Wycombe Wanderers kept their survival hopes alive with a fully-deserved 2-0 win over Hartlepool United at Adams Park this afternoon.
The Chairboys were by far the better team, and during the second-half in particular, relentlessly attacked the Hartlepool goal with a determination epitomised by the superb performance of man-of-the-match Alex Revell.
The visitors came into this game on the back of two straight wins, but apart from a few isolated incidents they offered little going forward and Blues’ keeper Tom Heaton didn’t have a shot to save all afternoon.
There’s still a mountain to climb if Wycombe are to pull-off an unlikely great escape, but everyone at Adams Park this afternoon knew that failure to win this game would extinguish any remaining glimmer of hope.
Against that backdrop, it was a nervy start from the Chairboys who took time to settle and weren’t helped by yet another injury to their already threadbare defence. This week it was team-captain Adam Hinshelwood who hobbled off after only 18 minutes and with no recognised centre-half on the bench, he was replaced by full-back Lewis Hunt who has only occasionally played in central-defence at a previous club.
Slowly but surely the Blues began to warm to their task and they created several goalscoring opportunities during the first-half. A spectacular overhead kick from Gareth Ainsworth was just too high, as was a 20 yard drive from Lewis Montrose which came in the wake of a frustrating goalmouth scramble..
Alex Revell was playing like a man possessed, and after battling for the ball on the right flank he emerged from a challenge and cut back a superb cross from the bye-line which neither Jon-Paul Pittman nor Kevin Betsy were able to convert.
The second-half saw Wycombe lay siege to the Hartlepool goal and the longer it went on without them scoring, the more you couldn’t help thinking it was going to be another one of those days.
Hunt’s header from a corner hit the post. Several good balls flew across the face of the Hartlepool goal with no-one in position to convert them. Pittman volleyed a good chance wide of target. It was all so familiar and you fully expected the visitors to nip up the other end at any moment and score the only goal of the game to complete the sense of de ja vue.
But Wycombe kept at it and their persistence was rewarded when Pittman controlled a Craig Woodman cross before poking the ball home for the opening goal after 66 minutes.
Rather than sit back, the Chairboys went looking for a second goal and Alex Revell worked hard to win the ball on the left flank this time, only to see his audacious shot narrowly miss from an acute angle.
Not to be outdone, the lively Pittman robbed Pools’ keeper Scott Flinders on the right flank and after emerging with the ball, tried a shot from an impossible angle, when he might have been better exploring other options.
JP had been a handful for the Hartlepool defence all afternoon and received a well-deserved round of applause when he was replaced by Matt Phillips with 10 minutes to go.
But just a few moments later the home fans were collectively holding their breath and waiting for the worst to happen when the ball fell to Pools’ Andy Monkhouse totally unmarked inside the Wycombe penalty area. Thankfully, he was too slow to react and a horde of blue shirts piled-in to scramble the ball clear.
The crucial second goal was scored after 88 minutes by Matt Phillips. The youngster had looked lively since his introduction and after collecting a pass from Alex Revell he cleverly out-foxed a Pools’ defender before rifling the ball into the net in front of a delighted home terrace.
Now only seven points below 20th placed Leyton Orient, today’s result gives Wycombe some genuine hope. The Chairboys take on relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday evening, while at the same time Orient face league-leaders Norwich City. It’s not over yet.
Man of The Match – Alex Revell
Revell chased everything and battled for the ball as if his life depended on it. He also tracked back, made intelligent runs into wide positions, created chances for others and had several attempts on goal himself. It was the sort of performance you would expect from a long-serving player who couldn’t bear the thought of his club being relegated, not a loanee who’s only been here for five minutes.
Heaton, Mousinho, Hinshelwood (Hunt 18), Westwood, Woodman, Ainsworth, Bloomfield, Montrose, Betsy, Revell, Pittman (Phillips 80)