Wycombe Wanderers 0 Barnet 2
The Bees started today in the relegation zone but second-half goals from Mauro Vilhete and John Akinde were enough to see them overtake the Chairboys who drop to 21st place with almost a third of the season gone.
It was a dismal game and a woeful performance from Wanderers that only got worse the longer it went on.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth made two changes to the side that drew at Mansfield, with Nick Freeman and Garry Thompson replacing Matt Bloomfield who dropped to the bench, and Paul Hayes who picked up an injury in training.
On paper, the bench looked strong, with Myles Weston featuring at Adams Park for the first time, Scott Kashket returning from illness, and Luke O’Nien finally back after a long spell on the sidelines.
The initial formation was 4-4-2 with Thompson and Freeman on the flanks and Akinfenwa and Cowan-Hall up front.
Wanderers enjoyed their best spell of the match in the opening 15 minutes, with Cowan-Hall heading a Jacobson cross narrowly wide, and a Harriman cross almost forcing an own-goal from Bees’ defender Michael Nelson.
The big talking point of the first half arrived after 16 minutes when Cowan-Hall squirmed through the Barnet defence and despite being held planted a cross in the direction of Akinfenwa and defender Gavin Hoyte with one of them glancing the ball home.
But much to home crowd’s fury, referee Graham Horwood didn’t wait long enough to spot the advantage and whistled for the foul on Cowan-Hall a split second before the finishing touch was applied. The result was a disallowed goal and a free kick to Wycombe.
That was as close as Wanderers came to troubling Barnet keeper Josh Vickers who was called upon to intercept the odd cross but didn’t have a save to make all afternoon.
The remainder of the first half was an exercise in staying awake for an Adams Park crowd that became increasingly frustrated at their side’s inability to create chances and shoot, a basic requirement for scoring goals.
Barnet contributed nothing until a mix up in the Wycombe defence just before half-time saw a stranded Jamal Blackman gratefully flapping the ball behind for a corner.
There was no applause for either side when the half-time whistle sounded, and any Wycombe fans consoling themselves that the second half couldn’t possibly be worse were about to be disappointed.
Just a few minutes after the break, Bees’ top scorer Akinde was left unmarked directly in front of goal but thankfully fluffed his lines. It was a close call and a sign of things to come.
The Blues actually had a shot on target after 51 minutes but it was a long range effort from central-defender Anthony Stewart and was hit straight at Vickers who snuffed out the danger with ease.
Barnet’s first goal arrived after 65 minutes when a move involving Akinde and substitute Akpa-Akpro culminated in Vilhete cutting in from the left and firing the ball past Blackman from a tight angle.
Ainsworth’s reaction was to replace the ineffective Thompson and Freeman with Weston and Kashket. Cowan-Hall moved out wide and Kashket slotted into the middle alongside Akinfenwa.
Almost immediately Weston was flying down the left wing and whipping a dangerous ball across the face of the Barnet goal.
It was enough to inspire a brief wave of optimism among the home fans, but It was a false dawn and the ponderous lack of invention soon dulled the senses again.
The visitors almost doubled their lead in spectacular style when Akpa-Akpro spotted Blackman off his line and fired a shot from the half way line that had the Wycombe glovesman scampering back and breathing a sigh of relief as the ball flew narrowly wide. It was a cracking effort.
The next bit of action saw Weston sent off for a second yellow card.
Having been harshly carded for an innocuous challenge a few minutes earlier, the winger deserved a second yellow when he tripped Vilhete from behind.
On his debut at Crawley, Weston lasted 14 minutes before suffering a long term injury, and having finally returned today, he lasted 13 minutes before taking an early bath.
All that remained was for Barnet to score the second goal they needed in order to leapfrog the Chairboys on goal difference.
With stoppage time running out and Wycombe looking more incapable than ever of equalising, Akinde removed any lingering doubt when he beat Pierre, rounded Blackman and calmly stroked the ball home.
When the final whistle sounded most of the Adams Park crowd had already streamed out and there were pockets of booing among those who remained.
This was a game most Wycombe fans expected their side to win, but yet again they failed to create chances and didn’t trouble the opposing keeper, an all too common theme this season.
With almost a third of the season gone the table doesn’t lie and Wanderers are fourth from bottom just two points clear of the relegation zone, which is exactly what their performances deserve.
Line-up & ratings
Blackman (6), Harriman (6), Stewart (7), Pierre (6), Jacobson (6), Thompson (4) (Kashket 68 (5)), Gape (5) (Bloomfield 84 (n/a)), Rowe (6), Freeman (5) (Weston 67 (5)), Akinfenwa (5), Cowan-Hall (6).
Toothless Blues stung by the Bees
Wycombe Wanderers 0 Barnet 2