Wycombe Wanderers claimed three important points as they fought back from a goal down to beat Chesterfield 2-1 in a League Two clash at Adams Park.
It was a proverbial game of two halves as the visitors dominated the opening 45 minutes but had nothing to show for it with defender Kortney Hause notching his first career goal to cancel out midfielder Jay O’Shea’s opener.
Striker Jo Kuffour then notched the winner early in the second half, with his first goal for the Chairboys in his 17th appearance as the hosts put in a vastly-improved display to record their first victory in 2013, one that takes the side up two places to 17th in the League Two table.
Blues boss Gareth Ainsworth reacted to his side’s lacklustre performance against Exeter City on New Year’s Day by making five changes to the starting line-up. Loan defender Michael Harriman was handed his full debut whilst there were recalls for defenders Charles Dunne and Dave Winfield.
Midfielder Josh Scowen made a welcome return from a hamstring strain whilst striker Dean Morgan was recalled to face his former side. Defender Anthony Stewart, midfielder Matt Spring and winger Bruno Andrade all dropped to the bench whilst defender Marvin McCoy and striker Matt McClure missed out altogether through illness and injury.
The changes made little difference in the first 45 minutes as Wycombe were completely outplayed by their visitors who played a 4-5-1 formation which saw them dominate both possession and the middle of the park. Despite them having the better of it, the opening twenty minutes were uneventful with neither side creating any meaningful chances.
Chesterfield finally started to make their superiority count with striker Marc Richards forcing home goalkeeper Jordan Archer to parry with a powerful low drive. They took a deserved lead in the 29th minute when Jay O’Shea was allowed to skip past two half-hearted challenges in the area before lashing the ball into the roof of the net past Archer.
The home side almost levelled immediately when defender Charles Dunne’s long punt forward was only headed at far as midfielder Sam Wood and he drove a right-footed shot into the side-netting. The Wanderers then had a huge let-off after giving O’Shea far too much room on the edge of the box and his shot crashed against the underside of the bar before being cleared.
It was one-way traffic at this stage and former Arsenal winger Luis Boa-Morte ought to have done better with a free header straight into the gloves of Archer and Richards then sent a header over the bar. The Blues would have considered themselves lucky to have gone into the break just a goal down but incredibly they went in on level terms.
Dean Morgan won a corner, although it did look suspiciously like he had literally dragged Boa Morte out of his way in the build-up, and from Scowen’s delivery, Kortney Hause used his physical presence to bundle the ball over the line despite the best efforts of three Chesterfield players and goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
Ainsworth clearly laid into his players during the interval and they came out a completely different team in the second half. There was an improvement in the passing and keeping possession, although it was still far from perfect, but instead of standing off their opponents they really got into their faces and stopped them from playing.
Nevertheless the visitors could have restored their lead inside the opening minute when Richards’ header bounced off the top of the bar from a corner before Archer gratefully grabbed the ball. Unlike the first half, the Spireites’ back four soon looked vulnerable when put under any pressure and they should have fallen behind in the 51st minute.
Kuffour flicked the ball through for Morgan, who beat the offside trap to run in on goal but with only Lee to beat he screwed his shot horribly wide of the target from 12 yards. Chances were now coming at both ends and midfielder Mark Randall saw his shot deflected just wide for a corner.
Referee J.J. Linington put in a fussy display and he incurred the wrath of the home fans when he ignored loud appeals for a penalty when Morgan’s free-kick appeared to have been handled by an opponent when blocked in the defensive wall. The ball was turned back into the box and Kuffour coolly flicked it over the head of Lee and into the net from seven yards.
It was clear for all to see just how much the goal meant to Kuffour and all his team-mates as they celebrated in a mass huddle. Morgan went close to grabbing a third goal within five minutes when his free-kick from just outside the box thumped against the crossbar with Lee beaten all ends-up.
Archer did well to block Randall’s deflected free-kick with his legs as the visitors searched for an equaliser. Winfield headed over from Scowen’s corner and Grant then appeared to have been tripped inside the box with ten minutes remaining but again the home side’s appeals were waved away.
The Spireites went close to finding an equaliser with eight minutes remaining when a fine flowing move pulled the Blues defence across the pitch to give substitute Brennan Dickenson a shooting opportunity which saw Archer pull off a fine save. Within 30 seconds the ball was returned into the box where Hause made a vital interception to prevent it reaching Richards.
The hosts looked to play on the break in the final stages and wasted a couple of opportunities to counter-attack. It didn’t matter however as the four minutes of injury-time were seen out and the whistle blew to big cheers from the home faithful in a crowd of 3,492.
It was yet another committed second half display, one very much in the image of Gareth Ainsworth, and it proved to be enough to snatch all three points. Chesterfield will feel they were worth at least a point, especially having controlled the first half, but they only have themselves to blame for failing to take their chance.
Whilst the focus this season has been on the bottom half of the League Two table, a quick glance upwards now sees the Chairboys just four points off 11th placed Chesterfield and a win against 22nd placed AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow next weekend really would be a huge step in the right direction.
Ratings: Archer 7, Harriman 6, Dunne 6, Hause 7, Winfield 7, Grant 6, Scowen 7, Lewis 7 (Stewart 90+3 N/A), Wood 8*, Morgan 6 (Ainsworth 90+3 N/A), Kuffour 6.