Date: 13th January 2018 at 8:32pm
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Wycombe Wanderers 3 Colchester United 1

The Chairboys completed the double over their old rivals from Essex with first-half goals from Adebayo Akinfenwa and Paris Cowan-Hall and a second half thunderbolt from midfielder Luke O’Nien.

The victory moved Wanderers up to 4th in the table, level on points with Accrington Stanley who currently occupy the final automatic promotion place.

It was a gutsy performance from Gareth Ainsworth’s side, a real tonic for the home fans, and the perfect response to last week’s tame exit from the FA Cup.

It was also a victory achieved in the face of adversity, with two young loanees making their Football League debuts in defence as Wanderers’ never-ending injury crisis claimed several more victims during the week.

Right-back Tafari Moore from Arsenal and central-defender Nathan McGinley from Middlesbrough were thrust straight into the firing line as Adam El-Abd, Nick Freeman and Will de Havilland joined Anthony Stewart, Michael Harriman and Sido Jombati on the injured list.

Ainsworth made four changes to the side beaten 5-1 by Preston, with Moore, McGinley, Cowan-Hall and Mackail-Smith replacing Bean, El-Abd, Freeman and Tyson.

The bench boasted only five bodies, in the shape of Ma-Kalambay, Gape, Bean, Tyson and Kashket.

Any fears that the debutants would weaken the side were quickly dispelled and both youngsters put in a superb performance, showing both quality and a willingness to throw themselves in front of the ball when required.

Moore not only defended intelligently but was also a real threat going forward, almost capping his debut with a fine individual goal. If the young Gunner plays like that every week, Harriman and Jombati will have their work cut out to replace him.

As early as the 2nd minute Moore was overlapping and hitting the bye-line before sending a deep cross fractionally too high for the waiting Akinfenwa.

The first real chance of the game fell to the visitors after only 6 minutes when Kurtis Guthrie headed a Tom Eastman cross straight at Blues’ keeper Scott Brown when it looked easier to score.

The U’s were made to pay just 8 minutes later when an inch-perfect cross from Mackail-Smith was pounced upon by Akinfenwa who headed home the opening goal.

The visitors looked threatening throughout the game, and only a tip over the bar from Brown and a goal-line clearance from Sam Saunders prevented them from drawing level before the hosts stretched their lead after 24 minutes.

In the midst of a scramble following a corner, Mackail-Smith touched the ball to Cowan-Hall whose shot took a wicked but delicious deflection before nestling in the corner of Sam Walker’s net.

This was a good old fashioned end-to-end game and the U’s were soon back on attack, with both Moore and McGinley bravely throwing themselves in front of the ball to block a couple of rasping shots from the visitors.

As half time approached, Colchester’s highly-rated midfielder Sammy Szmodics fired a couple of long-range efforts wide of the target. It was the first notable contribution from the Bournemouth target who had been superbly shackled by the tenacious O`Nien.

Right on the stroke of half-time a cross from Matt Bloomfield almost foxed Walker who was forced to tip the ball onto the top of his crossbar as it threatened to sneak in at the top corner.

The second half started at the same frantic pace, and there were bookings for O`Nien and Drey Wright as both sides battled but were unable to create clear cut chances.

With the next goal perhaps crucial, Blues’ keeper Brown pulled off a superb reaction save to thwart Mikael Mandron who held his head in his hands in disbelief as his goal-bound effort was turned round the post.

Another flurry of corners tested Wycombe’s defensive resolve as the visitors enjoyed a decent spell of pressure with the Chairboys reliant on the break.

One such breakaway saw Mackail-Smith charge towards goal before slipping the ball to Saunders who shot, forcing Walker to parry to Bloomfield whose effort was comfortably saved.

Another break just moments later saw Moore dance into the penalty area, shimmy past a defender and shoot, Walker parrying and the ball being cleared off the line as 4,000 Wycombe fans willed it to find the net.

But Adams Park was soon rocking again as O’Nien made it 3-0 with a spectacular volley after the corner was only partially cleared. It was a net-buster of a shot and Walker had no chance.

Maybe it was the euphoria of scoring such a cracker that distracted O’Nien, allowing Szmodics to climb out of his pocket a minute later to give the visitors a lifeline with a fine shot into the corner.

The U’s to their credit never gave up, but Wanderers held firm and fully deserved their victory.

Line-up & ratings
Brown (7), Moore (8), Scarr (7), McGinley (7), Jacobson (7), O`Nien (9), Saunders (7) (Bean 84 (n/a)), Bloomfield (6), Cowan-Hall (6) (Tyson 70 (6)), Akinfenwa (7), Mackail-Smith (8)