Wycombe Wanderers came from two goals down to grab a point with a 2-2 draw against local outfit Oxford United.
There didn’t look to be a great deal of hope with an hour played as the Chairboys looked a beaten side but two goals in the space of four minutes changed the game and earnt a welcome share of the spoils to ensure the Blues maintained their grip on second spot in League Two.
They went into the ‘M40 derby’ on the back of assistant manager Martin Kuhl’s suspension. If that disruption wasn’t bad enough there was a further blow with winger and talisman Gareth Ainsworth being ruled out after tweaking his hamstring.
Manager Gary Waddock replaced Ainsworth with Andy Sandell whilst Stuart Lewis came into the middle of the park with Scott Donnelly dropping to the bench. The biggest Chairboys away following of the season was at the quaint U-shaped U’s stadium and 1,796 shouted the boys on.
Wycombe made a promising start to the game, knocking the ball around neatly and keeping possession whilst the hosts were seemingly content to let it happen. However the promising start soon faded and the U’s began to get on top with Bull doing well to palm away a shot from James Constable after ten minutes. He was again in action ten minutes later, diving low to his left to keep out Steve MacLean’s shot before Constable was slightly fortunate not to see yellow for diving over Winfield’s challenge in an attempt to win a spot-kick.
Striker Stuart Beavon received treatment after taking a knock on his knee and within a minute of the re-start the home side had broken the deadlock. Midfielder Alfie Potter was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he smashed a shot that clipped the inside of the right-hand post before hitting the top corner of the net.
The U’s were well worth their lead and Beavon had to go off shortly afterwards with Jon-Paul Pittman taking his place. Wanderers had shown little attacking threat but suddenly showed a spark with half-time approaching. Pittman was played in by Sandell and he clipped the ball over Us’ goalkeeper Ryan Clarke but the ball bounced off the top of the crossbar.
A minute later Pittman turned provider when he crossed from the left for Kevin Betsy who had found space in the box but saw his first attempt brilliantly saved by Clarke who got up to block the rebound and the danger was finally cleared.
The break came at the wrong time for the Blues and they started the second half slowly. It would take a brave person to join Lewis Montrose in the kitchen when he’s working with knives, whilst Danny Foster proved quite conclusively that he uses his left-foot for standing on. Scott Rendell seldom passed to a team-mate, held the ball up or won a header all afternoon.
The disappointing start to the second half was compounded when Dave Winfield put through his own net on 54 minutes when he tried to prevent Potter’s low right-wing cross from finding Constable. The goal seemed to have ended any hope for the Wanderers who looked utterly bereft of either creativity or goals.
To his credit Waddock made a change immediately and brought on Donnelly for Marvin McCoy, who can feel a little hard done-by to have been the one hoicked. Sandell dropped to left-back with Foster moving across to right-back. Donnelly, who looked up for the fight, formed part of an attacking triumvirate with Betsy and Pittman either side to complete a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rendell up top.
Nevertheless the Wanderers pulled a goal back completely out of the blue. Sandell swung over a deep cross from the left and Rendell found space to bury his header past Clarke and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. It was an emphatic and clinical finish and totally at odds with his display both before and afterwards.
Three minutes later and the visitors had sensationally drawn themselves level. Betsy crossed from the right and Pittman controlled the ball with his chest before smashing his shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to make it 2-2. Not sure where it came from but the away fans were too busy celebrating to pinch themselves.
For a while it looked like the Chairboys might go on and win it but they ran out of steam and Oxford pushed forward in the final ten minutes. They nearly snatched all three points themselves when substitute Tom Craddock was teed up on the edge of the box only for Bull to pull off a fabulous save, getting down low to push his shot away.
Montrose was booked for an incredible sliding tackle that was similar to scenes of school children sliding down a snowy hill. Chris Westwood replaced Sandell late on but it was his fellow central defensive team-mate Leon Johnson who stood out and he made another crucial block to deny substitute Ryan Doble and the visitors saw out four minutes of injury-time to claim a point.
Whether it was deserved is open to debate but the manager certainly deserves the credit for changing the game when it really mattered. He made a point of coming over to the Wycombe fans at the final whistle and applauded them for some time. Someone suggested he might even have been saying goodbye. Let’s hope that isn’t the case. There is still a promotion to be won and on this showing, there is still much work to do.
Bull 8*, Foster 5, McCoy 6 (Donnelly 56 mins, 7), Winfield 5, Johnson 7, Montrose 5, Lewis 7, Sandell 6 (Westwood 88 mins, n/a), Betsy 6, Rendell 5, Beavon 6 (Pittman 36 mins, 6)