Wycombe Wanderers were cruelly denied a desperately needed three points when Oldham Athletic converted a last minute penalty to make the final score 2-2 at Boundary Park this afternoon.
The Chairboys had earlier fought back from a goal down and will bitterly regret missing a glorious opportunity to make it 3-1.
As long as there was only one goal in it, there was always a chance it would end in tears, and with referee Eddie Ilderton having already awarded Wycombe a penalty, you suspected it wouldn’t take much for him to even up the score.
Wycombe looked tense at the start of the game and allowed Oldham to quickly settle into their stride. The tenacious tackling and quick closing down that served the Chairboys so well against Millwall and Southampton was missing again today and the Latics were enjoying far too much time on the ball.
Fortunately their finishing wasn’t great and they squandered several decent chances before eventually scoring from a set-piece after half an hour.
Kieran Lee’s free kick from near the right touchline glanced off Matt Harrold’s head before dropping nicely for Reuben Hazell to nod it home having ghosted past the Wycombe defence.
Wycombe had only occasionally threatened with long range shots from Julian Kelly, Gareth Ainsworth and Matt Harrold not really troubling Oldham keeper Dean Brill, but their equalising goal after 41 minutes did follow a good spell of concerted pressure.
Forcing two corners in a row, the Chairboys saw a Matt Harrold effort scrambled clear before John Mousinho’s shot was handled by Danny Whittaker and a spot kick was awarded. Harrold duly stepped up and fired it to the left of Oldham’s fluorescent orange keeper to level the scores.
Three minutes into the second half things got even better when Kevin Betsy went on a run from near the centre circle and tried his luck with a shot from 25 yards which somehow found its way past Brill’s unconvincing dive and into the back of the net. If your name’s Brill and you choose to wear a day-glo kit, you’d better be good – he wasn’t on this occasion, and the travelling support soon let him know it.
Shortly afterwards came the glorious opportunity to seal the points. Despite being repeatedly fouled throughout the game, Stuart Beavon kept causing problems for the Oldham defence and when he ran to the bye-line, beat his man and laid the ball back, all Matt Harrold had to do was pick his spot and hit it with a modicum of power and Wycombe would have been 3-1 up. Instead, the big striker continued his poor record from open-play by side-footing it weakly to the grateful Brill.
The next good chance fell to Dean Keates who poked his shot woefully wide after Gareth Ainsworth had raced down the wing and cut back a teasing cross.
Oldham tried to get back on level terms, but they look as bad as Wycombe in front of goal and it took the penalty to save them.
I’m told it was Adam Hinshelwood whose arm was adjudged to have blocked a Pawell Abbott shot, but I didn’t see what happened. I just felt that familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Abbott lashed it high into the net and the game was up.
On the balance of play a draw was probably the right result, but that doesn’t matter anymore, all that matters now is winning and this was a sickening blow to Wycombe’s hopes of survival.
We may be spoilt for choice on the wings, but for the third game in a row we were outfought in central midfield and could have done with someone like Tommy Doherty out there today.
The defence is looking better than it has all season, but today they seemed determined to keep giving the ball back to Oldham, with Bennett in particular having an off day when it came to his distribution.
Up front, Stuart Beavon troubled the Latics on the deck and in the air. He often controlled the ball, darted past his marker and looked up for support only to find no-one else anywhere near. He deserves a place in the team but was far more effective in the 4-3-1-2 formation used earlier this year.
Team & Ratings
Heaton (6), Kelly (5), Bennett (4), Hinshelwood (6), Woodman (5), Ainsworth (6), Mousinho (4), Keates (4), Betsy (6), Harrold (5), Beavon (6).
Subs: Revell for Harrold (80 mins), McLeod for Ainsworth (84 mins) Pittman for Beavon (92 mins)