Bristol Rovers 2 Wycombe Wanderers 3
Wycombe Wanderers continued their recent good form with another battling performance, but this time they picked up all three points for their trouble, deservedly winning 3-2 at Bristol Rovers to narrow the gap to safety and offer their fans renewed hope of an improbable great escape.
Since the Chairboys were humbled 5-2 at home to Brighton at the end of last year there’s been a a noticeable turnaround in both their determination and the quality of their play, due in no small part to manager Gary Waddock’s new additions to the squad.
In today’s game, Waddock’s first January signing Adam Hinshelwood was as solid as a rock at the back. His reading of the game was superb and without his two crucial blocks in the first half, the game may not have panned out the way it did.
Another January signing, Kevin Betsy was asked to play in an unfamiliar right-back role this afternoon and took to it like a duck to water, putting in a stylish performance during which he defended well and offered a real threat going forward.
In midfield, Wycombe’s most improved player from last season, John Mousinho, continued to impress with another lung-busting display which also offered end product, a long range shot in each half topped by a powerful header which the Rovers keeper did well to turn over the crossbar.
Alongside Mousinho were two more Waddock signings, Josh Payne and Dean Keates. Payne hit the headlines for his spectacular equalising goal last week but it was his overall performance today which will bring a smile to his manager’s face. Not just tough in the tackle, Payne didn’t waste a pass and clearly encouraged by his stunning strike last week, he tried his luck from distance twice today, one flashing just past the post and the other well saved by a keeper at full stretch.
Keates also impressed. He has the same tenacious style as the dearly departed Doc, but on today’s evidence, he offers more going forward and also contributes a decent dead ball delivery.
Stuart Beavon was again a thorn in the opposition’s side. In his free role between midfield and attack he darted this way and that, dragging defenders with him, showing great close control and bringing others into the game as he linked up the play beautifully. His goal was well deserved and won’t be his last if he keeps up his current form.
Alex Revell was making his debut up-front and did well enough. He looks strong, was decent in the air, and forced a good save in the first half when he cut in from the left and fired off a fierce shot which the keeper could only turn round the post for a corner.
The game itself went in phases, with Wycombe enjoying the best of them. It didn’t take them long to get into their stride and for the first half hour they were the team doing most of the pressing with Rovers restricted to the occasional breakaway.
The opening goal came midway through this period when, with his back to the target, Wanderers’ new striker Alex Revell attempted to hook the ball back into the danger area only for a Rovers’ defender to handle it inside the box.
Matt Harrold stepped up and although the keeper guessed correctly the striker converted his fifth penalty of the season by firing the ball low into the left hand corner of the net.
With quarter of an hour to go in the first half Wycombe went off the boil and Rovers were in the ascendency, mounting a series of attacks, most of which originated down the flanks.
The equalising goal finally arrived five minutes before half time when Rovers were awarded a free kick on the left side of the penalty area 25 yards out.
From my lofty perch directly behind the goal I watched as Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer lined up his wall and moved towards the far post only for Chris Lines to gently float his kick over the wall and into the net at the near post with Shearer unable to scramble across in time.
Rovers were on fire now and following a neat interchange of passes within the Wycombe penalty area, the ball was played out to Chris Lines who calmly fired it into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Matt Harrold had a chance to level things on the stroke of half time but his downward header was well saved by the Rovers’ keeper.
It was a sickening double whammy for Wycombe who had easily been the better side in the first half. But while many teams in their position would have collapsed, to their great credit they came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half and were soon level when Stuart Beavon was brought down inside the box for another penalty kick.
Alex Revell took this one and sent the keeper the wrong way, firing the ball low and to the right for his first Wycombe goal.
Wycombe continued to have the upper hand as they pressed for a third goal, and as mentioned above, Payne came close twice, Mousinho was thwarted and Harrold had another chance but this time couldn’t keep his header down. During this phase of the game, some of the Chairboys’ one-touch football and slick passing was a joy to behold.
At the other end, the defence was doing a fine job of protecting Shearer, who never had a save to make today apart from the two goals he conceded.
Worryingly, every time the ball was in the Wycombe box, the Bristol crowd howled for the penalty they no doubt felt they were owed, but thankfully Mr Shoebridge stayed strong.
The winning goal was scored by Stuart Beavon when he glanced home a Dean Keates corner with ten minutes to go. A Rovers defender hacked the ball clear after it had crossed the line, but the officials weren’t fooled and the goal stood.
The Chairboys had to withstand some late pressure from Rovers before the visiting crowd were able to celebrate a gutsy performance and a fully deserved three points.
The way Wycombe have played since the turn of the year offers real hope and if Gary Waddock can strengthen in a couple of key positions before Monday’s transfer deadline and help the team in their quest for an occasional clean sheet, you just never know, they might yet survive.
Shearer, Betsy, Hinshelwood, Westwood, Woodman, Mousinho, Payne, Keates, Beavon (Oliver 90), Revell (Pittman 81), Harrold.
Men Of The Match
Stuart Beavon & Josh Payne
Well deserved win for Waddock’s Wycombe
Bristol Rovers 2 Wycombe Wanderers 3