Zebroski Double not enough for Wycombe at Charlton
Wycombe Wanderers marked their return to League One this afternoon with a second-half fightback which very nearly earned them a point against Charlton Athletic at The Valley.
The final result may have been 3-2 to the Addicks but it was the home crowd who breathed a sigh of relief when the full-time whistle sounded, after the Chairboys had laid siege to their goal during the final stages of the game.
Wycombe manager Peter Taylor opted for a 4-5-1 (4-3-3) formation and the Blues lined up as follows:
Smith Duberry Westwood (94) Woodman
Zebroski Green (58) Mousinho Montrose Phillips
Subs: Young Johnson Oliver(94) Bloomfield Spiller Pittman(58) Beavon(58)
Wycombe may have started the first-half playing like Brazil for all I know (although I seriously doubt it). Having opted not to drive today, the 3 hr 10 minute mystery tour on the official supporters coach meant my first sight of the game was Charlton's Kelly Youga bearing down on Scott Shearer's goal only to fire his shot into the side-netting with 13 minutes already gone.
Ten minutes later I was wishing I'd stayed on the bus, having watched the marauding Addicks cut through a nervous looking Wycombe with ease, eventually punishing them with two goals in quick succession.
Charlton debutante Christian Dailly was the first to take advantage of the Chairboys' current inability to defend set pieces when he rose to meet a corner, nodding it into the net past a hesitant Scott Shearer and a static Adam Smith.
There was hardly time to draw breath before Charlton were at it again. Full-back Frazer Richardson tormented the Wycombe defence inside their penalty area, before cutting the ball back for an unmarked Nicky Bailey to slam it home.
The Addicks were buzzing at this point. Using the full width of the pitch they were carving a path through Wycombe with their slick passing and good movement off the ball. The Chairboys on the other hand were looking like rabbits caught in headlights, seemingly unable to stem the tide with anything other than long clearances in the general direction of Matt Harrold.
When Lloyd Sam found himself totally in the clear only ten yards from goal following a great move by the Addicks after 33 minutes, it could have been all over for Wycombe had he not ballooned his shot over the crossbar.
Then as the first half came to an end Chris Zebroski popped-up with a goal which Wycombe barely deserved at that point but which gave them the injection of confidence they so badly needed.
Lewis Montrose swept a lovely cross-field ball into the path of Craig Woodman and the full-back's cross to the back post saw Zebroski leap like a salmon to plant his header into the net past keeper Rob Elliot.
Any hopes of Wycombe taking something from the game seemed dashed when more comical defending allowed Miguel Llera to restore Charlton's two-goal lead soon after the break.
It was another set-piece disaster, and some will blame Matt Harrold for allowing the Charlton free-kick to glance off his head and travel to the back-post where two unmarked Charlton players were virtually lining up to knock it in, watched by the static pairing of Westwood and Duberry. No doubt Harrold should have cleared the danger, but he wasn't the only one to blame. Where was the marking at the back post?
Seven minutes later Wycombe manager Peter Taylor made the double substitution which was to drastically change Wycombe's potency in attack when he introduced Jon-Paul Pittman and Stuart Beavon in place of Matt Harrold and Stuart Green.
Short, nippy, and with good close-control, the two newcomers linked-up well together and along with the tireless Chris Zebroski and the emerging Matt Phillips, they began to cause the Charlton defence real problems.
When Zebroski took Beavon's beautifully threaded pass and coolly slotted the ball past Elliot after 73 minutes, the travelling support began to believe that something could be salvaged from this game.
Now playing like a team who believed they belong on this stage, the Chairboys peppered the Charlton goal in search of the equaliser.
A deflected shot from Phillips was dropping under the crossbar when it was headed off the line by Richardson.
A frantic goalmouth scramble saw Charlton escape when no one in blue-quarters could apply the finishing touch.
It was all happening in front of the travelling supporters now, although Craig Woodman had to be on his toes at the other end of the field to clear the Wycombe lines after Andy Gray had rounded Scott Shearer and rolled the ball goalwards.
A Pittman header flew just over the crossbar and then the same player saw Elliot save his stinging shot.
Then in the final minute of stoppage time when Wycombe's pressure brought them another corner kick, Luke Oliver entered the fray and in what could have been a fairytale ending he rose to head the ball at the far post only for the fans to groan with frustration as it narrowly flew over the crossbar.
Unlucky not to take a point after a superb final 20 minutes which was almost good enough to make you forget how dire we were in the first half. In attack, we offered no real threat until Pittman and Beavon were introduced. Defensively we looked vulnerable and cumbersome. The central-defensive pairing of Westwood and Duberry seems too slow.
Man Of The Match
Pick Of The Rest
Stuart Beavon & Jon-Paul Pittman