Wycombe Wanderers supporters were treated to a novel experience at Adams Park as they battled to a goal-less draw with bitter rivals Colchester United.
The hosts collected just their fourth clean sheet of the season and a first goal-less stalemate in almost a year (for all you stattos out there – can you name the last one?)
They never really looked like conceding a goal throughout the ninety minutes and whilst that is a rare and precious feeling in a season of defensive ineptitude, the fact the Blues couldn’t find a goal at the other end means they remain deep in the relegation mire.
Gary Waddock named the same eleven that finished the 4-2 midweek win over Leyton Orient whilst his opposite number John Ward named the same line-up that had won impressively at runaway league leaders Charlton Athletic.
It didn’t take long to realise this was going to be a war of attrition and it was one which the home side were up for. They were thoroughly committed throughout the ninety minutes despite a lamentable performance from referee Mr Hooper.
He was whistle happy from his very first blast and ruined the game as a spectacle as he blew up for the slightest infringement. That prevented the game from flowing and consequently neither side were able to get into their stride.
Colchester had a couple of early efforts on goal but Ian Henderson’s feeble free-kick rolled into the arms of Nikki Bull and soon afterwards full-back Brian Wilson’s shot was blocked by Dave Winfield.
The first chance that came the Chairboys way fell to Winfield who met Marvin McCoy’s right-wing cross with a downward header that was hacked away by Wilson from just in front of his own goal-line.
Chances were at a premium in the opening 45 minutes and it was good work from Matt Bloomfield which created the best effort just before the half hour.
Bloomfield played the ball forward which Stuart Beavon did magnificently to return and Bloomfield hit a sweet strike from just outside the box which U’s goalkeeper Ben Williams did well to hold.
Williams also made a comfortable save from Craig Eastmond whilst there were some ironic cheers when Martin Rowlands had to come off injured midway through the half, something which epitomised his spell at Adams Park earlier in the season.
The second half started as the first had ended and it was the visitors who had marginally the better of the first twenty minutes or so.
They almost snatched the lead on 52 minutes when striker Steven Gillespie charged down Bull’s clearance but the Wanderers goalkeeper stayed big to block his subsequent shot.
Williams had to get down to save from Stuart Lewis but the game continued to be scrappy with few chances and any neutrals might well have been struggling to stay awake. Nevertheless there was a crackle throughout which could have ignited this grudge match if only there had been spark.
The hosts’ need for all three points was certainly greater than their Essex rivals and they applied some late pressure as they searched for an elusive winner.
With 14 minutes remaining Gary Doherty met Bloomfield’s right-wing corner with a powerful header but sent it straight into the arms of Williams on the goal-line.
The Blues won a number of late corners and from one there were hopeful shouts for a penalty after Anthony Wordsworth appeared to handle the ball but Mr Hooper seemed convinced by the player’s pained clutching of his face.
Wordsworth fired a free-kick straight at Bull and did likewise with a late header. At the other end Beavon’s shirt was almost pulled off him by Magnus Okuonghae but again the appeals fell on deaf ears.
Foster hit a half-volley over the bar from just outside the box and the final chance fell to Winfield but he was unable to direct his header on target from another Bloomfield corner. The U’s were holding on at that point and were happy to take one home.
Despite the disappointment at only collecting a point, the performance was one to savour with all eleven men contributing fully to earning a committed and hard-fought point. There were no passengers and the side looked as solid as it has done all season.
Whether a point is enough at this stage of the campaign and our perilous position in the table is another matter and any hopes of survival rest on significant improvement in our away form.
Man of the Match – Gary Doherty (Wycombe)