Luton Town 2-3 Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe Wanderers made it four wins in a row with a memorable and simply fantastic 3-2 victory at league leaders Luton Town tonight.
Gareth Ainsworth dropped Nathan McGinley to the bench with Adam El Abd returning to the side and with Matt Bloomfield ill, Dom Gape came into midfield. Nathan Tyson was given the nod up front with Paris Cowan-Hall also starting. It is testament to the squad Ainsworth has built that Craig Mackail-Smith, Scott Kashket, Nick Freeman and new signing Curtis Thompson all sat on the bench as back up options tonight.
It is hard to know just where to start following such an eventful night full of goals, chances and no little drama at Kenilworth Road.
Probably the best place to begin is to recognise that Wycombe did not merely turn up with a defensive outlook looking to restrict runaway leaders and top goalscorers Luton tonight. They went at the hosts from the first whistle with an attacking intent and a high press that unsettled the Hatters, with the visitors getting their reward after just 72 seconds.
Nathan Tyson was released in space down the left by Gape, his first effort was parried by Marek Stech in the Luton goal and Tyson remained composed on the rebound to lay the ball across to Cowan-Hall, who took a touch to steady himself before unleashing a right footed shot low into the bottom left hand corner of the net giving Stech no chance.
It was a dream start for the Chairboys and the sold-out away end of 791 Wycombe supporters erupted in loud celebration.
Before you could blink it was nearly 2-0, Tafari Moore with a typical pacy burst down the right wing and delivering a pinpoint cross that Tyson headed straight at Stech from point blank range with the goalkeeper gratefully punching the ball to safety with a reaction save. Akinfenwa was also causing havoc as usual and almost forced himself a clear chance but the ball was nicked away at the crucial moment. Tyson was then again in space on the left and after ignoring an overlapping run from Moore his dinked cross from the left forced a Luton defender to head the ball behind for a corner.
The lightening start from Wycombe had shocked the hosts who initially looked flustered and surprised by Wycombe’s attacking ambition. Gradually however their class and ability to create chances through clever movement and play came to the fore as the first half wore on.
The first evidence of this came when Olly Lee burst into the box but Moore timed his tackle well to concede a corner, with Lee’s dive less than convincing.
Lee was growing into the game and he turned Dan Scarr on the edge of the box after 20 minutes and bent a dangerous shot towards the bottom corner only for Scott Brown to parry the ball superbly away. The ball was still alive though and James Collins’ strike hit Jacobson at point blank range with the goal gaping and Gape gratefully swept the loose ball to safety. Luton fans wanted handball from Jacobson but it would have been very harsh.
Gape was in the thick of the action and had a goalbound shot blocked by a teammate at the other end but most of the territory, and chances were now being created at the other end. Brown was again called on to make a superb save from a deflected Collins effort, the goalkeeper doing excellently to react and tip the ball wide. The pressure was becoming incessant and Brown was taking his time from goal kicks with referee Tim Robinson already warning the goalkeeper about the time he was taking.
After 39 minutes the two goal cushion that Wanderers craved was gifted to them by some dreadful Luton defending. A Jacobson corner was knocked back across goal unchallenged by Scarr to a totally unmarked Tyson who had time to take a touch before stabbing into the net via a Luton deflection.
It was a great time to score and double the lead, but after 43 minutes with Gape off the field with a facial injury, Luton halved the deficit to totally change the course of the match.
It was a goal that was coming too as the hosts showed why they score so many. Brown had just made another superb reflex save with his left boot but the ball was kept alive by Stacey and that man Lee was there again to fire across goal and in off the post via a touch from Brown. Wycombe’s number 1 might be disappointed not to have kept it out but given his previous saves no blame could fairly be attributed to the goalkeeper.
Wanderers gratefully rode out four minutes of injury time with Luton piling forwards and the home crowd up sensing a comeback.
The second half started with the Wycombe fans fearing an onslaught and Tyson was soon down injured after seeing a shot from the edge of the area blocked but thankfully he could continue.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were thankfully slightly less frantic than the opening period but that would all change as the game exploded after the hour mark. It was prompted by Nathan Jones bringing on midfielder Ruddock for centre half Mullins as Town changed shape and really went for it.
It looked for all the world that Luton had equalised after 65 minutes when Alan Sheehan curled a superb left footed free kick that was goal-bound only for Brown to somehow paw the ferocious effort wide to a huge roar of approval, and relief from the travelling supporters.
It was such a crucial save and straight down the other end, Gape released Tyson with a delicious through ball and with Luton playing a high line that failed to play him offside, the striker was left in acres of space to close in on goal. Tyson remained composed to slot the ball past Stech to send the Wycombe fans into absolute delirium behind the goal. The two goal cushion was back.
What happened afterwards was frankly a disgrace from referee Robinson. Up until that moment the whistle blower had not done too badly but from the moment he showed the yellow card for the first time in the game and harshly cautioned Cowan-Hall for over celebrating, he lost the plot completely giving everything against Wycombe.
Tyson looked exhausted and Robinson then decided to make an assumption that the striker had deliberately walked to the other side of the pitch to delay the substitution and again yellow carded the Wycombe man, without any hint of proof that it was a premeditated move ,as he was replaced by Mackail-Smith.
That had really wound up the Wycombe fans and the anger intensified as Luton reduced the arrears to a single goal for a second time moments later with Lee seeing his initial shot well saved by Brown before reacting instinctively to fire in a great left footed shot in off the upright with Brown helpless.
Mackail-Smith was quickly booked, this time for a bad foul but only as Moore lay stricken with a head injury. Mr Robinson didn’t deem it worthy of stopping play but Moore was dazed and it prompted a double substitution with himself and the outstanding Cowan-Hall replaced by new signing Thompson and striker Kashket. Gape dropped to right back and Thompson was straight into the action in central midfield with a couple of crunching tackles and counter attacking runs on the break.
Kashket’s presence was immediately felt too as he turned on a sixpence to fire a fierce shot that was headed clear by a diving Luton defender with Stech helpless. From the following corner a long range shot from Gape was then helped towards the corner by Kashket but Stech made a fine diving save.
Brown was then booked for taking too long over another kick at the other end with the Luton fans automatically complaining about the time being taken for every set piece. Things nearly turned sour as substitute Harry Cornick then raced clean through for the Hatters but Brown stayed big to block the shot with his midriff. The ball kept coming back as Robinson kept either blowing for decisions in Luton’s favour or ignoring calls for a Wycombe free kick as Akinfenwa was fouled for the umpeenth time on the night without any hint of a decision from the referee.
Mr Robinson then disgracefully decided that nine minutes of stoppage time could be found. 6 or 7 would have sufficed but thankfully the ball remained pinned in Luton’s defensive corners for much of it and the huffing and puffing came to nothing.
Wycombe had given everything for this result, and now deservedly have second place in League Two to show for it on a night of unbearable tension and drama.
It sure is a rollercoaster watching Wycombe this season with goals flooding in at both ends and thoroughly enjoyable it is too. Tonight however was the highlight of the season so far and is a night that the Wycombe fans won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Ratings: Brown (9*), Moore (8) (Kashket 82′ N/A), Scarr (8), El-Abd (8), Jacobson (7), O’Nien (8), Gape (8), Bean (8), Tyson (9) (Mackail-Smith 75′ N/A), Akinfenwa (8), Cowan-Hall (9) (Thompson 82′ N/A)
Wycombe net stunning win at leaders Luton
Luton Town 2-3 Wycombe Wanderers