Colchester United 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1
In what’s been a pretty grim season, Wycombe Wanderers fans have had to take their pleasure wherever they can find it, and it doesn’t get much more enjoyable than celebrating a stoppage-time equaliser at old rivals Colchester United.
Thwarting the enemy in their own back yard is heart-warming and the fact that Gareth Ainsworth has since confessed to inadvertently using his hand to score the vital goal is just the icing on the cake.
Having been on the receiving end of last-gasp equalisers in their previous two games, the Chairboys’ were due some good fortune and despite the controversy surrounding Ainsworth’s goal, they fully deserved to take at least a point from this game after a fine second half performance.
Under the cosh at times during the first forty-five minutes, Wycombe found chances hard to come by, and only a long-range header from Gareth Ainsworth would really qualify as an attempt on goal.
Despite enjoying the majority of the first-half possession, Colchester’s primitive style of play didn’t afford them many clear-cut chances either and the only heart-stopping moment of any note was when Steven Gillespie nipped in front of Adam Hinshelwood and flashed a header just over the crossbar.
As in many recent games, it seemed to take the half-time pep-talk to spur Wycombe into action and the second-half saw them create far more clear-cut chances than their hosts.
Gareth Ainsworth and Stuart Beavon had played well throughout and when Kevin Betsy and Dean Keates upped their game after the break, the Blues began to threaten for the first time in the match.
Beavon came closest to opening the scoring when he took a pass from Betsy and curled in a fine dipping shot which U’s keeper Ben Williams did well to turn over the crossbar.
Immediately afterwards, Adam Hinshelwood’s glancing header flew across the face of the Colchester goal with no one in a position to apply the finishing touch. It was the first of many golden chances that went begging for the want of a predatory striker prepared to take a gamble.
Just as things were looking up for the Blues, Colchester scored the opening goal on the hour-mark. Another of the U’s trademark diagonal long-balls found Ian Henderson on the left flank and after getting the better of Julian Kelly he powered home an unstoppable shot.
Shortly afterwards, Wycombe manager Gary Waddock made the first of his three substitutions when Matt Bloomfield replaced an out-of-sorts John Mousinho whose previous good form has completely deserted him in recent games. Further changes saw Matt Phillips and Jon-Paul Pittman replace Stuart Beavon and Matt Harrold.
Bloomfield was soon just inches away from connecting with yet another dangerous ball across the face of the Colchester goal, and shortly afterwards Dean Keates fired in a rasping shot which was goal-bound until deflected wide for a corner.
The pressure was really mounting now, and the visiting crowd were on their feet again when Pittman’s powerful header from Keates’ corner flashed over the crossbar.
The substitutions had seen Wycombe change shape, with Betsy and Phillips alternating on the wings and Ainsworth playing a more central role. And when the equaliser arrived it was thanks to Ainsworth showing a striker’s instinct to meet a Matt Phillips cross.
Earlier in the second half, Julian Kelly had twice made good runs down the right wing only to see his crosses easily collected by the U’s keeper with no Wycombe player attacking the ball at the near post. But when Phillips wriggled into space in the 92nd minute and crossed the ball, there was Ainsworth throwing himself in front of keeper Williams and bundling the ball into the net to send the Wycombe supporters wild.
It looked like a header to me, but Ainsworth has since admitted it was a combination of his head and his hand. Whatever it was, it was no more than Wycombe deserved and if they possessed a decent striker, they would probably have won the game.
It’s only a point in the big scheme of things and Wycombe remain seven points from safety, but it was the performance of a team who haven’t yet given up on pulling-off a great escape.
Chris Westwood – Read the game brilliantly.
Dean Keates – Second-half performance was his best for a while.
Man Of The Match
Gareth Ainsworth – Inspirational
Heaton, Kelly, Westwood, Hinshelwood, Woodman, Ainsworth, Mousinho (Bloomfield 70), Keates, Betsy, Harrold (Pittman 80), Beavon (Phillips 77).