Wycombe Wanderers 1 Mansfield Town 2
Another disappointment against a top team in the division ensured Wanderers ended 2017 in defeat. Although in truth, when the opponents are big spending Mansfield who started the game in the top half of the table, we shouldn`t have expected anything else.
Lee Angol scored the winning goal, clearly enjoying it, as Wanderers suffered a 2-1 defeat despite controlling the first half.
Adebayo Akinfenwa headed the hosts into the lead after just six minutes and hit the post just before half-time with Wycombe looking comfortable.
Alfie Potter equalised early in to the second period as Mansfield began to dominate proceedings, and just as Wycombe began to regain a foothold, former Chairboy Angol got the winner.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth named the same 18 that beat Newport on Boxing Day, the starting 11 also remained the same. Scott Kashket still wasn`t back in the squad. More surprisingly, neither was skipper Adam El-Abd.
The hosts started brightly. Eze was tripped on the edge of the area and the resulting Joe Jacobson free-kick led to Zander Diamond being laid out on the floor as he blocked with his face.
With just six minutes on the clock the bright start was rewarded. A neat move set Dominic Gape free and his cross was powered home by Akinfenwa.
Moments later and Bayo almost doubled his and Wycombe`s tally. His header seemed to take a slight deflection and Bobby Olejnik was just able to tip it round the post.
The match wasn`t even 20 minutes old when Steve Evans was forced into a double change. Forward Danny Rose was injured so Lee Angol replaced him. Meanwhile Diamond hadn`t fully recovered from the earlier knock to the head and was replaced by Malvind Benning.
Wycombe continued to look comfortable, with Scott Brown collecting a couple of crosses when Mansfield did manage to get into the hosts’ final third. Angol was booked for persistent fouling as he cut a frustrated figure early into his performance.
Paris Cowan-Hall shot wide, and in four minutes of stoppage time Ebrechi Eze dragged wide when he maybe should`ve done better, and Akinfenwa hit the post before Olejnik did well to get back up and tip Nathan Tyson`s follow-up over the bar.
The half ended 1-0 to the hosts, and it possibly could`ve been more.
The early stages of the second period made it evident the pattern of the second half had changed.
Brown saved well from Angol after a CJ Hamilton through ball, and then minutes later Alfie Potter slotted home the equaliser when a Stags free-kick wasn`t cleared and Potter was totally unmarked for the second ball.
The goal didn`t spur Wycombe back to life though. Angol shot over, Benning wide and Brown made a brilliant stop with Angol through on goal. Jacob Mellis then had a shot deflected wide before Alex MacDonald fired over the bar. It was one way traffic.
It begged the question, what did Ainsworth say to his team at half-time? Or maybe more importantly what did Steve Evans say to his? 1-0 down, away from home, in a clash against a supposed promotion rival. If the roles were reversed I`m pretty confident Wycombe wouldn`t have come out playing the way Mansfield were.
However, from somewhere Wycombe began to edge their way back into the encounter. Rhys Bennett was booked for tugging Mackail-Smith when he`d broken free down the right. Steve Evans somehow argued the decision, although if you searched ‘professional foul` in the dictionary this would`ve come up.
This was the first sighting of Mackail-Smith who actually came on for the presumably injured Cowan-Hall at half-time. Unfortunately for Craig, he hadn`t had a chance to get into the game.
Matt Bloomfield then replaced Eze who in truth had had another quiet game by his earlier standards.
Nick Freeman was then ready to come on for Wycombe with ten minutes to go. But before there was a chance for the substitution to be made, Angol neatly back heeled a cross past Brown to put the visitors ahead.
He celebrated wildly as he looked to have got the winner against a team that didn`t ever really give him a chance. Although in the limited chances he did get, he looked poor. Fair play to him though, like Ikechi Anya and Junior Morias, he`s left the club and really kicked on.
Bizarrely, Freeman now put a bib on and sat down. Dan Scarr had a header go straight at Olejnik from a Tyson cross before Freeman did eventually take the field in place of Tyson. This was seven minutes after he was originally meant to appear, and just three minutes before the 90 were up. Unsurprisingly, he had no impact coming on this late.
In the four minutes of stoppage of time the whole of Adams Park screamed for a Wycombe penalty. Angol jumped into a Mackail-Smith cut back with both hands in the air and juggled it a few times before Mansfield were able to clear. Neither the referee nor more questionably the linesman saw it, so no penalty was awarded. The terrace, and the Wycombe players were incensed.
Brown had time to come up for a corner, but yet another poor Jacobson delivery meant it didn`t come to anything and Wanderers were beaten. Mansfield are now 9th, but level on points with Wycombe who drop to 6th.
That`s now 13 points out of a possible 39 against teams in the top half, or maybe more importantly 6 out of a possible 30 against the Top 10 (and 3 of those came against Colchester who were a long way off the top half at the time).
Although Ainsworth has encouragingly said the aim is that third automatic place, it doesn`t look likely due to the inability to beat teams around us.
Five of the next eight fixtures are against teams in the Top 10, so without improvement against the other contenders, the play-off places, and maybe even promotion hopes, could be severely dented by the middle of February.
Mansfield have admittedly spent a lot more money than Wanderers are able to, but a tiny change in the team/formation and more importantly what was said at half-time won Mansfield the game. However unlikeable Steve Evans may be, he`s a very good manager at this level.
Wycombe will be looking to bounce back immediately on New Year`s Day, in a game they simply have to win in my opinion. Away to bottom club Forest Green Rovers.
Brown 6 – Can`t be blamed for either goal.
Gape 8 – Another MoM performance from the midfielder filling in.
Jombati 6 – Good enough out of position.
Scarr 5 – Not convincing enough unfortunately.
Jacobson 4 – Terrible game. Set pieces off the boil again, and all round play not up to his usual standard.
O`Nien 8* – Brilliant second half and hitting an excellent run of form.
Saunders 7 – Ran the game first half, struggled in the second.
Eze 6 – Pretty quiet again. A poor last month which probably shows why it`s in everybody`s best interest for the loan to be extended.
Cowan-Hall 6 – Not been the Paris we know recently.
Akinfenwa 7 – A 13th goal of the season.
Tyson 6 – Put in a shift but couldn`t affect the game or contribute enough in the second half.
Mackail-Smith 6 – Due to the team`s second half performance didn`t really get a chance to impact.
Bloomfield 6- Right sub in my opinion but no chance to do anything.
Freeman N/a – No time to impact proceedings.
Stags punish Blues after the break
Wycombe Wanderers 1 Mansfield Town 2