Wycombe Wanderers: Half Term Report
With Wycombe Wanderers now exactly half way through their 2008/09 league season, here's Vital Wycombe's appraisal of how things have gone so far.
Top of the table with 46 points collected from 23 games, the Chairboys have shown promotion form and have a healthy average of exactly 2 points per game. Wycombe fans have never had it so good mid-way through the season since they joined the Football League. The previous best tally at the half-way stage was the 45 points accrued by Martin O'Neill's side in the 1994/95 season.
The Premier League and Football League consists of 92 clubs and 55 of them have seen their average attendance so far this season drop below last season's average. Wycombe are one of the lucky 37 clubs who have seen their average attendance improve. So far this season the Chairboys' average is 4,852 which is a 2.2% increase on last season's figure of 4,746.
Having taken over a club where morale was low following last seasons' play-off failure and the surprise resignation of previous manager Paul Lambert, new boss Peter Taylor has done a remarkable job steering Wycombe to the top of League Two. A record of only one defeat in the first half of the season is a testament to the way he has recruited fresh blood, organised his side and rebuilt a strong team spirit.
With 13 clean sheets so far this season, this department can be proud of it's contribution.
Signed by previous boss Paul Lambert, Shearer only put in a few appearances last season before suffering a serious injury. He didn't inspire confidence in the supporters during those early games and so when he reappeared this season as Taylor's first choice keeper, he had a lot of work to do to win over the Chairboys' fans. Some suspect handling at the start of this season didn't help his cause, but he has gone on to perform solidly and has done enough to silence his critics and justify his manager's faith in him. Shearer's kicking is one of his main strengths and he already has 2 assists to his name so far this season.
The popular Australian has had a bit of a nightmare season so far. Overlooked for the number-one slot, Young has only started two games this season, conceding 4 against Birmingham and picking the ball out of the net no fewer than 7 times against Shrewsbury in the JP Trophy, although the whole team must shoulder their share of the responsibility for that particular performance.
Having only conceded 13 league goals so far, Wycombe's defensive record is only bettered by Manchester United and Chelsea, both of whom have played fewer games.
The Wycombe left back has been an ever-present member of the team and has played his part in making the Chairboy's defence the best in the division. Woodman has 1 goal and 2 assists to his name and if he could only improve his final ball when in the opposition's half, he would be an even greater asset to the team.
Now back to his best after missing most of last season through injury, Williamson is the man Wycombe fans fear they may lose in the January transfer window. His towering defensive displays have been supplemented by 3 goals and 1 assist. His goals came early in the season and it would seem that opposition defences now have him down as a marked man when defending set pieces against the Blues. Williamson has even delighted his fans this season with a few mazy dribbles not normally associated with League Two centre backs.
Another Lambert signing who had to work hard to win over the fans, McCracken is the captain of the side and has looked a much improved player this season. The first few months of the campaign saw him operating out of position as a right back and whilst he understandably didn't overlap much, he did a thoroughly professional job as the Chairboys got off to a flying start, only conceding 3 league goals in the first 9 games. Since reverting to centre back, McCracken has put in some man-of-the-match performances but is still prone to the occasional howler as witnessed at Eastwood.
Extremely unlucky to have lost his place for a while through injury, Johnson has been terrific every time he's played. His central defensive partnership with Williamson has been the best one statistically, with fewer goals per game conceded when those two have played together. Johnson has also scored 2 goals so far this season.
Injury prevented Hunt from making his debut until October but since then he has slotted in very nicely. A competent defender, he is also comfortable in possession and likes to go forward, characteristics which have seen him already contribute 1 goal and 1 assist in his short spell at Wycombe.
This is possibly the area of the team which has been subjected to the most changes of personnel during the season. Wycombe are blessed with a plethora of solid midfielders and their dominance of possession is a contributing factor to the team's good defensive record. On the other hand, this area of the team has fallen short when it comes to scoring goals, with only 3 between them so far this season.
Doherty has been the engine room of the Chairboys' midfield. Calm, cool and collected, the Doc has pulled the strings for Wycombe with his intelligent passing whilst at the same time breaking up the opposition play. His combative style has seen him pick up 1 red and 6 yellow cards. He has 1 assist to his name but has yet to score this season.
After expressing his unhappiness at Lambert's departure in the Summer, Holt has buckled down and his good understanding with Doherty in central midfield has provided excellent protection to the Wycombe back four. Holt makes good forward runs but his composure in front of goal has let him down on several occasions. Holt has 1 assist but hasn't yet found the net.
Spence's sweet left foot has proved useful from set pieces and he has contributed 2 goals as well as having 3 assists to his name. The biggest drawback with the youngster is that the game too often seems to pass him by. He is forever chasing shadows but hopefully his reading of the game will improve as he gets more matches under his belt.
During his loan-spell from Southend, Moussa had some good games and some stinkers. Clearly a quality prospect, when he was on form he looked well worth his place in the side and may have eventually proved to be the midfield goalscorer Wycombe are currently lacking.
His hard working and energetic style won him many friends among Chairboys' fans early in the season. Whether he has enough quality to cement a permanent place in midfield remains to be seen. Mousinho has scored 1 league goal and provided 2 assists in the FA Cup win over AFC Wimbledon.
Still working his way back to full fitness following his long absence through injury, the best of Bloomfield is yet to come this season. Sunday's freak goal against Gillingham only happened because Matt was doing what he does best, giving 100% and chasing a ball others may have considered a lost cause. Wycombe through and through, it's a big plus to have Bloomfield back for the second half of the season and he could be the man to start chipping in with some goals from midfield.
Wide Players / Forwards
Wycombe have been unlucky recently with the enforced absence of two of their pacier players who both started the season so well in the wide positions.
Not everyone's cup of tea with his ungainly style and sometimes diabolical first touch, Zebroski doesn't get the appreciation he deserves. His workrate is exemplary and he covers every inch of the field, never giving the opposition any peace. His pace and willingness to run make him a useful escape outlet for the team when they're under pressure and his goalscoring rate isn't bad either. It's no coincidence that Wycombe's performances have seemed more pedestrian in recent weeks during his absence. Zebroski has 6 goals and 2 assists to his name.
Grant was doing a good job on the right wing and his pace was an asset to the team. He had a powerful shot as well and was just beginning to use it more often when he suddenly disappeared off the radar in October 'due to personal reasons'.
Grant's absence has meant more opportunity for Matty Phillips and the youngster is coming along very nicely. His ability is clear to see and hopefully in time he will present a threat to the opposition for the entire game instead of fading away as is currently the case. Phillips has scored 2 goals and provided 3 assists.
On loan from QPR, Balanta has already shown Wycombe fans how much ability he possesses. He has also scored 2 stunning goals in the process and is credited with 2 assists. All he has to do now in order to be remembered fondly by Chairboys fans in years to come, is keep knocking them in and start looking as if he actually wants to be here.
Ashton has made 1 start and 6 substitute appearances but has so far failed to make a favourable impression. Looks a little lightweight for League Two.
Like John Sutton but this time with the batteries included, Matt Harrold has given Wycombe a powerful presence up front this season. A target-man is not all about scoring goals and Harrold has used his strength and movement to cause opposition defences all sorts of problems, holding the ball up well and bringing others into play. He's also found his shooting boots and has 9 goals to his name after only 15 starts in all competitions.
Bad luck has marked Church's loan spells as a Wycombe player. His first loan was curtailed when he was sent off and suspended for 3 games and he'd only just come back again when he broke his hand in training. A player of obvious quality, the Reading starlet has yet to enjoy a decent run of games in the blue quarters and indeed is yet to score. Whether he comes back to Wycombe again in January remains to be seen.
Already out of favour with Chairboys fans following an unwise outburst in the wake of Lambert's departure, last season's top scorer did himself no favours with new boss Peter Taylor by reacting petulantly to being substituted or left on the bench. As a result, McGleish was soon farmed out on loan to Northampton, having found the net for Wycombe 3 times before his departure.
Vieira has had limited opportunities having only started 3 games and come on from the bench 11 times. Another tireless runner, he seemed too easily knocked off the ball in his early appearances but lately has impressed a little more. His 2 goals against Macclesfield in early December will have done his confidence the world of good.
A great first half to the season. To only lose one league game so far is a remarkable achievement. Performances should pick up again with the return of Zebroski and some targeted loan-market activity by manager Peter Taylor in January. Let's hope 2009 is the year we return to League One.
Happy New Year