Stevenage 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3
The Blues made it three wins from four league games with an emphatic victory at Broadhall Way.
Some victories are more pleasurable than others, and coming from behind on the road to defeat Graham Westley’s hoofers is right up there with the best of them.
Blues’ boss Gareth Ainsworth decided to change his starting line-up for the first time this season, replacing Max Kretzschmar and Matt McClure with Daniel Rowe and Steven Craig.
Presumably the changes were influenced by the style of the opposition, with Craig and Rowe deemed to offer the team more of a physical presence.
Not much has changed since we last played Stevenage apart from the quality of their players. It’s still a battle from start to finish, the long ball over the top remains their favoured tactic and there’s little doubt that last year’s Wycombe would have crumbled.
Not so this season. Aaron Pierre and Alfie Mawson were rocks at the back, Rowe and Murphy impressed in midfield, the full backs were sublime, the wingers were tricky, Craig was energetic and Paul Hayes was brilliant.
Right from the start it was clear that one side could play football and the other was limited, cumbersome and sluggish.
Nevertheless, it’s a style that works for Stevenage, although personally I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than watch that every week.
So for all their superior build-up play, Wycombe had to be careful, and they were given an early warning when Charlie Lee crashed a shot against the post from a narrow angle.
At the other end, Hayes tried his luck from a free kick but Boro keeper Sam Beasant comfortably clutched the curling effort.
Rowe and Mawson both cleared the crossbar as Wycombe continued to press, but Boro came even closer with a low shot across the face of the visitors’ goal.
The opening goal came after 31 minutes and it was a strange one. Darius Charles and Matt Ingram collided on the edge of the box, the Wycombe keeper was poleaxed and Charles got up to stroke the ball home.
As Ingram received treatment for several minutes, it wasn’t clear whether the goal had been given or not, and only when referee Kevin Wright eventually carried the ball back to the centre-spot did the travelling fans know for sure they were one down.
It was a sinking feeling, as coming from behind to win has been a bit of a rarity for Wycombe fans in recent years.
But not this time. This time the response was swift and emphatic.
Nine minutes later Hayes scored an early contender for goal of the season, controlling a cross, flicking the ball over a defender and rifling it home on the volley right in front of the travelling fans. Deep joy.
Four minutes later it got even better.
The Blues were awarded a free kick to the right of the penalty area. As Paul Hayes stood in the box facing Beasant and doing everything he could to distract him, Craig, Wood and Jacobson stood over the ball and performed a mesmerizing routine before threading it into the six yard box where Murphy nipped-in to poke it home as the keeper bent to collect it.
The second half saw the predictable aerial bombardment from Boro, but the Blues stood firm.
There were a few scares. The magnificent Pierre came very close to scoring an own goal when he slid in to divert a low cross over the bar. As it flew to safety, he looked as relieved as the fans behind the goal.
As if to make up for it, the big centre-half soon popped up at the other end where he controlled the ball in the box before rifling a powerful shot over the Boro bar.
Ainsworth brought Stuart Lewis on for Craig with quarter of an hour to go and introduced Matt Bloomfield for Cowan-Hall after 80 minutes and McClure for Hayes two minutes from time.
Lewis picked up Wycombe’s only booking of the day for kicking the ball away but made a happier contribution when he broke clear before laying the ball off to McClure who tapped it into an empty net to seal the points.
Boro’s Lee forced a fine save from Ingram in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late, Wycombe had another away-win in the bag, and well deserved it was too.
Line-up & ratings
Ingram (7), Jombati (8), Mawson (8), Pierre (8), Jacobson (8), Cowan-Hall (7) (Bloomfield 80 (n/a)), Murphy (8), Rowe (7), Wood (7), Craig (7) (Lewis 74 (n/a)), Hayes (8) (McClure 88 (n/a))
Man of the Match – Paul Hayes
Brilliant Blues get the better of Boro
Stevenage 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3