Date:Saturday March 21 2009
Wycombe Wanderers' miserable 2009 continued at Adams Park this afternoon when they were played off the park by a Rochdale side who deservedly took all three points after scoring the only goal of the game in the 90th minute.
Today's defeat means the Chairboys drop out of the Automatic promotion places for the first time since the opening month of the campaign.
Manager Peter Taylor made three changes to the side that drew at Brentford last Saturday, with Lewis Hunt returning in place of Chris Casement, Lee Sawyer coming in for the suspended Tommy Doherty and Matty Phillips replacing John Mousinho.
The Chairboys lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows:
Hunt Antwi Johnson Woodman
Phillips(59) Sawyer Holt Spence(45)
Subs: Young Oliver Mousinho(45) Zebroski(59) Pittman(76)
Wycombe lost the midfield battle today and were fortunate to get away with such a narrow defeat.
Rochdale performed like a team who know each other's game. Their midfield sprayed the ball around with ease and linked up well with their strikers. The visitors' first thought when winning the ball was to go forward in numbers and their players' movement off the ball always offered options to the man in possession.
The Chairboys on the other hand, played like they had all met for the first time yesterday. Stringing two passes together without losing the ball seemed beyond them and the only link between midfield and attack usually came in the form of a 60 yard punt.
Rochdale could have had the game sewn up by half time on the balance of play. Le Fondre, Thorpe and Jones all had several attempts on goal for the visitors, before Wycombe keeper Marek Stech made a stunning save after 30 minutes. Scott Wiseman's 20 yard screamer was headed for the top corner of the net until Stech reacted brilliantly to make a flying save.
The Chairboys were playing so deep by now it was almost an open invitation for Rochdale to attack them at will. The only respite was coming from long clearances which asked a lot of Matt Harrold and John Akinde who were becoming increasingly isolated in attack.
Despite the gulf in class between the two sides' performances today, Wycombe did have two good chances to score in the first half.
Last season's keeper Frank Fielding came back to haunt the Chairboys after 20 minutes when he somehow kept the ball out of the net and showed great reactions to save efforts from Lee Sawyer and Matt Harrold during a goalmouth scramble.
Ten minutes later, Fielding nearly became the villain for Rochdale fans when he was dispossessed well outside his penalty area by Wycombe striker Matt Harrold. Advancing on goal with Fielding chasing after him, Harrold had two obvious choices. Shoot and score, or square the ball to the unmarked John Akinde and give him a simple tap-in. Harrold chose neither and instead tried to walk the ball into the net, which allowed Fielding to catch him up and clear the danger.
At half time Peter Taylor brought on John Mousinho in place of Lewwis Spence who had been so ineffective during the first forty-five minutes that Wycombe were as good as playing with ten men.
For a while at the start of the second half, Rochdale seemed to take their foot off the pedal and allow Wycombe back into the game. However, despite finally enjoying some possession, the Chairboys were unable to craft much in the way of chances.
Akinde did muscle his way into the box shortly after the restart, but his cross was fired into the side netting by debutante Lee Sawyer.
Before long Wycombe were sitting back again and Rochdale were once more attacking with impunity, although they were being restricted to a series of long range shots which rarely threatened the goal.
Chris Zebroski replaced Matty Phillips after an hour. The youngster hadn't seen too much of the ball but had shown glimpses of his trickery during the game, albeit with little end product.
Stech was again the Wycombe hero when he made a great save from Adam Rundle after 65 minutes.
With 15 minutes remaining, Jon-Paul Pittman replaced Akinde who had looked Wycombe's most dangerous player by far. JP's introduction didn't have much effect on the game though, as the ball rarely made it out of the Wycombe half.
Just when it looked like Wycombe might grab themselves an undeserved point, Rochdale popped up with a 90th minute winner.
Stech had undoubtedly kept Wycombe in this game but his kicking had been dire at times, particularly in the second half and it was to prove very costly for the Chairboys.
As everyone moved up-field, Stech's awful, sliced clearance fell at the feet of the unmarked Adam Rundle on the left wing. The Rochdale man couldn't believe his luck and quickly ran to the edge of the penalty area before firing the ball back across goal. Four Wycombe defenders had raced back to cover but the ball stuck under their feet, allowing the onrushing Adam Le Fondre to fire home a deserved winner.
Rochdale were good value for their victory and looked every inch a promotion winning team. They played flowing football with a purpose. Each player seemed to know where he fitted into the formation and they attacked and defended as a team. Very impressive.
Wycombe were awful today and the root of the problem is their midfield, which consistently fails to dovetail with the strikers. Doherty being suspended doesn't help, but the problems were there anyway.
They climbed to the top of League Two in the first half of the season playing a 4-5-1 formation which usually saw them control the centre of midfield through sheer weight of numbers.
Since the new year, the Chairboys have steadily dropped down the table after adopting a 4-4-2 formation which brutally exposes their shortcomings in the middle of the park.
It's beginning to look like a blind spot in Peter Taylor's team building. For example, how the consistently abysmal Lewwis Spence can regularly start when Matt Bloomfield can't even make the bench is one of life's mysteries.
On a positive note, Lee Sawyer looked useful at times today. Hard tackling and keen to get forward, he could be exactly what we need when fully match fit.
John Akinde again looked dangerous, particularly when he received the ball to his feet, which didn't happen often enough today.
Best Wycombe defender today
Wycombe Man Of The Match
Saved Wycombe from a thrashing
Date:Saturday March 21 2009
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Stats: Luton Town v Wycombe Wanderers (Tuesday March 24 2015)
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