Wycombe Wanderers 2 Northampton Town 2
It could have been worse.
The Blues still have a tenuous grip on the final automatic promotion place after Leon Johnson’s 82nd minute equaliser earned them the precious point that keeps them ahead of Shrewsbury Town.
Following their comeback at Oxford last week, Wycombe gave themselves another mountain to climb when the Cobblers went 2-0 up before half-time thanks to a 20th minute penalty from Shaun Harrad and a neat finish from Guillem Bauza 17 minutes later.
Scott Donnelly pulled one back for the Blues shortly after the break to set the scene for another exciting second-half fightback.
The visitors hadn’t won any of their previous 15 games and for the first 20 minutes it was easy to see why. Wycombe were no better though, and both sides gave the ball away cheaply in a dismal opening to the match.
At Sixfield in August, a stoppage time penalty gave the Cobblers a point they didn’t deserve and it looked like another spot-kick would determine today’s result when Scott Donnelly was penalised for a foul at the far post and Harrad thumped the ball past Nikki Bull to inject some confidence into the relegation strugglers.
They began to look the more dangerous side and It got worse for Wycombe when Scott Rendell’s attempted dummy only succeeded in gifting possession to the Cobblers who broke quickly with Walker finding Bauza who slipped the ball past Bull to make it two.
The Blues were all over the shop now, and with the Cobblers scenting blood, it was a relief to get to half-time without any further damage. All too often, the fancy flicks and dummies had backfired on Wycombe as they failed to keep it simple and paid the price for constantly wasting possession.
Their only efforts of note during the first-half were a rasping shot over the bar from Lewis Montrose and a header from Andy Sandell which looked to be going close until it struck the hapless Rendell.
Presumably given a good bollocking at half-time, the Blues started brightly and Donnelly came close with a fine shot that flashed just past the post.
The on-loan midfielder went one better just a few minutes later when he handed Wycombe a lifeline by calmly slotting the ball home after Rendell had glanced Leon Johnson’s through ball into his path.
The normally flawless Bull nearly gifted Northampton a third goal when his attempted clearance struck Harrad, but the keeper managed to make amends and scrambled to regain possession before any damage was done.
A big turning point in the game was the introduction of substitute Stuart Beavon. Suddenly the ball was sticking up-front for longer, and the Blues were able to apply some concerted pressure.
Immediately after entering the fray, Beavon drew a diving save from Cobblers’ keeper Steve Collis who repeated the trick moments later to keep out another rasping 20 yarder from Donnelly.
Kevin Betsy had a great chance to equalise when Beavon picked him out a few yards from goal, but he who hesitates is lost, and instead of hitting it first time, or even second time, Betsy tried to walk it into the net and blew it. When he has too much time to think, it rarely ends well.
Fortunately, Leon Johnson capped a fine performance by rising majestically to meet Donnelly’s corner with a powerful header that keeps Wycombe in the top-three for another week at least.
In my book, Johnson pips Donnelly for man of the match because he performed well for the whole 90 minutes not just during the second-half.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (6), Foster (5) (Bloomfield 82 (n/a)), Winfield (5) (Westwood 46 (6)), Johnson (7), Sandell (5), Betsy (5), Montrose (5) (Beavon 62 (6)), Lewis (6), Donnelly (7), Rendell (5), Pittman (5)