Date:Friday December 26 2008
Wycombe Wanderers had their lead at the top of League Two reduced to seven points after they could only draw 1-1 with Exeter City at Adams Park this afternoon.
Chairboys' manager Peter Taylor made one change from the side which won at Shrewsbury last week, with Angelo Balanta returning from injury to replace Simon Church who has come to the end of his loan-spell and rejoined parent club Reading.
Wycombe lined up in their familiar 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 formation as follows:
Hunt (49) McCracken Johnson Woodman
Phillips (84) Bloomfield (64) Doherty Holt Balanta
Subs: Young Mousinho (49) Spence (64) Ashton (84) Vieira
The match kicked off in front of Wycombe's biggest home crowd of the season and for the first 20 minutes the Chairboys' fans were glad they had made the effort as their team took the game to Exeter, playing some excellent passing football and utilising their wide-men Balanta and Phillips to good effect.
After 3 minutes, Phillips beat his man on the right-flank before sending in a superb cross which was just inches too high for Matt Bloomfield to be able to direct his header on target.
The early pressure paid off in the 5th minute when another good passing move by the home side ended with Angelo Balanta cleverly flicking the ball into the path of Matt Harrold. As the big striker surged goalwards, Daniel Seaborne's attempt to stop him in his tracks didn't impress referee Gavin Ward who immediately pointed to the spot. Harrold took the penalty himself and made no mistake, firmly planting the ball low into the corner of the net to the keeper's left.
Wycombe continued to put Exeter under pressure and a series of dangerous crosses from Phillips caused problems for the visitors' defence. Then in the 13th minute Matt Harrold turned well to volley a shot on target and 3 minutes later Balanta went on a mazy run but could only pull his shot wide of the post.
During the opening quarter of the game Exeter had offered nothing for Wycombe to be concerned about and you felt that if the home side managed to score the second goal which their play deserved, they would surely go on to win the match.
Then after 20 minutes it all changed and Wycombe began to serve up a lethargic display which was unworthy of a table-topping side.
Too many players looked like they had overdone the turkey and mince pies. The passing became careless and the energy seemed to drain from Wycombe's performance, handing Exeter the opportunity to run the show.
Only a goal-line clearance from Dave McCracken stopped the Grecians from equalising before half time. In the 35th minute a Marcus Stewart cross found Ryan Harley unmarked in the Wycombe box and a goal looked certain, but his shot was weak and the Wycombe captain was able to stop it crossing the line.
The second half began with a period of heavy pressure from Exeter who had by now realised that they could take at least a draw from this game.
The inevitable equaliser came after 56 minutes and although it had a touch of luck about it, it was no more than the visitors deserved. Leon Johnson attempted to clear a dangerous loose ball in the Wycombe box but only succeeded in smashing it against Exeter's Manny Panther who knew little about it as the ball bounced off his torso, high into the back of the net.
The Chairboys almost regained the lead 5 minutes later when a wickedly placed Phillips corner caused problems for Exeter keeper Jones who seemed to have dropped the ball over the line. Despite a section of the crowd cheering and the Wycombe players beginning to celebrate, the referee was having none of it and waved play on.
Exeter continued to look the better side as they searched for a winner and with both Gary Holt and Matt Bloomfield having bad days, Tommy Doherty seemed to be fighting the midfield battle single-handed.
Wycombe couldn't keep possession for long enough to do any damage. Matt Harrold was isolated up front but was also performing well below his recent standard and wasn't holding the ball up in his usual fashion.
For all Exeter's good football they weren't particularly threatening up front and despite all their probing, they didn't really trouble Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer.
With the score remaining level as the game entered the final 10 minutes, Wycombe began to perk up a little as they realised the 3 points were still there to be won.
The best chance either side had to settle the game fell to Wycombe in the final minute. Angelo Balanta's cross found Gary Holt unmarked and only six yards out. It looked easier to score but Holt's composure in front of goal deserted him yet again and his mishit header was easily saved by Exeter keeper Jones. It was Wycombe's final shot on target and only their second of the game.
When you play as poorly as Wycombe did today, you have to be grateful that you didn't get beaten. For the second home game in a row the Blues have taken a point from a game they could easily have lost. Manager Peter Taylor will no doubt be hoping for a vast improvement next Saturday when Bury visit Adams Park.
One big disappointment is that we finally get a decent home crowd of over 6,000, which presumably included some first-timers and potential new fans and then we put in one of our worst performances of the season.
Exeter played some attractive football today but seemed to lack a cutting edge. Their fans will no doubt feel they should have won the game, but in truth Wycombe were well below par and yet Shearer never had a save to make.
Kept going when others faded around him.
Defended well and unlucky with Exeter's goal
Man Of The Match
Solid as a rock today
Date:Friday December 26 2008
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