Wycombe Wanderers were subjected to Aidy Boothroyd’s grindball project as Northampton Town rolled into town on Tuesday evening. They smashed a few size 5 football’s up in the air during a tedious 90 minutes which ended without a goal, a few stiff necks and yet another reason to be thankful that Gareth Ainsworth is in charge of the Chairboys.
Ainsworth made three changes to the side which had played so well to beat Aldershot Town last weekend, one of which was enforced. Dave Winfield missed out with a calf strain so Leon Johnson came into deputise. Marvin McCoy was surprisingly recalled at right-back whilst Stuart Lewis returned in a midfield three. Michael Harriman and Sam Wood both dropped to the bench.
The opening twenty minutes or so saw the Blues adopt a 4-3-3 formation but it soon became clear that wasn’t going to work against such relentless opposition. The early stages saw the visitors use the tactic of getting the ball out onto the right-wing for either ex-Wanderer Chris Hackett to cross or right-back Ben Tozer to toss in a long throw.
Within two minutes Cobblers striker Adebayo Akinfenwa, who appears to have modelled his physique on Eric Cartman, headed straight at goalkeeper Matt Ingram following the first of a series of balls into the box. This was straight out of a Charles Hughes wet dream and Ingram did well to palm Hackett’s cross away from Akinfenwa and Roy O’Donovan could only head the loose ball into the side-netting.
In between times winger Joel Grant showed great skill to beat Joe Widdowson and cross low for Matt McClure whose effort was blocked by Lee Collins on the six-yard line. Grant, who was on the receiving end of plenty of ‘banter’ from Boothroyd on the touchline, had a pop from 25 yards which visiting goalkeeper Lee Nicholls made rather a meal of as he batted the ball back out.
The visitors had shaded the opening half hour but the final 15 minutes rather drifted away into a midfield tussle which was short on quality. Dean Morgan endured a frustrating evening as he got no joy out of Collins and Clarke Carlisle. Stuart Lewis was booked for a comically clumsy challenge on Widdowson and the two sides went in level at the break.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first as the ball was played out to Hackett and he crossed for O’Donovan and Ingram dived full length to his right to save. Moments later Hackett whipped over another cross and Akinfenwa outjumped McCoy to loop a header against the top of the crossbar.
It would be the closest either side would come to breaking the deadlock. McCoy’s 25-yard strike bent away from goal just before the hour mark and a minute later Carlisle’s header was safely claimed by Ingram. McClure wasted a half-chance when he finally beat the offside trap but instead of attempting to lob Nicholls he took a touch to give himself too tight an angle and could only find the Valley Terrace.
The home fans among the 3,615 crowd had been getting frustrated by the regularity in which McClure and Morgan were getting caught in the Cobblers offside trap and the former, who hadn’t looked comfortable right from the start, had to come off with what looked like a reccurence of a hamstring problem and was replaced by Junior Morias.
Ingram had to dive to his left to hold on to another Akinfenwa header but it was the hosts who finished the stronger as they enjoyed the better of the final quarter of an hour. The visitors appeared to lose the plot as pass after pass went astray, highlighting their limited ability, but sadly the Chairboys were unable to find a winner.
There was another comedy moment when Dunne smashed an attempted shot from fully 50 yards into the fields behind the Valley End. Matt Spring, who put in another good performance in the centre of the park, drilled a shot just over the bar before whipping in a couple of dangerous late corners that the Cobblers defended well and the game ended in a goal-less stalemate. To be fair, a point was the most the Wanderers deserved.
There are probably worse ways to spend an evening but this one won’t live long in the memory. Aidy Boothroyd’s teams come with a reputation and on this evidence it is well and truly earned. Given the aerial bombardment, it has to be said that Gary Doherty and Leon Johnson were both outstanding in the centre of defence.
With just two games of the current campaign remaining there are a number in the Blues squad playing for new contracts next season. Leon Johnson made a real case this evening, especially with rumours that Kortney Hause will be leaving in the summer, and a cameo from Junior Morias suggests he is deserving of more time to prove himself.
There is plenty to look forward to next season and if there is one thing to be grateful for, it’s that we don’t have to watch Northampton Town every week!
Ratings: Ingram 7, McCoy 5, Doherty 8*, Johnson 8, Dunne 7, Grant 6, Lewis 6, Spring 7, Scowen 6, Morgan 6 (Kuffour N/A), McClure 5 (Morias 6)