Wycombe Wanderers 0 Bournemouth 1
In the wake of their dismal FA Cup defeat last Saturday, the Blues came under heavy fire from fans and also from members of their own management team who complained that there was little they could do once the players stepped over the white line.
Throughout the week we heard stories of how problems were being addressed and how things were about to change, but in the end, all we got was more of the same.
There was no shortage of effort, so it seems that the quality just isn’t there. It’s either that or manager Gary Waddock is picking the wrong players and employing the wrong tactics. Or it could of course be both.
It was certainly difficult to figure out today’s “game plan” but whatever it was it never looked like working. Bournemouth were no great shakes but were superior to the Blues in almost every department and never looked like losing.
Waddock made four changes to the side that flopped in Fleetwood. Two were enforced, with James Tunnicliffe replacing the suspended Dave Winfield and Matt Bloomfield making a rare appearance in place of the injured Martin Rowlands.
The other changes were Stuart Beavon and Jordan Ibe returning to the side in place of Scott Donnelly and Kadeem Harris.
Despite the manager’s persistent denials of a rift, there was still no place in the squad for fans’ favourite Kevin Betsy, and striker Ben Strevens surprisingly started the game on the left wing.
What followed was frankly depressing.
Wycombe’s only attempt on goal during the first half was Stuart Beavon’s wild penalty kick that landed in row z of the Dreams stand much to the delight of the latest bunch of visiting fans to leave Adams Park with a smile on their face.
By that time the Blues were already one down and it could easily have been more.
Grant Basey’s goalline clearance had prevented Wes Fogden opening the scoring after 9 minutes, and Nikki Bull had thwarted the same player with a fine diving save 5 minutes later.
Steve Cook glanced a header narrowly wide of Bull’s post after 18 minutes and the opening goal finally arrived four minutes later.
The goal was fashioned down Wycombe’s right flank as usual. Following a neat series of passes between Harry Arter, Fogden and striker Wes Thomas, Scott Malone galloped clear on the overlap before firing a low cross to the far post where Marc Pugh gratefully slotted it home.
Along with Leon Johnson, Joel Grant emerges from today’s game with most credit, and it was his trickery that won Wycombe their ill fated penalty after 34 minutes when he jinked between Malone and Cummings and was unfairly brought down.
Arter’s pot-shot from distance went wide five minutes before the break, but in first half stoppage time there was actually a flurry of activity at the other end.
A through ball put Strevens in the clear on the right but he didn’t have the pace to go all the way and a covering defender forced the ball out for what became two consecutive corners.
Both corners caused brief goalmouth melees and were the source of rare but fleeting moments of excitement for the home crowd.
Within a minute of the restart Wycombe had their first shot on target with young Jordan Ibe trying his luck from over 20 yards to remind Cherries’ keeper Darryl Flahavan to stay awake.
A combination of Nikki Bull and the woodwork kept Wes Thomas out after 52 minutes and later in the game the Bournemouth striker was again denied by the post when he beat Bull with a header from a superb Simon Francis cross.
The Blues had a smidgen more possession in the second half but rarely looked in the least bit dangerous.
Joel Grant went on an impressive 50 yard solo run and even managed a shot on target at the end of it, but it never had the power to trouble Flahavan.
After 70 minutes, Grant forced the Cherries’ keeper into another save when his downward header was tipped over the bar.
I can’t remember anything else of note other than being faintly relieved when the final whistle sounded and I could finally go home.
Wycombe line-up & ratings
Bull (6), Foster (5), Tunicliffe (5), Johnson (7), Basey (6), Grant (7), Bloomfield (5) (Donnelly 65 (5)), Lewis (5), Strevens (5) Rendell 87 (n/a)) , Ibe (5) (Harris 55 (5)), Beavon (6),
Cherries put another nail in the coffin
Wycombe Wanderers 0 Bournemouth 1