Date:Saturday October 18 2008
Somehow Wycombe Wanderers remain unbeaten and top of the table, following their worst league performance so far this season.
With the last kick of the game, The Chairboys salvaged an undeserved 1-1 draw against Darlington at Adams Park, courtesy of a 96th minute penalty, awarded by inept referee David Phillips.
Manager Peter Taylor made three changes from last Saturday's starting line-up. Lewwis Spence, Scott McGleish and new loan-signing Franck Moussa came into the side in place of John Mousinho, Gavin Grant and the suspended Tommy Doherty.
The shape of the side was difficult to fathom today. At first glance it appeared that Wycombe were playing a rare 4-4-2 formation, with Zebroski and Spence supposedly providing the width. After a while it resembled a 4-3-3 with Spence tucked inside and Zebroski playing a free role. Whatever it was supposed to be, it failed. The midfield battle was won by the Quakers from early in the game.
Central midfield is the engine room of a team and so far this season Doherty and Mousinho have performed admirably. Replacing them with Moussa, who was making his Wycombe debut and Holt, who had only played 180 minutes of football all season, was a gamble, - and it didn't work.
Darlington dominated possession throughout the match and really should have finished the Blues off long before the late equaliser.
The first half was a tedious affair, most notable for the physical approach adopted by the visitors and the failure of the referee to take control of the game. This lenience was to come back and haunt the official in the second half.
Wycombe had the best chance of the first period. A Darlington defender slipped, and suddenly McGleish was bearing down on the Quakers' goal with Harrold and Zebroski in support. McGleish fed Harrold, who slipped the ball to the unmarked Zebroski 6 yards out. As the crowd prepared to celebrate, Zebroski somehow contrived to hit the outside of the post. This was a sign of things to come for Zebroski who failed to impress throughout the game and capped his performance by being sent off.
Darlington worked the ball well in the first half but rarely threatened the Wycombe goal. Scourge of the Blues, Liam Hatch, came the closest towards half time, heading wide in the 38th minute and then firing straight at Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer 5 minutes later.
Any Wycombe fans hopeful of an improved second half performance were to be sadly disappointed.
Leon Johnson, who had been hurt in the first half, did not come out for the second period. Mousinho took his place and slotted in at Right Back, with McCracken moving to central defence. Then, after 49 minutes the ineffective Spence was replaced by Matty Phillips.
In the 57th minute Darlington took the lead to no-one's surprise. A neat chip into the box from Purdie was expertly slotted home by Jason Kennedy as the static Wycombe defence looked on.
Hatch, who loves to score against Wycombe, had another couple of efforts after the hour-mark. His first was comfortably saved and he headed his second over the crossbar.
Matt Harrold had a half-chance for Wycombe in the 69th minute. He did well to connect with a Phillips cross and force keeper Brown to tip the shot over the bar. The Quakers however, were soon back on the attack and Hatch, then Burgmeier had long range shots which missed the target.
In the 73rd minute, Nathan Ashton replaced Franck Moussa, who had shown little to excite Wanderers' fans and whose partnership with Holt in midfield had been bereft of creativity all afternoon.
The game had been riddled with niggly fouls which had gone unpunished by a weak referee. It had been threatening to boil over on a few occasions and finally did so in the 76th minute.
Darlington's Tim Ryan and Chris Zebroski squared up to each other outside the Quakers box. Ryan appeared to butt Zebroski and both players fell to the ground. Referee Phillips immediately showed Ryan a red card. By this time however, everyone was squaring up to each other and a melee ensued. Whilst the referee attempted to regain some control, Zebroski seemed to lose the plot and lash out at Matt Harrold, who was presumably trying to calm him down. Out came the red card again as Zebroski compounded a poor display by leaving Wycombe a striker short for the next three games.
The remainder of the game was played out in segments as the Quakers tried every time wasting trick in the book, including injured players who miraculously recovered as soon as they limped off the field of play. Meanwhile, Wycombe looked like they could have played until Christmas and still not scored.
When the referee allowed 6 minutes of added time, the crowd tried to lift the Wycombe team. It was more in hope than expectation.
After 94 mins the Quakers slowly made a substitution and all hope seemed gone.
Then in the 96th minute Matt Harrold surged into the box and was brought down by Foster, the referee pointed to the spot and the crowd roared. Up stepped Scott McGleish to ram a low firm penalty into the back of the net. The unbeaten record was intact.
The Blues deserved nothing out of this game. Darlington were tidy but not particularly special, yet they made today's Wycombe team look ordinary. The performance was flat and lethargic, with none of the vitality seen in recent home performances.
If we keep playing like that, we won't stay unbeaten for long.
Next-up, bogey team Barnet, who today found their form with a 4-3 victory away at Rotherham.
Men Of The Match
Scott McGleish & Matt Harrold
Both worked hard with little support
Date:Saturday October 18 2008
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