Wycombe Wanderers 1 Carlisle United 1
For the third week in a row, Wycombe Wanderers scored a dramatic stoppage time equaliser to rescue a point against play-off chasing opposition.
It stretches their unbeaten run to seven games which is a huge turnaround compared to their awful record earlier in the season.
Both sides had half-chances in the opening three minutes, Wycombe’s Chris Hackett shooting tamely into the hands of Adam Collin before Carlisle’s Francois Zoko forced Nikki Bull to smother the ball at his near post.
The next effort of note didn’t arrive until the 13th minute when Stuart Beavon fired a shot over the bar from 20 yards.
Five minutes later Beavon came even closer to opening the scoring when his rasping daisycutter from the edge of the box was turned round the post by Collin at full stretch.
After 25 minutes Craig Eastmond was hacked down and no free kick was given, much to the disgust of the Wycombe players. In the ensuing melee, Carlisle’s number-six Peter Murphy clearly attempted to head butt Stuart Lewis before throwing himself to the ground clutching his face when Lewis reacted by pushing him in the chest.
Amazingly, the outcome was a caution for Lewis and Carlisle’s Danny Livesey but absolutely no punishment for Murphy who could be seen grinning from ear to ear as play resumed.
As half-time approached, both sides had further opportunities to break the deadlock with Carlisle’s Lee Miller blasting a great chance over the bar and Collin keeping out a Ben Strevens volley with his feet.
Eight minutes into the second-half Collin made another crucial save from Hackett and two minutes later Strevens fired a low drive narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
By this stage of the game, the Cumbrians had worked out that they simply had to fall over to win a free kick from referee Lewis. The ploy seemed to work every time, but in a delightful twist, when Hackett blatantly bundled Liam Noble over in the box after an hour, the official waved play on.
It was only a temporary respite for Wycombe. Two minutes later Zoko was allowed the time and space to feed an unmarked Jon-Paul McGovern whose shot bounced down off the crossbar and hit the luckless Grant Basey on it’s way into the net for the opening goal.
The Blues almost levelled things after 71 minutes when Craig Eastmond shimmied his way into a great shooting position only to let himself down with a woeful finish that flew harmlessly over the bar.
Continuing to press, Wycombe had further efforts through Beavon who nodded one over the top and McNamee whose clever back-header had Collin scrambling to make another fingertip save for the Cumbrians.
It looked like curtains for the home side as the clock ticked towards full time, but no sooner had three added minutes been announced, than the equaliser was nestling in the top corner of Collin’s net courtesy of a super strike from Stuart Lewis.
In a fine example of one-touch football, a long ball from McCoy was nodded down by Strevens for McClure to stroke to Beavon who flicked it into the path of Lewis who lashed it home with his weaker left foot.
It almost ended in tears when a James Berrett shot came perilously close to restoring the Cumbrians’ lead but the ball flew wide and the Chairboys had saved a point in dramatic fashion for the third time in a row.
While the new flexible 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 formation has undoubtedly made Waddock’s men harder to beat, losing Paul Hayes has considerably lessened their potency in front of goal and the last three draws have all been earned through wars of attrition.
Never underestimate the value of a point, but as games run out, Wycombe are rapidly approaching the time when only wins will be good enough to rescue them from relegation.
Chesterfield on Monday seems a good place to start.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (6), McCoy (6), Stewart (7) (McClure 87 (n/a)), Doherty (7), Basey(6), Bloomfield (6) (McNamee 68 (5)), Eastmond (7), Lewis (7), Hackett (5), Beavon (6), Strevens (6)