Fleetwood Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0
A clueless and gutless performance left Wycombe on the end of a 1-0 defeat at the hands of ten-man Fleetwood Town.
Wanderers were certainly second favourites going into the contest but after Alan Goodall’s 12th minute red card, the loss, and nature of it, simply wasn’t acceptable.
The only soothing factors are the losses for Northampton and Bristol Rovers which mean the league table remains as it was.
There were four changes to the side that was incorrectly denied a late winner against Northampton on Good Friday, as manager Gareth Ainsworth once more shuffled the pack.
Anthony Stewart was in for the injured Leon Johnson, Nick Arnold for Paris Cowan-Hall and Max Kretzschmar and Reece Styche replaced Jo Kuffour and Matt McClure.
McClure travelled with the squad but wasn’t on the team sheet, and mystery surrounds the fact that he looked set to come on at half-time.
Steven Craig also travelled but was pulled out of the squad, meaning Ainsworth named himself amongst the substitutes, alongside Charles Dunne, who made a match-day squad for the first time since breaking his leg in December.
The hosts started the livelier of the two sides and Iain Hume forced a comfortable save from Wycombe keeper Matt Ingram.
But Town were soon to be reduced to 10 men. Alan Goodall clashed with Styche and after some discussion with the fourth official, who appeared to have been getting some information from the linesman, referee Darren Drysdale brandished the red card.
Having originally set up in a 4-5-1 formation, presumably in a bid to sneak a point in similar fashion to the one gained at Scunthorpe three weeks ago, this seemed the perfect opportunity to mix things up and go for all three, especially in the knowledge that Bristol Rovers had already suffered a defeat at home to Rochdale.
The advantage didn’t spur the Blues on though, and Nathan Pond had a chance to give Fleetwood the lead but headed straight at Ingram before Matty Blair was allowed to advance completely unchallenged only for his shot to flash narrowly wide.
The closest Wycombe came was an awful Nick Arnold cross that landed on the roof of the net.
Ainsworth did make a change at the interval as he replaced the ineffective Styche with Dean Morgan. This was his first baffling decision of the afternoon as he continued to persist with the 4-5-1 formation against the 10 man opponents.
Wanderers did begin to see some possession, but the only player who was able to kick it where he intended was Danny Rowe. He started the game at the back of the midfield-five, and considering his natural centre-back position, he was incredibly comfortable on the ball.
Fleetwood weren’t allowing their numerical disadvantage to hinder their play though, and for the umpteenth time this season Ingram kept his side in the game as he bravely narrowed the angle and saved from Blair.
The young keeper was helpless moments later when Stuart Lewis was eventually punished for persistently giving the ball away. After failing to complete yet another two-yard pass, Josh Morris had the freedom of the park. And when he wasn’t closed down he drilled low and hard into the bottom corner.
Ingram kept it at one shortly afterwards as he saved from Antoni Sarcevic.
Ainsworth eventually decided to go two up, but rather than replace Lewis, he took off Bloomfield and moved the only midfielder capable of picking a pass, Danny Rowe, into defence, with Arnold into midfield. Junior Morias was the man introduced into the action having been recalled from his loan spell at Boreham Wood.
Morias had a decent cameo, making a neat turn before forcing a rare save from keeper Alex Maxwell.
Anthony Jeffrey was also brought on in place of Arnold while the hosts saw Jaimille Matt and Gareth Evans replace Hume and David Ball.
There was time for Anthony Stewart to head wide, Morias to fire an instinctive volley past the post and Rowe to roll a tame effort at Maxwell, but when Drysdale blew for full-time it was certainly a missed opportunity for the Blues to ease their relegation fears and pull away from Saturday’s opponents, Bristol Rovers.
Many of the travelling faithful were probably expecting to view a defeat, but the lack of effort, ability and ideas, and the puzzling tactics against ten men for virtually 80 mins wasn’t acceptable.
Saturday’s game is now absolutely massive, and we can only hope the manager treats it as the ‘must win game’ it is.
Ingram 6, Arnold 4 (Jeffrey 5), Stewart 5, Pierre 6, Wood 4, Rowe 7*, Bloomfield 5 (Morias 6), Lewis 2, Scowen 5, Kretzschmar 4, Styche 3 (Morgan 4)
Toothless Blues squander glorious chance
Fleetwood Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0