Date:Saturday January 3 2009
Wycombe Wanderers started 2009 as their fans hope they mean to continue it, winning all 3 points and extending their lead at the top of League Two to 8 points after a 2-1 victory over fellow promotion contenders Bury at Adams Park .
Blues manager Peter Taylor made two changes from the side which drew at Gillingham last Sunday. Leon Crooks was given a rare start at right-back in place of the injured David McCracken and Gary Holt replaced the suspended Tommy Doherty in midfield.
The Chairboys lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows:
Crooks Williamson Johnson Woodman
Phillips(72) Bloomfield Holt Spence
Subs: Young Antwi Mousinho(72) Ashton Vieira(83)
The first half contained few chances for either side but it was noticeable that Wycombe had learned their lesson after giving the ball away too easily throughout last week's game against Gillingham. Today the Chairboys were playing a patient passing game as they began to probe at the Shakers in search of the opening goal.
The 4-4-2 formation meant that Wycombe target-man Matt Harrold had support in closer proximity than usual and Angelo Balanta's exceptional close control was causing concern in the Bury defence as he fed off the big striker.
A Phillips free kick after 11 minutes caused a commotion in the Bury box when Shakers' keeper Wayne Brown mishandled the ball at the back post allowing Mike Williamson to send it back into the danger area only for the visitors to finally scramble it clear.
The midfield battle was hotting-up as the first half progressed and at the heart of it all was Matt Bloomfield whose tenacious performance today was his best yet since returning to the side following his long absence through injury.
Wycombe had been the more adventurous side in the first half and it was no more than they deserved when they were rewarded with the opening goal after 35 minutes. Balanta's clever pass sent Lewwis Spence clear in the box and as Shakers' keeper Wayne Brown came out to meet him, Spence cut the ball back for Matt Harrold to fire home what was a very well worked goal.
The second half began with Bury in a more attacking frame of mind. If they had been content to soak up any Wycombe pressure in the first half, they weren't now and manager Alan Knill had obviously told them to come out fighting after the break.
The Shakers had been forced to change their keeper at half time, with Cameron Belford replacing Wayne Brown and the new man between the sticks was called into action only 4 minutes later. A Matt Bloomfield shot from just outside the box was deflected into the path of Angelo Balanta, but the youngster didn't strike it as cleanly as he would have liked and Belford was able to make a comfortable save.
Both sides were battling hard to gain the upper hand at this stage and the tension rose as the game became more physical. Indeed, Bury midfielder Elliot Bennett was fortunate to stay on the pitch after raising his hands to Craig Woodman following an innocuous tangle between the two players in the 55th minute.
The Shakers had enjoyed their fair share of the possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half without actually threatening to score, but Wycombe took the wind out of their sails with the second goal of the game. Matt Harrold did well to control a cross on the right of the Bury box and turning goalwards he fired in a low shot. Belford was down quickly and seemed to have saved it, before spilling the ball to the grateful Angelo Balanta who audaciously clipped it over the prone keeper and into the net.
The visitors pushed forward to try and salvage something from the game and felt hard-done-by when the referee didn't award them a penalty after 70 minutes with the Shakers convinced that Mike Williamson had handled in the box.
With the comfort of a two goal lead, Wycombe began to sit back a little too deeply and almost invite Bury to break them down, which for all their efforts, the Shakers seemed incapable of doing for themselves. In fact it was two Wycombe defenders who finally troubled their own goalkeeper.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, the home side had their first real scare of the game when a long ball into the box glanced off the top of Leon Crooks' head and forced a good save from keeper Scott Shearer to prevent the ball dropping under the bar for an own goal.
Not to be denied however, Wycombe did manage to make things difficult for themselves by scoring an own goal in the 88th minute and setting up a nervous finale. A cross into the box should have been comfortably dealt with by Mike Williamson, who was under no pressure at all. Having another great game up until that point, Williamson seemed to try and control the ball on his chest, but only succeeded in knocking it into the net with his arm.
Wycombe saw out the remainder of the game without further incident to take another valuable three points.
This was an entertaining game although shots on target were in short supply from both sides. On the balance of play, Wycombe were good value for all three points and their overall performance was much better than in the previous two games against Exeter and Gillingham.
Bury played some neat football at times but like so many League Two sides, they weren't impressive in the final third of the pitch.
The Wycombe defence handled everything the Shakers had to offer today and were unlucky to concede a freak own goal. The midfield worked well together with Holt and Bloomfield winning the battle in the centre and Phillips looking dangerous on the right before fading away in the second half. Spence once again gave us glimpses of his talent in an otherwise frustrating performance. Up front Harrold and Balanta linked-up well on several occasions and always looked threatening.
Flawless first half performance
Man Of The Match
Date:Saturday January 3 2009
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