Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oldham Athletic 2
In the wake of Monday’s abject performance at Chesterfield, Wycombe’s hopes of survival looked slim, but this is football so you never know, and today’s game was an opportunity for the Blues to drag a woefully out-of-form Oldham to within three points with three games to go.
Alas, having come from a goal down to lead 2-1, the Blues missed a penalty with only eight minutes remaining, and then compounded the error by giving away a last minute spot-kick which the visitors gratefully converted.
The news that closest rivals Orient and Walsall had both been beaten did little to improve the mood of a frustrated home crowd who trudged down Hillbottom Road wishing they could turn the clock back and play the last ten minutes again.
With much at stake, the Blues didn’t start well, and for the opening half an hour you would never have guessed that the Latics had lost their last five games without scoring a single goal.
The visitors regularly strung six or seven passes together as they moved well and stroked the ball about confidently. Wycombe, on the other hand, couldn’t fashion a sequence of more than two passes without losing possession and began to resort to the long ball to Stuart Beavon.
The Latics’ deserved opener arrived after only 14 minutes when Filipe Morais was given the time and space to let fly from 25 yards and was rewarded when his shot hit the back of the net via the inside of the post.
Robbie Simpson then came close to making it two with a free kick that forced Nikki Bull to turn the ball round the post at full stretch.
The pattern of the game changed when Wycombe’s fragile confidence was boosted by Beavon’s equaliser against the run of play after 34 minutes.
A well-weighted pass from Ben Strevens gave Beavon the opportunity to beat Latics’ keeper Dean Bouzanis to the ball and gleefully prod it home for his 23rd goal of the season.
The Blues were a different proposition after that, but still had to survive a scare just before half-time when a Shefki Kuqi strike was disallowed for offside.
Starting the second-half like a house on fire, Wycombe went close through Beavon and Strevens who both had shots saved after Craig Eastmond had created the opening with a superb run from midfield.
Leon Johnson forced a save from Bouzanis when he connected with a Matt Bloomfield free kick after 67 minutes, and moments later Gary Doherty nodded a corner wide as the Blues pushed for a winner.
Grant Basey almost broke the deadlock with a 20 yard free kick that Bouzanis turned round the post, but after 78 minutes Joel Grant brought the Adams Park crowd to their feet with a fine goal.
There was still plenty to do when the ball broke to him 30 yards out, but the second-half substitute kept his head, manoeuvred himself into a shooting position and fired it low into the corner of the net.
Five minutes later, Oumare Tounkara fouled Eastmond in the box, the referee pointed to the spot and Wycombe had a golden opportunity to make the game safe and reignite their fight for survival.
But much to the horror of the home crowd, Basey’s spot kick was hit hard, low, left, and a yard wide of the post.
To add insult to injury, Marvin McCoy was adjudged to have pulled Simpson down in the final minute and the Oldham man picked himself up and sent Bull the wrong way to earn his side a vital share of the points.
More importantly it deprived Wycombe of all three points, which they just about deserved on the balance of play against an Oldham side that spent much of the second-half wasting time.
All that remains now is a trip to newly-promoted Charlton, a visit from play-off contenders Notts County, and a final day journey to automatic-promotion chasing Sheffield Wednesday.
With a run-in like that, it probably won’t matter in the end, but let’s hope the Blues don’t live to regret the last ten minutes of today’s game.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (5), McCoy (5), Doherty (6), Winfield (4) (Johnson 36 (6)), Basey (5), Bloomfield (6), Lewis (6), Eastmond (7), McNamee (4) (Grant 59 (6)), Strevens (5), Beavon (6)
Blues self destruct
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oldham Athletic 2