Wycombe Tame Shrews
Wycombe Wanderers handed their fans an early Christmas present after a thoroughly professional performance gave them a 1-0 win at the home of promotion rivals Shrewsbury Town.
Other results also went Wycombe's way and Peter Taylor's boys will tuck into their Christmas turkey nine points clear at the top of League Two.
The hero of the hour was big centre forward Matt Harrold whose outstanding performance as the lone target-man was rewarded when he headed home the only goal of the game ten minutes after the break.
Wycombe were without injured defender Mike Williamson, while Angelo Balanta was only considered fit enough for a place on the bench. The Blues lined up in a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation as follows:
Hunt McCracken Johnson Woodman
Church Bloomfield Doherty Holt Phillips
Subs: Young Mousinho Spence Balanta Vieira
The first half was an evenly balanced affair which produced few chances for either side. Wycombe's best effort came as early as the 8th minute when a Doherty free-kick fell to Lewis Hunt 22 yards from goal. The full back took the opportunity to go for goal and his rocket-shot was only kept out by the crossbar with Shrewsbury keeper Luke Daniels well beaten.
The Shrews began to exert some pressure and a shot from Paul Murray after 15 minutes had Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer scrambling across his goal as the ball flashed past his left-hand post.
With 25 minutes gone the Shrewsbury keeper nearly presented Wycombe with the opening goal. Daniels came out of his box to clear the ball but could only knock it to Matty Phillips. The youngster quickly laid the ball off to Simon Church whose shot was going in until Shrews' defender Kevin Langmead cleared it off the line.
Matt Bloomfield got on the end of a Phillips cross in the 35th minute but could only put his header wide.
Shrewsbury had their best chance of the half in the 41st minute. A free kick into the box was cleverly flicked on by Grant Holt and would've only needed the slightest of touches from Langmead at the far post for the Shrews to take the lead. Fortunately for Wycombe the ball evaded everyone and slipped past the post for a goal kick.
The second half was only 10 minutes old when Harrold's winning goal had the visiting fans on their feet. As Phillips prepared to take a corner, Harrold tussled with his ever-present marker on the edge of the box before timing his run to perfection, climbing high and heading home from close range.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Shrews for a while and Wycombe had their best spell of the game, passing the ball about nicely with Doherty pulling the strings in midfield. During this period of pressure the Blues really should have increased their lead.
After 69 minutes Matty Phillips flashed a shot wide of the post when a simple pass to the unmarked Simon Church would surely have resulted in the second goal.
Shrewsbury regained their composure and began to improve, but it was Wycombe who had the next clear-cut chance. The ball dropped to Matt Harrold on the edge of the box after 79 minutes and for once he probably had the time to take an extra touch, but he rushed his shot and his frustration with himself was evident as he watched the ball narrowly miss the target with the keeper beaten.
The remainder of the game was all Shrewsbury as they set about Wycombe in search of the equaliser. Chairboys' keeper Scott Shearer was solid all afternoon and earned his corn with several important saves as the game came to a close. The meanest defence in the division also did their bit and no matter what was thrown at them in the closing stages, they stood firm.
The travelling fans had come to life after Harrold's goal and they played their part by noisily encouraging their team to see the game out and take home three more valuable points.
This was a fantastic result for Wycombe and no more than they deserved after a gutsy but controlled performance. Shearer had a good game, the Defence was organised and disciplined, the midfield were hard working and tenacious and the forwards kept the Shrews' defenders on their toes.
Man Of The Match
He must go home covered in bruises after every game and gives Wycombe everything they need from a target-man at this level.