Huddersfield Town 3 Wycombe Wanderers 0
Vital Wycombe would like to thank guest writer Tom Bowers for the following report.
Wycombe Wanderers suffered a second-half collapse as substitute Alan Lee netted twice in a comfortable 3-0 win for Huddersfield at the Galpharm Stadium. The former Ipswich front-man used his aerial prowess to soar above the Wanderers defence on two occasions before fellow substitute Gary Roberts` free kick found the bottom corner to complete the scoring.
In truth the Chairboys rarely threatened Ian Bennett`s goal but Lee`s 57th minute effort brought to an end an impressive defensive performance.
Gary Waddock started with the same 4-5-1 formation that ended the cup defeat to Forest in midweek with Andy Sandell and James Tunnicliffe coming in for Dave Winfield and Danny Foster who missed out through injury and illness. Ben Strevens returned to action in a lone striker role with last season`s leading scorer Scott Rendell left out of the match-day 16.
Sitting inside the Galpharm Stadium instantly brought back chilling memories of the 6-0 reverse in November 2009 but as the hosts applied the early pressure the defence showed no sign of faltering.
The first-half was a fairly drab affair with chances few and far between but it was a reassuring sight to not feel overwhelmed every time the promotion-chasers honed in on goal.
The exciting front pair of Lee Novak and Jordan Rhodes look stifled by centre-halves Tunnicliffe and Leon Johnson who were in no mood to see a repeat of the score-line in the aforementioned fixture.
The Terriers` most threatening moment came with half-time closing in as Novak threatened to burst clear, however his promising run was brought to a shuddering halt by the covering Marvin McCoy who booted the ball into touch.
The half-time whistle sounded with the 207-strong following content with what had been a solid first-half performance.
Both teams emerged from the break unchanged but it wasn`t long before Huddersfield turned the screw thanks to an inspired double substitution from Lee Clark. The extravagant manager, who spent almost the entire 90 minutes in an animated state on the edge of his technical area, replaced Novak and ineffective midfielder Donal McDermott with Lee and Roberts to instant effect.
Lee performed an Ian Stonebridge-esque (circa 2006) emergence from the bench and raced forward to send a looping header beyond the despairing dive of Nikki Bull within 30 seconds of his arrival. Viewing it from afar in the away end, it looked as if Bull should have done better, but the low sun must have made it a tricky task for the stopper as the ball agonisingly slipped through his grasp.
The hosts tasted blood and as the home crowd finally burst into life their team responded with a flurry of pressure. With the relentless ‘Alan, Alan Lee` chant ringing in both the supporters` and the players` ears the striker put the game beyond doubt with a powerful header that Bull had no chance of getting near.
The Wanderers` left side capitulated in the build-up to the goal and Waddock will be left scratching his head just how easy it was for the Terriers to pick a cross and effectively put the game to bed.
Captain Gareth Ainsworth enjoyed his typical 60 or so minute cameo and was replaced by Kevin Betsy who could count himself unfortunate to have been dropped following his man-of-the-match performance in midweek. Elliot Benyon also entered the fray replacing Scott Donnelly and the changes brought about a brief resurgence from the Blues.
An enticing Ben Harding cross was narrowly missed by Benyon before the former Aldershot midfielder flashed a right-footed drive beyond Bennett`s right-hand post.
However, dreams of a comeback were swiftly quashed when Roberts` inswinging free-kick avoided everyone to nestle in the bottom corner. It looked a cross-come-shot effort on first viewing and will no doubt have been a disappointing goal to have conceded from a defensive point of view.
Stuart Beavon replaced the isolated Strevens with minutes to spare and the diminutive striker showed early signs of striking an impressive partnership with Benyon that will surely be worth a try in the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy clash with Bristol Rovers in ten days time.
It was disappointing to lose after such an accomplished first-half display, but as they say, you often learn more about yourself in defeat and the extended break will be of great benefit to the squad.
I often like to draw comparisons with the 2009/10 spell in League One and on today`s showing we have come on leaps and bounds. The new-found ability to hold our own against the so-called ‘big boys` in the division will be a valuable attribute come May and hopefully a great foundation upon which to build a successful survival campaign.
Bull – 6, didn`t have much to do but will feel he could have done better with the opener.
McCoy – 7, coming on leaps and bounds as a player, Foster will find it tough to regain his place in the team on this showing.
Tunnicliffe – 6, solid showing, struggled against Lee in the second half.
Johnson – 7, in my opinion our best centre back, still great pace that is a great complement for either Tunnicliffe or Winfield.
Sandell – 6, struggled to close down the opposition`s right winger as much as he should.
Ainsworth – 5, fairly ineffective, Will benefit from the ten-day break.
Lewis – 7*, getting back to his best, helped prevent Huddersfield from winning the midfield battle.
Harding – 6, would have enjoyed more time on the ball, often easily dispossessed.
Donnelly – 6, rarely allowed space for him to express himself.
Grant – 7, looks very confident with the ball at his feet and running at defenders, could often have benefited from more support.
Strevens – 6, was very isolated at times, could have imposed himself more on the game possibly.
Benyon – 6, hard-working and deserves another start.
Betsy – 6, flashed pace and skill, would benefit from more time on the pitch.
Beavon – 6, looked lovely but not enough time to make an impact.
You can read more from Tom at his Away from the bright lights blog by clicking here.