Franchise 4 Wycombe Wanderers 3
Plenty of spirit, bags of entertainment, some excellent individual performances and a feast of goals, but when the final whistle sounded it was just another defeat for Wycombe.
Looking on the bright side, the Blues scored three excellent goals, and in the stylish Marcello Trotta, Gary Waddock may have borrowed an ideal strike-partner for the in-form Stuart Beavon.
On the gloomier side, a clean sheet looks a million miles away and today’s scoreline actually flattered the Wycombe defence.
Only a couple of excellent saves from Nikki Bull and some profligate finishing from the hosts kept Wycombe in the game during the first half.
Bull was called upon to make a superb reaction save as early as the first minute when he tipped Charlie MacDonald’s close range shot over the crossbar.
Joel Grant fired one over the bar and Stuart Lewis dragged one wide as Wycombe tried to make their mark, but it was the home side that took the lead after only 14 minutes.
A mix up on the right side of the Blues’ defence allowed Jabo Ibehre to break free and a couple of incisive passes later, Dean Bowditch was cutting inside and lashing the ball home.
Ibehre had already fired one wide before the opening goal, and he was in the thick of things again immediately afterwards when Stephen Gleeson’s pass put him clean through and only Bull’s trailing leg prevented what looked like a certain goal.
Carving a slow, ponderous, static Wycombe defence apart almost at will, the home side missed an even bigger sitter just moments later. This time Ibehre chose not to shoot but instead to lay the ball off to Luke Chadwick who was totally unmarked on Bull’s right but could only fire the ball over when faced with an open goal.
Darren Potter fired one wide and Mathais Doumbe put another over the bar as the promotion-chasers continued to turn the screw, but on the half-hour mark Wycombe made their presence felt with two shots on goal.
At the end of a jinking run, Kadeem Harris played in Joel Grant who fired a shot wide while being scythed down by Doumbe, and moments later Trotta gave Grant another opportunity which was saved by home keeper David Martin.
Three minutes before the break the Blues had another big let-off. Ibehre was on the attack again and when his shot was parried by Bull the ball fell kindly to MacDonald who prodded the ball wide of the post before burying his head in his hands in shame.
Wycombe had a final flurry before half-time when Martin saved a shot from Harris and from the resulting corner James Tunnicliffe put a great chance over the crossbar.
Only being 1-0 down at the break was a bonus and the Blues took full advantage of their good fortune with an electrifying start to the second half.
After 51 minutes Beavon collected a pass from Donnelly on the edge of the box, and with the crowd screaming at him to shoot, shifted the ball from one foot to the other before rifling a rasping drive high into the back of the net.
A minute later Wycombe were in front when Trotta raced through on goal before calmly slotting the ball into the corner of the net past Martin.
Being in front was a pleasant if unfamiliar sensation, but the Wycombe fans had only three minutes to enjoy it before Bowditch pounced on a loose ball to slot home the equaliser following a Luke Chadwick cross.
After 61 minutes Joel Grant had a golden opportunity to put Wycombe back in front from inside the box but his shot was too weak and far too close to Martin who made a comfortable save.
Five minutes later the Blues were 3-2 down when Ibehre got the goal his performance deserved, collecting MacDonald’s cross and turning on a sixpence before firing the ball past Bull.
After another five minutes Doumbe made it 4-2 when he headed home Gleeson’s corner kick.
In the 89th minute, Stuart Beavon scored his tenth goal of the season with a superb strike into the top corner of the net from outside the penalty area.
Three minutes of stoppage time followed, but this time there was no happy ending.
Quite what Italian loanee Marcello Trotta thought of Wycombe’s defending is anyone’s guess, but assuming he doesn’t flee in abject horror, it looks like Blues’ fans are in for a treat watching him over the coming weeks.
Big, strong and skillful, he looks an intelligent player with good vision and good movement who linked up well with his new teammates and took his goal brilliantly.
Wycombe line-up & ratings
Bull (6), Foster (4) (McCoy 75 (n/a)), Tunnicliffe (4), Winfield (4), Basey (5), Harris (7), Lewis (6), Rowlands (4) (Donnelly 22 (6)) Grant (6) (Ibe 81 (n/a)), Trotta (7), Beavon (8).
Brave Blues let down by their defending
Franchise 4 Wycombe Wanderers 3