Hartlepool United 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3
Vital Wycombe would like to thank guest writer Adam Clift for the following report.
A mixture of phenomenal football and fighting team spirit set Wycombe on their way to a crucial 3 points at the expense of a dispirited Hartlepool United. Goals from Scott Donnelly, Stuart Beavon and an O.G from Sam Collins were enough before a controversial late penalty from Adam Boyd proved a mere consolation.
Hartlepool were without ex-Newcastle star Nobby Solano while Wycombe made just one change to the team that started against Walsall the previous week with Ben Strevens coming in for Kadeem Harris.
And it was Strevens who cut past his man brilliantly in the 15th minute before unleashing a shot that Pools’ stopper Scott Flinders could only parry. Scott Donnelly followed up to tap the ball into the empty net for an opening goal that Wycombe deserved after an encouraging start with some lovely flowing football being played.
Stuart Beavon was causing his usual problems up front and on the rare occasions when Hartlepool attacked, Dave Winfield, and in particular, Leon Johnson, were more than up to the task. Meanwhile Rowlands, Lewis and Donnelly were keeping things ticking over expertly in the middle of the park, making for a very impressive Wycombe display.
Cheered on by the brilliant away support, who travelled in good numbers considering the distance, the Blues continued to press and a ferocious Beavon drive from distance forced a very good save from Flinders. Wycombe were in fact piling so much pressure on their opponents even Leon Johnson found himself in a left wing position only to be flagged offside.
Other than an odd hopeful effort and a wasteful header from Anthony Sweeney, the hosts rarely threatened and Wycombe eventually got their reward with a second goal. With 36 minutes on the clock the ball came to Stuart Beavon who spun brilliantly to beat his man before firing past Flinders from 18 yards to send the away contingent into raptures. The goal was so skillful and classy that if someone like Lionel Messi had scored it, we would be hearing rave reviews for days to come.
Veteran Gareth Ainsworth, looking more and more his normal self, attempted one of his trademark shots from distance only to see his audacious effort land on the roof of the net. This was the last real point of note in what was a memorable first half as far as Wycombe were concerned.
Hartlepool came out stronger in the second half and piled on some early pressure but rarely tested Nikki Bull thanks to solid defensive displays from the Wycombe back four, which included impressive left-back Grant Basey. Wycombe weren`t exactly sitting back though and Stuart Lewis tested Flinders as he tried to add to his two Wanderers’ goals, both scored at home to Burton last season.
The pressure soon increased though, and a succession of Pools’ corners saw Wycombe throwing in block after block and hoofing the ball into touch time after time. The Nikki Bull we all know and love made an outstanding save to deny substitute Adam Boyd`s bicycle kick – a save that Boyd himself seemed to be amazed at.
The half chances continued to come as Wycombe struggled to regain the foothold that they`d had in the first half. But it was legend Ainsworth who helped ease the Pools’ dominance with a surging run forward, his cutback finding Donnelly who would`ve doubled his account for the day if it wasn`t for a stunning save from Flinders.
The expected substitution of Ainsworth soon followed as James Tunnicliffe came on with Strevens dropping back to midfield in a 5-4-1 formation designed to see out the victory. But the change in formation looked unnecessary moments later when Danny Foster found himself in acres of space on the right hand side and his cross seemed to bounce off the knees of Sam Collins before trickling beneath Flinders. After a delayed reaction from both the Wycombe fans and keeper Nikki Bull it was celebration time again as the win now seemed secure. The players all ran to Foster but I can`t see him being credited with what was a comedy own goal.
This third goal sparked a huge majority of the 5,421 crowd to head for the exits in what was clearly a less then pleasing display for the home side. Barely any Hartlepool fans were left to see the award of a suspicious looking penalty in their favour. A header down by Boyd was supposedly handled by Ben Strevens as referee Darren Drysdale pointed to the spot. Boyd calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner sending Bull the wrong way, but this was only a consolation as Wycombe easily saw out what was an astonishing victory against a side that until 2 weeks ago were unbeaten.
An added touch to the day was Jordan Ibe becoming the youngest player to ever feature in the Football League for Wycombe, the 15 year-old coming on as a late replacement for the outstanding Beavon.
When the full-time whistle sounded there were scenes of celebration from players and fans alike with a victory that made the 6:00am start and 10 hours + spent on the coach seem worthwhile. Hopefully this sort of performance can be repeated at Oldham next week and for the rest of the season.
Nikki Bull – 7
Danny Foster – 7
Dave Winfield – 7
Leon Johnson – 7
Grant Basey – 7
Gareth Ainsworth – 8
Martin Rowlands – 8
Stuart Lewis – 7
Scott Donnelly – 7
Ben Strevens – 8
Stuart Beavon – 9 (MoM)
Writer: Adam Clift