Wycombe Wanderers 1-1 Fleetwood Town
(Lewis 45+1), (Parkin 76)
A long range drive from captain Stuart Lewis gave Wanderers the lead in first half stoppage time, but long time nemesis Jon Parkin dashed hopes of a crucial win by hooking in from close range with fourteen minutes remaining to earn the Cod Army a share of the spoils.
This was a much improved performance from Wycombe, which may in part have been due to the opposition’s approach, and also the presence of an evident strategy and game plan from the Blues.
Gareth Ainsworth made just the one change from Saturday’s stalemate with Accrington Stanley as Max Kretzschmar replaced Reece Styche, who dropped to the bench following an international call-up from Gibraltar earlier in the day.
Wanderers also adopted a different diamond formation in midfield, with Josh Scowen holding and Bloomfield at the front tip, with Lewis on the right side and Kretzschmar on the left. That meant Paris Cowan-Hall could join Dean Morgan up front.
The game began with Kretzschmar cutting in from the wing and arrowing in a fierce effort that debutant Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell did well to stop. Mikael Mandron then sent a header comfortably wide as there was little to choose between the sides in the opening quarter of an hour.
There was a scare after 17 minutes when a free kick was whipped in to Wycombe’s danger area but a sliding defender denied ex-Stevenage captain Mark Roberts and Ingram eventually clung on to the loose ball amidst a heap of bodies. Parkin then hit the top of the Valley Terrace from an acute angle, before Ingram rushed to the edge of his area to bravely claim the ball under pressure from Doherty and an onrushing forward.
Dean Morgan was his usual effervescent self, holding the ball up nicely and bringing others in to play, whilst simultaneously appearing lazy and frustrating in other passages! The front man picked up a knock after 34 minutes and was replaced by Styche.
The enforced change had a positive effect as Styche gave the giant Fleetwood centre back pairing Roberts and Nathan Pond a tough time with some combative forward play. There was much better possession play from the hosts but not in areas that really counted. Four minutes before the interval Marrow lost his man down the right wing but his dangerous pull back was well stopped by Ingram.
As first half stoppage time approached, Wycombe scored their first goal for 495 minutes at Adams Park. The ball came out of the penalty box loose to captain Lewis, who blasted a powerful 25 yard effort past Maxwell, who will be disappointed not to have got more on it, to a huge roar of relief from the majority of a sparse crowd.
Wycombe began the second half defence of their goal lead in a positive manner which was encouraging for all to see. Another plus point to glean tonight was the absence of any bookings or time wasting from the hosts! There was a noticeable and welcome plan throughout from Wycombe tonight to keep possession and avoid aimless long ball play, even if the majority of the passes were often in relatively harmless and deep areas.
By contrast, after 49 minutes Lewis released Kretzschmar in an advanced and dangerous area, but his strike was superbly tipped round the post by Maxwell. Again the hosts were soon on the attack as Kretzschmar and Styche combined superbly to force a mistake from blundering centre back Pond.
Gareth Evans was introduced as a half time substitute by Graham Alexander but he was offside as he wastefully fired over at the back post from six yards. Lewis then sent another long range effort fizzing well wide on the hour mark.
A golden opportunity to double the lead arrived on 65 minutes as Kretzschmar darted through again, but Maxwell did well to narrow the angle and block the effort for another corner. Bloomfield then showed some super skill in a tight area on the edge of the box after linking with Styche again, but his cross was just too deep.
Fleetwood then made their final two changes as Sarcevic and Jamille Matt replaced Mandron and Steven Schumacher, who was lucky to escape a booking for obstruction.
Alan Goodall’s long range drive was comfortably held by Ingram on 74 minutes but just two minutes later the Cod Army equalised. Arnold had done well to scramble a dangerous situation out for a corner, but the resulting delivery landed fortuitously for Goodall after being cleared. The ball was headed back into the area and Parkin was waiting to hook the ball in to the top corner from close range.
Matt McClure immediately replaced Paris Cowan-Hall, but Fleetwood substitute Matt was causing Wycombe problems now and Scowen had to time his last ditch challenge perfectly on the forward after surrendering possession, and that he did, as the final ten minutes approached.
With seven minutes remaining Ainsworth made the debatable decision to bring on Anthony Stewart at right back in place of the impressive Kretzschmar, with Arnold moving to the left of the diamond. Goodall was then booked for cynically fouling a marauding Wood run.
It nearly worked a treat with five minutes left. After McClure had done well to keep the ball in on the sideline he was blatantly wrenched to the ground. Substitute Stewart headed the resulting set piece into the ground, but Maxwell comfortably held the effort, which lacked enough power.
It nearly went down like a lead balloon too, when Stewart played a misplaced pass in the last of four additional minutes. The defender compounded the error by missing the flight of the resulting long ball, but Taylor’s cross was somehow headed over the bar by Matt at the far post with the goal at his mercy.
Conceding would have been a cruel blow and the Wanderers were at least deserving of the point they got for their admirable efforts against a promotion chasing outfit with probably the biggest budget in League Two. Despite the welcome improvement in performance there will be disappointment at seeing a leading position squandered, not for the first time, and especially so given the gravity of Wycombe’s current predicament in the league.
Ratings: Ingram (6), Arnold (6), Doherty (7), Johnson (6), Wood (7), Scowen (7), Lewis (7), Kretzschmar (8*) (Stewart 83′ (N/A)), Bloomfield (8), Morgan (5) (Styche 33′ (7)), Cowan-Hall (6) (McClure 77′ (N/A)).
Attendance: 2,185 (45 from Fleetwood)
Improvement sees Lewis earn Blues a point
Wycombe Wanderers 1-1 Fleetwood Town