to six games, and made it ten points from a possible twelve with a 2-1 victory over Hartlepool United.
The win also moves Wanderers up to 18th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone, and only three points off 11th placed Newport County.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth made two changes to the side that picked up a hard earned point at Southend last week, with Paris Cowan-Hall and Dean Morgan replacing Steven Craig and Matt McClure. Stuart Lewis was still missing with a hamstring problem, and Reece Styche who was back from international duty missed out with a groin injury.
The game started far from ideally for the hosts, as Cowan-Hall picked up a knock to his ankle and had to be replaced by Matt McClure. Paris was taken to hospital in an ambulance and has since had an X-Ray, and we’ll all be hoping the results show nothing too serious.
Despite some occasional attacking threat from the visitors, which on the whole was dealt with admirably by Anthony Stewart as he stifled the dangerous Luke James, it was Wycombe who started the better, playing some nice football along the way.
Bloomfield shot from distance and missed by an even greater one, Kretzschmar forced a simple save from Pool stopper Flinders, Morgan fired wide after some neat footwork before Kretzschmar was this time denied by a fine challenge, the ball eventually falling for Arnold who was well closed down.
Wanderers best chance of the half fell for McClure. Kretzschmar’s chest down fell for the striker but his shot was straight at Flinders when he really should have given his side the lead.
Bloomfield then had another opportunity that he dragged wide and the Blues were left to regret these missed chances as just three minutes before the interval, Hartlepool took the lead. Manchester United loanee Jack Barmby hit a brilliant half volley past Ingram to give his side the advantage completely against the run of play. Deserved or not, it was a moment of class from Barmby.
Despite this setback, Wanderers came out all guns blazing after the break, and Morgan showed his intent straight away firing a fierce effort over the bar. Kretzschmar was next to hit his attempt too high but it didn’t take long for the equaliser to come.
The ball made its way out wide to Josh Scowen, and his pinpoint cross found the head of Morgan who directed his header past Flinders for his first goal since December 21st. It was a goal that had been coming, and it gave the hosts more than enough time to kick on and nick a winner.
And Wycombe didn’t hold back in their attempt to get one. After a brilliant turn by McClure he played a clever ball into Kretzschmar who once again could only fire over. The young midfielder certainly didn’t have his shooting boots on this afternoon.
Marvin McCoy found himself in the referees notebook for clipping the heels of Luke James, and moments later the second blow of the afternoon occurred. Josh Scowen seemed to win the ball in a midfield challenge, but referee Andy Madley deemed it as a foul and booked him. It was Scowen’s 10th caution of the season and it means he’ll miss the encounters with Plymouth and York through suspension.
It`s a shame, because since collecting his 8th booking, which led to a red card back in December, the improvement in Scowen`s disciplinary record has been evident. However the 10th caution has been reached and he’ll be sorely missed as his recent performances have proved what a vital member of the side he is.
After this, Hartlepool did begin to see more of the ball but didn’t trouble Ingram, Simon Walton’s left footed volley from distance flying harmlessly wide.
As the clock hit the 69th minute, Wycombe took the lead. A Kretzschmar corner led to Flinders flapping and Matt McClure was able to nod home from a couple of yards to notch his first goal since the beginning of December. It was exactly what the Blues deserved, and nobody could question their value for the lead.
Pools` manager Colin Cooper then made a double substitution bringing on Jonathan Franks and Anthony Sweeney for goal scorer Barmby and the ineffective Marlon Harewood, but these changes didn’t alter the pattern of play, and rather than sitting back like we’ve seen in the past, Wycombe looked to extend their lead.
A phenomenal Sam Wood pass found McClure, whose powerful shot was tipped wide by Flinders, and after using his chest to bring the ball down for himself, an audacious Dean Morgan volley flew narrowly wide.
Morgan was enjoying himself now and playing with a smile on his face, and when that`s happening, you always have to fancy Wycombe’s chances. With Plymouth visiting Adams Park in midweek, Morgan will surely feel he has a point to prove again to their manager John Sheridan, just as he did at Home Park earlier this season.
The visitors did begin to push on in a bid for an equaliser, Nialle Rodney replaced Walton, but Ingram continued to be rarely threatened. He did however do extremely well to claw away a long range attempt from Bradley Walker.
Morgan was replaced to a standing ovation in stoppage time, Steven Craig coming on his place. And it wasn’t long before referee Madley blew for full-time to secure the Blues` back-to-back home wins and extend their unbeaten run to six.
The result sees Wycombe rise to 18th place and pull further away from the relegation zone, and the tight nature of the table means just three points separate Newport in 11th and Wanderers themselves. In fact, we’re now only nine points off the play-offs, although, admittedly, I may be getting a bit carried away there.
The atmosphere throughout the second half, and in particular nearing the end of the game is certainly worth a mention. All three sides of the ground joined in, and as against Chesterfield, it felt like the good old days had returned to Adams Park. The improvement in performances and results is something that’s certainly being acknowledged by the fans. Let’s hope this can continue on Tuesday night, when Pymouth are the visitors.
Ingram 7, McCoy 7, Stewart 8, Johnson 7, Wood 6, Scowen 8, Arnold 6, Bloomfield 6, Kretzschmar 7, Cowan-Hall N/a (McClure 7), Morgan 9* (Craig N/a)
Blues come from behind to win
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Hartlepool United 1