Wycombe Wanderers smashed a club record after scoring in their 19th consecutive game to beat in-form Gillingham 1-0 at Adams Park on Bank Holiday Monday.
The only goal of the game came after 64 minutes when defender Dave Winfield headed home a re-bound after Andy Sandell`s header had come off the face of the crossbar following Matt Bloomfield`s corner.
The Chairboys were worthy winners in a tough contest that they controlled for the most part. In fact the visitors failed to test goalkeeper Nikki Bull who didn`t have a meaningful save to make during the whole 90 minutes. The last Gillingham player to score at Adams Park was Carl Asaba back in April 1999.
That was a testament to a defence that was superbly marshalled by the centre-back partnership of Leon Johnson and Dave Winfield. It was fitting that the latter grabbed the glory by notching the winner.
The game was also notable for superb displays from Matt Bloomfield, Stuart Beavon and last but most certainly not least Stuart Lewis. Facing the side he left in the summer he put in an incredible performance and seemed to be everywhere on the pitch with a dynamism that provided an inspiration to his team-mates. His permanent signing looks like a must with every passing game.
The three points sees the Wanderers consolidate third place in the table and stretch their winning sequence to five matches. It also concludes a holiday period that has seen the side pick up a maximum nine points and brought both optimism and expectation that the League Two title could be a realistic ambition in 2011.
The Chairboys lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Chris Westwood – Dave Winfield – Leon Johnson – Andy Sandell
Ben Strevens – Stuart Lewis – Matt Bloomfield – Kevin Betsy
Stuart Beavon – Scott Rendell
The Gillingham line-up was: (4-4-2)
Barry Fuller – Josh Gowling – Matt Lawrence – John Nutter
Danny Spiller – Curtis Weston – Kevin Maher – Joe Martin
Adebayo Akinfenwa – Cody McDonald
Blues boss Gary Waddock made one change to the starting line-up that won at Cheltenham Town on New Years Day. Gareth Ainsworth dropped to the bench and Scott Rendell started in attack with Ben Strevens reverting to the right side of midfield. The last time “Gaz” was left-out we were beaten 2-1 by Macclesfield. New signing Scott Donnelly replaced Danny Foster on the bench.
Gillingham started the brighter of the two sides in the opening ten minutes with ex-Chairboy Matt Lawrence wasting a good chance when he fired a half-volley over the bar and into the Valley End from 15 yards with just two minutes on the clock.
Gillingham`s Adebayo Akinfenwa might look like he needs to go easy on the pies but he proved to be a physical threat and glanced a header wide after ten minutes. The hosts began to seize the initiative after quarter of an hour and they wouldn`t relinquish it until the final minutes.
Stuart Beavon, who again showed an impeccable first touch all afternoon, flashed a half-volley over the bar before he crossed for Ben Strevens who couldn`t direct his header inside the far post.
With Stuart Lewis running the midfield, the Wanderers enjoyed more possession but couldn`t work a clear opening. Kevin Betsy shot straight at visiting goalkeeper Alan Julian and the first half ended goal-less.
The start of the second period was fairly even until the home side were forced into a change with Marvin McCoy making his Football League debut as a replacement for the injured Chris Westwood.
It heralded a ten-minute spell where Wycombe upped the ante and put the visitors under considerable pressure. The deadlock was broken with 64 minutes played. Matt Bloomfield`s right-wing corner was met by Andy Sandell on the six-yard line at the near post and he saw his header crash back off the face of the crossbar.
Big Dave Winfield reacted first to head the ball back past Julian and into the net to spark wild celebrations in front of the Valley End. Bloomfield was inches away from doubling that lead within sixty seconds with a shot that deflected wide of the post.
Beavon was the next man to have a pop and he thumped in a shot from 20 yards that whistled just over the bar. He went close again three minutes later with a low shot that hit the net support behind the goal. There was almost a repeat of the goal when Sandell met another Bloomfield corner but this time could only glance his header wide of the far post.
The closest Gillingham came to snatching an equaliser was with a quarter of an hour remaining. Substitute Luke Rooney played the ball into the area where Cody McDonald beat Winfield to lift the ball over Bull and against the angle of post and crossbar. Marvin McCoy was in the perfect position to clear the rebound away from Akinfenwa who would otherwise have had a simple tap-in into an open goal.
The final ten minutes saw the hosts look to play on the break but fail to make a number of opportunities count with wayward passes. Matt Lawrence headed across the face of goal and wide from a corner and the Wanderers defence saw out three minutes of injury-time to seal another impressive victory.
It was a performance to warm the hearts of every Chairboy on a chilly afternoon at Adams Park.
Attendance: 4,617 (678 away fans)
1. Nikki BULL – 6
23. Chris WESTWOOD – 5 (Sub. 56 mins – 19. Marvin McCOY – 6)
5. Dave WINFIELD – 7
6. Leon JOHNSON – 7
3. Andy SANDELL – 5
10. Matt BLOOMFIELD – 8
18. Stuart LEWIS – 9*
11. Kevin BETSY – 5
12. Ben STREVENS – 5
9. Scott RENDELL – 6
20. Stuart BEAVON – 8