Wycombe Wanderers snatched the three points with a sensational 4-3 victory over Rotherham United at a wet and cold Don Valley Stadium. Manager Gary Waddock named an unchanged-line up for the fifth game in succession as the Wanderers went in search of their third away league win in a row. The former Republic of Ireland international has built a reputation of bringing exciting football and this game captured it to a tee.
Kevin Betsy gave the Blues the lead in the 9th minute and Matt Bloomfield made it 2-0 with 18 minutes played with a fantastic strike into the top corner from outside the area. Adam Le Fondre pulled a goal back five minutes later and Jason Taylor equalised with a low shot from outside the area in the 39th minute. Wanderers` goalkeeper Nikki Bull will feel he should have done better with both efforts.
The first half scoring wasn`t over and whatever Bloomfield could do, Ben Strevens could match. He curled home from 25 yards to find the top corner in the first minute of injury-time to give the visitors a 3-2 half-time lead.
The second half was a tale of two penalties. Le Fondre converted from the spot on 69 minutes to grab his second of the game to make it 3-3 after Westwood was adjudged to have impeded Geohagan. With seven minutes remaining Betsy was brought down in the area by Mullins and substitute Scott Rendell showed great composure to find the net after a long delay to give the Wanderers the three points with a thrilling 4-3 win. It should give the players a huge lift particularly after showing so much character to come back three times.
The Chairboys lined-up as follows : (4-4-2)
Danny Foster – Alan Bennett – Chris Westwood – Andy Sandell
Kevin Betsy – Lewis Montrose – Matt Bloomfield – Gareth Ainsworth
Ben Strevens – Stuart Beavon
The Rotherham United line-up was : (4-3-3)
Johnny Mullins – Luke Ashworth – Exodus Geohagan – Tom Newey
Nicky Law – Jason Taylor – Mark Bradley
Kevin Ellison – Adam Le Fondre – Tom Pope
The Don Valley Stadium isn`t exactly designed for the football supporter and as winter approaches the two sides came out to a wet afternoon in South Yorkshire. Much has been said about the pitch and the rain soon made it a tricky surface to deal with and it played a significant part in events with several players regularly losing their footing.
Rotherham United had the first attempt on goal in the opening sixty seconds but Kevin Ellison saw his volley whistle just over the bar. Gareth Ainsworth almost pulled off a move clearly worked on the training ground but his half-volley from Matt Bloomfield`s corner flew just wide of goal. The Millers posed a real threat down their right-flank and full-back Johnny Mullins created a chance for Ellison but he fired over under pressure from Chris Westwood.
The Blues broke the deadlock in the 9th minute when Gareth Ainsworth`s cross was missed by home defender Exodus Geohagan, who was more interested in Ben Strevens, and the ball hit Mullins to fall kindly for Kevin Betsy and he tucked the ball into the net from a couple of yards to make it 1-0 to the Wanderers. Rotherham danger-man Adam Le Fondre went close to levelling on 16 minutes following another dangerous cross from Mullins but he could only fire wide from a narrow angle at the far post.
Wycombe doubled their lead with 18 minutes played. Bloomfield took possession some thirty yards from goal and took a great first touch before beating Geohagan and then clipping a delightful shot into the net to beat Millers` goalkeeper Andy Warrington. The hosts responded within five minutes to halve the deficit. Alan Bennett lost his footing at the worst possible moment to allow Jason Taylor`s pass to reach Le Fondre and he smashed a low shot that deflected off Chris Westwood and past Nikki Bull to notch his 12th goal of the season.
Bull was then at his best when he dived full-length to make an excellent save from Nicky Law whose powerful shot was destined for the bottom corner of the net. The Blues managed to weather a spell of home pressure and both Mark Bradley and Ellison were reduced to shooting from long range with both efforts going over the bar. Ainsworth did likewise for the visitors but within a minute the Millers were back on level terms.
Westwood was harshly adjudged to have fouled Le Fondre, who went down easily under the defender’s challenge and Nicky Law played the dead-ball back across the edge of the box for Jason Taylor whose shot slipped through the hands of Bull and into the net to make it 2-2. Bull looked to have lost his footing in attempting to make the save but he will still have been very disappointed to have let the ball beat him. 90 seconds later the Blues had a lucky escape when Mullins again supplied the cross and Westwood lost his footing to allow the ball to reach Law at the far post. The winger had just Bull to beat but he somehow managed to fire wide of the goal.
An action packed first half ended with a sensational goal from Ben Strevens in the first minute of injury time. He received the ball out on the inside left before curling a beauty around Warrington and into the corner of the net to notch his second goal in as many games and give the Chairboys a 3-2 half-time lead.
Wycombe came out after the break and dealt comfortably with the threat from the hosts for the opening twenty minutes. It was the Blues who looked the more likely to add to their lead and Bloomfield flicked a header over the bar before the woodwork twice came to the home side’s rescue in the space of two minutes. Strevens hit the post from close range although he had strayed into an offside position before Stuart Beavon sent Bloomfield in clear behind the Millers defence and he outpaced Bradley before shooting past Warrington only to see the ball crash off the inside of the post and be hacked clear by Geohagan.
Matt Bloomfield had been the Wanderers Man of the Match but he had to be replaced by Scott Davies just past the hour mark after tweaking his hamstring. Hopefully the move will prove to be cautionary. Rotherham were handed an opportunity to level matters on 69 minutes when Westwood was adjudged to have impeded Geohagan in the area and referee Peter Quinn pointed to the spot. Le Fondre stepped up to clinically convert the spot-kick, firing low into the bottom left-hand corner sending Bull the wrong way.
The goal gave the hosts the impetus to push forward and Bennett had to clear from within his own six-yard area from Tom Pope after he had been sent wide by Bull. Blues supremo Gary Waddock made a couple of changes with Scott Rendell and Dave Winfield coming on for Gareth Ainsworth and Danny Foster. Bull was again in action with nine minutes remaining when he showed great reflexes to deny Taylor and was then quick to grab the rebound from Mullins.
There was controversy two minutes later when Betsy ran at Mullins and into the area and went down under the defender’s challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. The decision was greeted with hysterical protests from both the home players and crowd. The referee`s assistant added to the drama by signalling for a corner and after a lengthy discussion between the two men the referee confirmed the award of a penalty and booked Jason Taylor for dissent.
Substitute Scott Rendell stepped up and showed nerves of steel to bury the spot-kick past Warrington and into the net. The overjoyed striker celebrated giving the Wanderers a 4-3 lead in bizarre style with Davies. I dread to think what inspired it. The visitors kept the Millers at arms length for the final six minutes of normal time and the four minutes of injury-time to record their biggest win of the season to date. The result is a real statement of intent and keeps their unbeaten away league record intact. It’s the first time since December 1996 that the Blues have won 4-3 away from home in the league. Gary Waddock deserves great credit for making two crucial substitutions, bringing on Rendell to score the all-important winner and then Dave Winfield to provide added protection in front of Bull. Victory consolidates 6th place in the League Two table and the Blues are handily placed in the chasing pack, four points off the automatic promotion places.
Attendance: 3,651 (215 away fans)
1. Nikki BULL – 6
2. Danny FOSTER – 6 (Sub – 81 mins 5. Dave WINFIELD – 7)
3. Andy SANDELL – 6
4. Alan BENNETT – 5
23. Chris WESTWOOD – 5
7. Gareth AINSWORTH – 6 (Sub – 76 mins 9. Scott RENDELL – 6)
10. Matt BLOOMFIELD – 8* (Sub – 61 mins 22. Scott DAVIES – 6)
17. Lewis MONTROSE – 7
11. Kevin BETSY – 7
12. Ben STREVENS – 6
20. Stuart BEAVON – 5
Standout opposition player – Jonny MULLINS