Date: 19 November 2011
Well this was a great day out. An easy car ride to Wycombe and a nice pub with good parking facilities round it, top class home-cooked hot meals (surprisingly inexpensive), a range of beers and friendly bar staff and clientele. Quite mild weather at lunch time and throughout the first half. And of course a win; three points are always welcome!
So what reservations do I have? Well firstly the infrastructure at Adams Park - even though all the staff are very friendly and bag searches are non-existent - leave a lot to be desired. For the second away match in a row, I and many of the away fans missed the kick-off despite arriving at the ground with a quarter of an hour to spare. Several turnstiles weren’t even open (surely they could have transferred some staff from the home end, at least after the home fans were all safely inside the ground?) and they weren’t displaying the ticket price (£22) before fans got to the front of the queue, so we couldn’t help things along by having the right change ready. The second reservation is about the weather: for my second Saturday game in a row the temperature plummeted after half-time, in other words once the sun had set. And thirdly, three quarters of a match is a very long time to hold onto a 1-0 lead: this could so easily have gone horribly wrong at the death.
Bradbury had reverted to the 4-4-1-1 system that’s served us well recently. In other words, most of the changes forced by players being cup-tied or unavailable for cup games (either FA or the Johnstone Paint Trophy) were reversed; so perhaps the only surprise was that Francis, a dedicated right-back, was preferred over Peters who has stood in, in that position, recently. Francis had a good game too, as did many of our players. Throughout the first half it was Purches who particularly shone; reading the game well, putting in some excellent passes and keeping a level head whilst all around him were losing theirs! Up front, Thomas and Fogden caused the Wycombe defence problems, and both had scoring opportunities, at one stage Thomas unselfishly playing in Fogden who unfortunately missed the target. Cook was looking strong in central defence again, and got forward for corners. After one such kick in the 19th minute he actually got in a decent shot, a header, but it sailed wide of the target.
But all this came to nothing until exactly half way through the first half when a Malone cross managed to bypass several defenders and find Pugh at the far post, who safely put the ball in the net. No-one would thought this would be the only goal of the game; and indeed based on recent matches Wycombe should have fancied their chances of equalising any time up to the 95th minute! But in practice Wycombe just weren’t good enough, and their fans who drifted away some time before the final whistle presumably knew that.
Meanwhile, the other talking point of the first half was in the 34th minute when Malone tugged a Wycombe shirt in the penalty area and felled the player in question. The penalty kick was unquestionably justified, but Flahavan made a massive drama of putting on his gloves, spinning the process out for what seemed like minutes, and the referee allowed this. Beavon, deputed to take the spot kick, looked cool enough when he first placed the ball on the spot, but all Flahavan’s antics gradually unnerved him. By the time the referee blew his whistle, Beavon merely succeeded in hoofing the ball high into the away end - and we’d been reprieved! Flahavan hadn’t saved the penalty as such, but he’d certainly done enough to prevent it being scored. So 1-0 to us remained the score up to half time.
Wycombe started well in the second half, and ended well too, but in between these times we did push for a second goal - to no avail. Wycombe made substitutions, but we didn’t need to. Symes and Sheringham warmed up - and the away fans made a point of singing Sheringham’s name whilst ignoring Symes! In response to this, Bradbury sent Sheringham onto the pitch first. By pure chance, Thomas’ best scoring chance of the game came at the very moment he was substituted, eight minutes from ‘normal’ time! A brilliantly worked manoeuvre on Bournemouth’s right flank resulted in Thomas - from what looked like the perfect position - heading the ball into the post. By the time the game re-started Sheringham had replaced Thomas, and they’d both received ovations from the travelling contingent. A little later Fogden was brought off to an even bigger cheer, and Symes came on to stony silence. Five minutes of injury time seemed worrying to us, but the players kept tight and wasted a lot of time alongside the corner flag whilst the clock ticked down. The fans gave their team a great reception at the end, and we left happy - while knowing, deep down, that we’ll meet much tougher opposition than this in the course of the season. Our league position remained unchanged (16th), but we’d pulled a little further away from the drop zone in terms of points.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):