Wycombe Wanderers won 2-1 at Victoria Park this afternoon courtesy of a second half brace from young substitute Max Kretzschmar, his first goals in senior football.
That would have seemed an unlikely scenario at the interval, with Hartlepool doing most of the pressing, and Wycombe being indebted to a goal-line clearance and a number of other heroic last ditch blocks, with little creativity to shout about down the other end.
The second half however was a different story. The introduction of the more direct Kretzschmar for an ineffective Nick Arnold gave the Chairboys another dimension going forward, and there was now a clear threat on the counter attack. Two beautiful goals from the youngster did the trick, despite a late headed consolation from James Poole for the hosts.
Gareth Ainsworth could only name six substitutes for the game because of injuries to Dean Morgan (illness), Jon-Paul Pittman (back), Josh Scowen (ankle) and Matt Bloomfield (tight groin). This meant a second consecutive start for Matt McClure up front alongside Steven Craig.
The first half was almost exclusively Pools’ pressure as the home side looked to build on their 5-0 success in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Bradford City. Whilst the visitors were struggling to keep the ball on the deck, the opposition were having no such problems and an almighty goalmouth scramble saw Leon Johnson finally deny early substitute Simon Walton with a goal line clearance.
There was no let up and Jonathan Franks fired over at the far post following a deep cross, Walton headed another presentable opportunity wide following excellent work from Matt James, before Gary Doherty made yet another crucial block from an Andy Monkhouse shot. The home supporters were also regularly on the back of referee Heywood after they deemed the Wanderers backline too physical, and the relentless complaints eventually culminated in Doherty and McClure being booked for late challenges.
After 27 minutes the best opportunity of the lot arose, but another Monkhouse drive was cleared off the line by Nick Arnold. It did look very close to being over the line and Pools manager Colin Cooper bemoaned the decision after the match.
Wanderers had little to show in attack, with a Billy Knott free kick being blocked and Craig inches away from a sublime left wing cross by Sam Wood. However, the Chairboys indefatigability and stubbornness in defence saw them into half time with the game still scoreless.
Ainsworth replaced the almost anonymous Arnold with Kretzschmar at the break and it soon proved to be the game changer. After McClure had headed one chance over the bar, Craig did all the donkey work to win another corner with 51 minutes gone. The ball fell loose on the edge of the area and was struck superbly into the bottom corner by Kretzschmar to send the 120 strong visiting support into raptures.
There was a visible presence in attack for Wycombe now, and some brilliant interchange between Knott and Lewis saw the latter denied by a flying save from Scott Flinders just after the hour mark. The Chairboys did not have to wait long for a second goal though. The outstanding Wood broke from his own half, riding three challenges before fnding McClure, whose through-ball was weighted to perfection for the onrushing Kretzschmar. The youngster still had Flinders to beat but showed great composure to seize the day and slot the ball into the bottom corner for his and Wycombe’s second.
The two goal buffer gave Wycombe a welcome cushion and they were untroubled until Dolan’s free kick landed inches wide after 82 minutes. Substitute Jo Kuffour laid on a final chance for Knott but his shot was deflected wide, before the final attack of the game saw the hosts net their first League goal of the season. James Poole headed home a consolation after some penalty box pinball but there was no time to mount another surge forwards, and referee Heywood blew for full time.
This was not a vintage Wycombe performance, particularly in the first half, but the three points are what counts and the visitors rode out the early storm with a series of committed blocks and last ditch challenges. The spark that Kretzschmar`s entrance injected turned the game on its head, and the Wanderers ended up overpowering the hosts on the counter attack after the interval to move into 8th place, just outside the play-off positions. On reflection, the impressive result and second half performance certainly gives gaffer Ainsworth some interesting, but welcome selection dilemmas for the visit to Plymouth Argyle next Saturday, with Morgan, Scowen, Dunne and Bloomfield all possibly waiting in the wings to return.
Ratings: Ingram 7, McCoy 6, Doherty 7, Johnson 8, Hause 7, Arnold 5 (Kretzschmar 46` 9*), Lewis 6, Knott 7, Wood 9, Craig 7 (Stewart 86` N/A), McClure 6 (Kuffour 76` N/A)
Attendance: 3,640 (120 Wycombe supporters)