Burton Albion 1 Wycombe Wanderers 2
In what turned out to be a thrilling encounter at the Pirelli Stadium, Gareth Ainsworth scored his 100th professional goal and free-kick specialist Andy Sandell bagged his fifth of the season to earn Wycombe a hard fought 2-1 win over Burton Albion.
It was the Chairboys fourth consecutive victory in all competitions and they now lie 6th in the table – five points off the top and just two points below the final automatic promotion place.
Wycombe line-up (4-4-2)
Bull, Foster, Bennett, Westwood, Sandell, Ainsworth (McClure 89), Bloomfield, Montrose, Betsy, Strevens, Beavon.
Wycombe dominated the opening forty-five minutes and fully deserved their 2-0 half-time lead. There was a nervous moment just before the break when keeper Nikki Bull pulled-off a superb reaction save to preserve the two goal margin, but apart from that it was plain-sailing for the Blues and hopes were high that they might stretch their lead even further in the second-half.
Burton had other ideas though, and when they pulled one back shortly after the restart, it was the prelude to fifteen minutes of intense pressure from the home side during which Bull yet again proved his worth to Wycombe with a series of fine saves.
Eventually the storm abated and what followed was half an hour of end-to-end stuff, during which the Blues gave as good as they got, before referee Mark Haywood blew time on a really enjoyable game of football.
Ainsworth’s landmark goal came in the 16th minute when he lashed a thirty-yard shot into the top left-hand corner of the net. It was a fabulous strike and Ainsworth was clearly delighted to have completed his century with such a beauty.
The Blues’ second goal came from an Andy Sandell free-kick after 41 minutes. A few yards outside the left-hand corner of the penalty area, the angle didn’t look quite as promising as it had for Sandell’s previous successes, but this time rather than blast the ball he went for placement and curled it over the wall and into the net past keeper Adam Legzdins.
Apart from the two goals, the Blues had played some of their best football so far this season with Kevin Betsy having a particular influence on proceedings as he popped up all over the pitch to make things happen.
Brewers’ top scorer Shaun Harrad was denied by Bull just before half time, but he pounced on a loose ball shortly after the break to pull one back for the home side and really bring the game to life.
Scenting blood, the home side poured forward in search of an equaliser but were denied several times by Bull, and on one occasion by the woodwork.
Once Wycombe had survived the onslaught, they came back into the game themselves and were unlucky not to increase their lead when Betsy jinked through the Brewers’ defence and fired in a fine shot only to be denied by the post.
Betsy created several more chances for his teammates, and only last ditch tackles and players throwing themselves in front of the ball thwarted Ben Strevens and Matt Bloomfield while the winger himself had another goalbound effort blocked after yet another mazy dribble.
It might have been nerve-wracking at times, but on balance the Chairboys deserved their victory and it sets things up nicely for their forthcoming games against 2nd placed Chesterfield and 3rd placed Rotherham.
Special Mention – Nikki Bull
Man of the Match – Kevin Betsy