Wycombe Wanderers (1)2 Hereford United (0)1
Ainsworth (41), Strevens (87) Manset (79)
Attendance: 3,792 (Approx. 200 away fans)
Wycombe Wanderers sneaked a 2-1 victory over bottom of the table Hereford United at Adams Park on Boxing Day thanks to some fabulous work from Stuart Beavon. He showed great desire to win the ball against visiting defender Joe Heath before pulling the ball back for Ben Strevens to fire home the winning goal with just three minutes of the game remaining.
Hereford United will feel hard done-by after playing a full part in a competitive game in tricky conditions at an arctic Adams Park. The undersoil heating ensured that the Wanderers were the only side to host Football League action in Division Four and it was the hosts who took what could prove to be a decisive three points as they look to bounce back to Division Three at the first attempt.
Gareth Ainsworth had given the Blues the lead with a shot across goalkeeper Adam Bartlett four minutes before the break but were pegged back with eleven minutes remaining when striker Mathieu Manset finally found the back of the net after being set up by substitute Joe Colbeck. It had taken two fine saves from goalkeeper Nikki Bull to keep Manset off the scoresheet earlier in the game.
Just as it looked as though it was going to be two points dropped, up popped Beavon to create the winner and give the Chairboys a victory that takes them up to fifth place in the table, behind Rotherham United and Bury on goal difference.
The Chairboys lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Chris Westwood – Dave Winfield – Leon Johnson – Andy Sandell
Gareth Ainsworth – Stuart Lewis – Matt Bloomfield – Kevin Betsy
Stuart Beavon – Ben Strevens
The Hereford United line-up was: (4-3-2-1)
Richard Rose – Janos Kovacs – Michael Townsend – Joe Heath
Nicky Featherstone – James McQuilkin – Rob Purdie
Stuart Fleetwood – Guillem Bauza
Credit must go to all those responsible for getting the game on at all with Adams Park still showing signs of the recent freezing weather, and the top of the pitch covered in what resembled a white frost. It looked a tricky surface to play on with James McQuilkin coming a cropper in the opening sixty seconds. It was however the visitors who acclimatised more quickly to control the opening half hour.
Midfielder Nicky Featherstone twice fired efforts wide of the target and Mathieu Manset screwed his shot just wide of the far post before the hosts had a real let-off when Rob Purdie`s deflected shot looped up over the Nikki Bull and crashed against the top of the crossbar. Stuart Fleetwood then wasted a great chance, side-footing wide following good work from Manset down the right flank.
The Wanderers first chance of the game came with twenty minutes played and it came from good work from Stuart Beavon. He pulled the ball back low across the face of goal but Matt Bloomfield fired straight at goalkeeper Adam Bartlett who batted the ball away. Kevin Betsy then found some space down the left flank but couldn`t pick anyone out with his low cross.
Beavon showed his disappointment when he could only shoot straight at Bartlett before the opening goal came with 41 minutes played. Betsy again raided down the left before whipping in a cross towards the penalty spot. Andy Sandell inadvertently flicked the ball on to Gareth Ainsworth at the far post and he fired low across Bartlett and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The second half started with Adams Park slowly developing into some kind of Zamhareer. The home side started the better and searched for a second goal. Beavon glanced a header wide and Winfield`s header appeared to striker a Hereford hand but the big defender`s appeals were futile. There was greater frustration when Chris Westwood headed home Bloomfield`s free-kick only for the “goal” to be chalked off for the gentlest of pushes.
The Bulls fought their way back into the game and Manset was denied an equaliser when his powerful low shot was well saved by Bull. Ben Strevens saw his effort blocked by Janos Kovacs and then referee Mr Whitestone appeared to have pointed to the spot before giving a free-kick with the ball placed at least a yard outside the area. Betsy then wasted a golden opportunity with twenty minutes remaining when he showed the touch of a traction engine as he ran clear on goal following Beavon`s incisive through ball.
It looked as though he was going to be made to pay when Guillem Bauza took advantage of some dithering from Dave Winfield to play Manset in through on goal but he was completely out-manoeuvred by Bull who saved superbly at the striker`s feet. Sadly for the Blues the reprieve was short-lived. Substitute Joe Colbeck raced clear down the inside right-channel past Sandell and squared the ball for Manset who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net to make it 1-1.
To their immense credit Wycombe responded in determined fashion and put the visitors defence under increasing pressure. Beavon was denied by a goal-line clearance from Richard Rose after being set up by Bloomfield. Just as it looked as if there wasn`t going to be enough time left Beavon showed great tenacity to somehow win the ball on the right-hand side of the penalty area and he got to the by-line before pulling the ball back for Ben Strevens who fired high into the net past Bartlett.
It was far from a classic and it won`t live too long in the memory. As wins go, this one was ugly but it came with much to admire not least of which was a side that showed oodles of character. It could prove to be a decisive three points and the difference between success and failure come the end of the season.
1. Nikki BULL – 7
23. Chris WESTWOOD – 5
5. Dave WINFIELD – 5
6. Leon JOHNSON – 5
3. Andy SANDELL – 5
7. Gareth AINSWORTH (capt) – 6
10. Matt BLOOMFIELD – 6
18. Stuart LEWIS – 6
11. Kevin BETSY – 5
12. Ben STREVENS – 5
20. Stuart BEAVON – 7 *
This report is dedicated to all of those who have recently suffered bereavements. Coming at this time of year makes it that little bit harder and our thoughts and prayers are with you all.