Wycombe Hot-Shots Outgun Pirates
Wycombe Wanderers won their first game of the season this afternoon, coming from behind to beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 at Adams Park courtesy of two stunning goals from hot prospects Matt Phillips and Jon-Paul Pittman.
Blues' manager Peter Taylor made four changes to the side that started at Norwich City last Saturday, with TJ Moncur, Luke Oliver, Ian Westlake and Matt Phillips coming in for Chris Westwood, Leon Johnson, Lewis Montrose and Jon-Paul Pittman. The Chairboys lined up in a 4-5-1 (4-3-3) formation as follows:
Moncur Duberry Oliver Woodman
Zebroski Green Mousinho Westlake (60) Phillips
Subs: Young Westwood Spence Pack Beavon (60) Pittman (60) Chambers
This was a game in which the Chairboys put their supporters through the full gamut of emotions.
Initially pleased to see their team start brightly and demonstrate an ability to play neat passing football on the deck, anxiety soon crept in at the sight of some careless defending and finally frustration and despair as yet another goal was conceded from a set-piece.
The good news was the way the home team responded. Refusing to let their heads drop, they set about a surprisingly poor Bristol Rovers side and on the balance of play thoroughly deserved to win. Ultimately sending the fans home thrilled with two quality goals and delighted with all three points.
Good early pressure from Wycombe saw Ian Westlake draw a save from Rhys Evans and Matt Phillips fire wide after both picked-up knock-downs from Matt Harrold.
The lone striker was in fact regularly winning challenges in the air, but many of his hard-earned flick-ons were coming to nothing in the absence of close support.
The only threat from Rovers at this stage was self-inflicted, with Wycombe captain Michael Duberry seemingly on a one-man mission to give the visitors a head start.
Twice in the space of ten minutes, woefully short back-passes from Duberry forced keeper Scott Shearer into last-ditch action to avert the danger.
Then with 25 minutes on the clock, Duberry charged upfield and came badly unstuck, losing possession and causing his side to concede the corner kick that led to the opening goal.
As the majority of the stadium said a silent prayer at the prospect of another set-piece, Danny Coles rose to meet Stuart Campbell's corner and glanced it down to the unmarked Chris Lines who fired home unchallenged. Too easy.
Wycombe's central midfield of Mousinho, Green and Westlake were linking-up well today, with Mousinho in particular unrecognisable from last week as he excelled in the holding role and laid-off simple passes to his midfield partners.
Good movement off the ball from Green and Westlake always gave Mousinho a passing option and the midfield as a whole kept possession better in today's 4-5-1 formation than they did in last week's 4-4-2.
It was a quality pass from Mousinho however that set Matt Phillips on his way to the equalising goal. Cutting in from the left, Phillips was still 25 yards from goal when he unleashed a fierce strike which arrowed into the top left hand corner of the Rovers net, giving keeper Evans no chance.
At the start of the second half Wycombe gave their fans another fright when poor communication between keeper Shearer and right-back Moncur almost invited Rovers to retake the lead with Craig Woodman stepping in to make things safe.
The Blues were doing most of the pressing but with Matt Phillips less involved in the second half and Matt Harrold ploughing a lone furrow up-front, chances were at a premium.
After an hour Peter Taylor replaced Harrold and Westlake with Stuart Beavon and Jon-Paul Pittman.
The introduction of the dynamic duo saw Wycombe change to a 4-4-2 formation and it wasn't long before Beavon's silky skills, good close control and clever passing had the home fans sensing a potential breakthrough.
Luke Oliver, who outshone his illustrious partner Michael Duberry today, almost grabbed the glory with a stooping header at the far post which travelled tantalizingly across the face of the goal.
There was a scare at the other end after 77 minutes when Rovers won a free kick just outside the box, but Jeff Hughes' curling effort went fractionally wide with Shearer beaten.
The winner came with ten minutes remaining. Beavon refused to give up on a long ball to the right corner flag, kept it in play, turned and fired a low pass to Pittman on the edge of the penalty area.
With his back to goal and closely marked, Pittman spun and shot all in one movement, giving Evans no chance as the ball flashed into the top corner of the net.
Rovers tried to get back into the game, but in truth offered little threat all afternoon and were generally disappointing for a side in the lofty position of 4th at the start of play.
The Chairboys deserved their victory and although defensively they're not a patch on last season, they clearly have improved going forward.
Men of the Match
John Mousinho & Stuart Green