Wycombe Wanderers 3 Rochdale 0
Two-goal hit-man Stuart Beavon provided the quality that enabled the Blues to leapfrog their relegation rivals and climb to 22nd in the table, just two points from safety.
This was a game that Wycombe had to win, and win they did, but with both sides desperately low on confidence, it wasn’t pretty at times.
In the early stages, neither side could keep possession for more than a few seconds and long aimless punts were the order of the day, with Wycombe captain Dave Winfield the biggest culprit.
Distribution certainly isn’t big Dave’s strong suit, but with his name on the scoresheet, an assist for the second goal, and a rare clean sheet for the defence, he’ll no doubt be a happy man tonight.
Yes it’s true. For only the second time this season and the first time in 21 games, Wycombe kept a clean sheet. There were still scrambles and panicky moments, particularly from corner kicks, but Dale failed to put the ball in our net, and that’s a huge step forward.
Loanee centre-half Louis Laing never put a foot wrong all afternoon and oozed quality with every touch. His passing was a joy to behold, and even under pressure, his headed clearances always seemed to find a blue shirt.
Stuart Lewis and Matt Bloomfield worked tirelessly to give the Blues the edge in central-midfield, but wingers Joel Grant and Kadeem Harris were both disappointing, with Grant in particular having a real stinker.
For the first time in nine games there was no Marcello Trotta, but up stepped Beavon with the sort of performance that will have Wycombe fans keeping their fingers crossed until the January transfer window closes and he’s still at Adams Park.
The first goal came after 32 minutes when Nikki Bull’s goal kick was nodded into the danger area by Ben Strevens and Beavon battled to get the better of Dale defender Kevin Amankwaah before dinking the ball over keeper Peter Kurucz.
Other first half action saw Beavon glance a header narrowly wide while Bloomfield’s 30 yard rasper was tipped over the crossbar by Kurucz.
Kennedy and Jones both fired shots wide of the target for the visitors.
Dale started the second half strongly and a series of corners caused problems for the Blues with Bull coming for one and missing his punch completely.
After 73 minutes Wycombe scored the killer second goal, and it was a beauty. Danny Foster’s deep free-kick was nodded back across the edge of the box by Winfield and Beavon was on hand to take one touch to control the ball and another to lash it high into the top corner of the net.
Two minutes later it was 3-0. Bloomfield’s corner was missed by keeper Kurucz and the ball dropped slightly behind Winfield who conjured-up a Brazilian style flick to give the Blues an unassailable lead.
Dale almost got one back a few minutes later but Bull pulled off a superb reaction save to deny Brett Ormerod.
With time running out it was disappointing to see Wycombe trying to keep the ball in the corner and making no real effort to increase their lead. At one goal ahead, maybe it’s wise, but at 3-0 up against a team as poor as Dale, they should have kept going.
Dale certainly gave the worst performance of any opposing side I’ve seen this season, and while it’s great to bask in a rare victory, it would be foolish to get carried away. Without some quality signings, these two are likely to be playing each other in a different division next season.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (6), Foster (6), Winfield (6), Laing (7), Basey (6), Harris (5), Lewis (6), Bloomfield (6), Grant (4) (Ainsworth 68 (5)), Strevens (5), Beavon (8) (Kewley-Graham 90 (n/a)).
Three Goals, Three Points, and a Clean Sheet
Wycombe Wanderers 3 Rochdale 0