Date:Sunday April 26 2009
The finishing line is in sight for Wycombe Wanderers but today's 1-1 draw at Port Vale sees the race to League One continue for another week.
With Bury and Exeter also drawing this afternoon, the Chairboys only need to avoid defeat at home to Notts County next Saturday in order to achieve promotion.
Manager Peter Taylor made four changes to the team that beat Luton Town on Tuesday, with Chris Zebroski, Lee Sawyer, Tommy Doherty and Matt Bloomfield coming in for Lewwis Spence, John Mousinho, Matt Phillips and Jon-Paul Pittman.
The Chairboys lined up in a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation as follows:
Hunt McCracken Sinclair Woodman
Zebroski Sawyer Doherty Holt(71) Bloomfield(61)
Subs: Jones Oliver Phillips(61) Pittman(78) Beavon(71)
The travelling Wycombe support made their way to Vale Park this afternoon hoping for a promotion party, only to return home grateful for Lee Sawyer's late equaliser which ensures they only need a point next Saturday in order to finish the season ahead of rivals Exeter City and Bury.
It was all-change yet again when Peter Taylor's starting line-up was announced, with Gary Holt the only survivor from the five-man midfield that played against Luton on Tuesday.
No-one was surprised, or indeed bothered, that Lewwis Spence and John Mousinho had been dropped, but there was much wailing and gnashing when it became apparent that attacking threat Jon-Paul Pittman had been relegated to the bench.
If the crowd were concerned that the Chairboys would sit back and show their opponents too much respect, the opening 15 minutes helped to put their minds at rest.
Wycombe started well, patiently building-up from the back as they looked for an early goal to settle their nerves. The first opportunity fell to Matt Bloomfield when he was put through with only the keeper to beat.
No-one would have been prouder than Bloomfield to score a promotion-winning goal, but his finishing-touch has deserted him this season and his shot was parried out to Lee Sawyer, whose first-time effort screwed wide of the post.
As the game progressed without Wycombe scoring, the home side began to grow in confidence and they enjoyed a good spell of pressure just before the half-hour mark. Several corners in a row caused some trepidation among the visiting fans but Vale's Danny Glover headed their best chance wide of the target.
The Blues immediately rallied and John 'one chance' Akinde should have done better than firing his shot straight at the keeper when given a clear sight of goal.
The best Wycombe effort of the first half came after 34 minutes when Lee Sawyer advanced on goal before arrowing a low drive toward the corner of the net which Vale keeper Chris Martin did well to save.
At half time things were looking quite good. Exeter were losing, Bury weren't winning and Wycombe had created the better chances in this match. Everyone was quietly optimistic.
The first inking that it might not be Wycombe's day came after 55 minutes.
Craig Woodman's corner was deftly headed down by Blues' captain David McCracken only to be cleared off the line by a Vale defender who obviously hadn't read the script.
Immediately afterwards, McCracken's central defensive partner Frank Sinclair popped up on the edge of the area and curled in a beautiful shot which only just drifted wide of the post with keeper Martin beaten.
By this time, news was in that Exeter were winning and to make matters worse, the Port Vale party-poopers promptly opened the scoring.
No-one cleared a Vale corner and the ball dropped for Lee Collins at the back post to happily stroke it into the net. It was the cue for a moment of stunned silence from the Wycombe supporters and it seemed to take the goal-starved home crowd by surprise too.
The visiting fans soon rallied though and they were singing again before their team even kicked-off. Meanwhile Matty Phillips came on for Matt Bloomfield.
It could have been two for Port Vale a few minutes later when Jamie Young couldn't hold a shot from Paul Marshall, but the keeper made amends by recovering well to keep out Glover's follow-up effort.
Stuart Beavon came on to replace Gary Holt as Wycombe stepped-up their search for an equaliser, but Vale would have scored the next goal if David McCracken hadn't exacted a little revenge by clearing a shot off the line himself.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Wycombe crowd were convinced their side should have had a free kick and then a penalty. Chris Zebroski cut in from the right and appeared to be scythed down outside the box, but with nothing given, Lee Sawyer took possession and ran into the area only to be brought down by a Vale defender. It looked nailed-on from where I was standing but the referee was unconvinced and booked Sawyer for diving.
Manager Taylor's last throw of the dice saw Jon-Paul Pittman enter the fray in place of John Akinde.
Although it hadn't been one of his better performances, Akinde's departure caused a bit of an uproar among the fans. Desperate for an equaliser, they saw the big striker as the type of player who can be anonymous all game and yet still pop-up with a crucial goal.
No-one was complaining about the introduction of Pittman though and it only took JP two minutes to reward the fans' faith in him. Collecting a pass on the left side of the area, Pittman showed great control to go past a defender and make for the by-line before stopping and spraying a delightful pass into the path of Lee Sawyer.
It was no more than the energetic young midfielder deserved when he guided the ball into the net for the equalising goal. Sawyer had been magnificent again today and it was no coincidence that he was in the right place at the right time to convert the cross.
Wycombe had the better of the final ten minutes but couldn't make it count and when the final whistle went, we all knew we faced another seven days of anxiety.
Wycombe Man Of The Match
Date:Sunday April 26 2009
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