Date: 19th August 2009 at 2:50am
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Wycombe Wanderers collected their first point of the season after a 1-1 draw with Southend United at Adams Park this evening.

Manager Peter Taylor made no changes to the team that started against Leeds United on Saturday and the Chairboys lined up in a 4-5-1 (4-3-3) formation as follows:


Smith (22) Duberry Oliver Woodman

Zebroski Mousinho Montrose Westlake (59) Phillips

Harrold (67)

Subs: Young Westwood Johnson Green (59) Spiller Pittman (22) Beavon (67)

The fact that the Shrimpers could afford to leave former Wycombe favourite Kevin Betsy and last season’s impressive loanee Lee Sawyer on the bench tonight was a clue as to the relative strength of the two sides.

The following ninety minutes of football only served to reinforce this view as the visitors slick passing football contrasted vividly with the Chairboys more agricultural style.

While the Shrimpers tended to play the ball on the deck, relying on their superior technique and movement off the ball to carve a path to goal, Wycombe regularly resorted to the long ball, often in the direction of Matt Harrold, but frequently to no one in particular.

Fortunately for the home side, Southend lacked a cutting edge tonight and after swapping set-piece goals, the two sides shared the points.

The early stages belonged to the Shrimpers, with Wycombe restricted to two long-range efforts from midfielder Lewis Montrose.

The 4-5-1 formation which worked so well in the first-half against Leeds on Saturday was clearly not working tonight as lone target-man Matt Harrold was well marshalled by the Shrimpers and struggled to hold the ball up and bring others into play.

This handed Southend the lion’s share of possession although Harrold did have a chance to open the scoring when he narrowly failed to connect with a Matt Phillips cross after a quick break from the Chairboys.

After 22 minutes, Peter Taylor introduced Jon-Paul Pittman to play alongside Harrold at the expense of young right-back Adam Smith. Whether this was tactical or enforced through injury wasn’t clear, but the youngster had received treatment shortly beforehand. John Mousinho moved into defence and Wycombe changed to a 4-4-2 formation.

Pittman’s arrival gave Wycombe a boost and when his pass found Matt Phillips ten minutes from the break, only a fine save from Shrimpers’ keeper Steve Mildenhall prevented the youngster’s powerful drive from finding the net.

The opening goal came after 41 minutes when Matt Harrold rose to meet Phillips’ corner, directing a fine header past Mildenhall’s despairing dive.

The home crowd were galvanised. Southend may have played the prettier football, but Wycombe had the all important one-goal lead. Unfortunately, whereas last season that usually meant curtains for the opposition, this season it’s nothing to get too excited about.

The equalising goal came in first-half stoppage time following a sustained period of Southend pressure, during which a packed Wycombe defence couldn’t find an outlet and kept giving their opponents the ball back.

A short corner was crossed into the box by Simon Francis and as the Chairboys ball-watched, the unmarked Jean Francois Christophe stole in to powerfully head the ball home.

Wycombe started the second-half brightly with Jon-Paul Pittman and Matt Phillips both trying their luck on goal while at the other end Franck Moussa had a fierce shot turned over the crossbar by Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer.

More slack defending gave Dougie Freedman a golden opportunity after 56 minutes but he contrived to send his close-range header over the bar.

Southend were on top again now and Wycombe were resorting to long clearances out of defence despite the fact there was no one further up the field to collect them. Indeed, needlessly giving the ball away was a regular feature of the Chairboys play this evening.

The introductions of Stuart Green and Stuart Beavon for Ian Westlake and Matt Harrold, gave Wycombe a little more guile to their play and when Beavon’s neat pass put Pittman through on goal after 68 minutes the crowd roared the little striker on.

The roars became howls of rage moments later when last-defender Matt Heath scythed Pittman down and the less than courageous referee opted to turn a blind eye and wave play on.

Justice may have been done a little later when Freedman burst into the Wycombe box and went down under a challenge from Lewis Montrose only for the referee to ignore his protests. I couldn’t tell if it was a genuine penalty claim or not.

With two minutes to go, the Shrimpers almost got the winning goal they probably deserved on the balance of play. The ball broke to Lee Barnard inside the Wycombe box with keeper Scott Shearer stranded in no-man’s land, only for the striker to snatch at his shot, hooking it over the crossbar much to the relief of the Adams Park faithful.

As you would expect of a side that have finished in the top-eight for both of the last two seasons, Southend looked a better team than Wycombe. A point should therefore be considered a good result for the Chairboys, but it’s hard to be too enthusiastic after some of the basic errors and sloppy passing seen tonight from a team who still appear to be searching for a comfortable formation.

Man Of The Match

Michael Duberry