Pittman saves the day after Shearer shocker
Wycombe Wanderers battled back to earn a 1-1 draw with Colchester United at Adams Park this afternoon after a shocking mistake by keeper Scott Shearer had gifted the visitors a half-time lead.
It may have been the dawning of a new era for the Chairboys but incoming manager Gary Waddock elected to start with a familiar 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation as follows:
Hunt Duberry Johnson Woodman
Betsy(78) Davies Pack(46) Westlake(55) Phillips
Subs: Young Oliver Westwood Montrose Bloomfield(46) Zebroski(78) Pittman(55)
A spell of early pressure from the visitors was comfortably dealt with by a Wycombe side who grew in confidence as the game progressed.
The first real chance of the match was created by the Chairboys impressive new signing Scott Davies who whipped-in a teasing free-kick after 11 minutes only for Michael Duberry to head the ball wide of target despite being unmarked right in front of goal.
It was yet another example of Duberry's apparent inability to control the direction of his headers and it's now becoming clear why fans of his previous clubs christened him 50p - head.
The next goalscoring opportunity fell to the visitors but John-Joe O'Toole could only fire his shot high and wide from inside the penalty area when well placed with only Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer to beat.
It was an evenly balanced game at this point with the Chairboys looking every bit as good as their high-flying opponents and this made the manner in which the first goal was conceded even tougher to take for the watching Wycombe fans.
With a host of Blue shirts in the Colchester half during an attack by the home side, the ball was laid back to Michael Duberry who rather than pick out a team-mate in a forward position, showed his lack of confidence on the ball by electing to turn round and play a long back-pass to keeper Shearer.
Disappointing as the back-pass decision was, the ball did find its way to Shearer and should have been dealt with comfortably, but the big Scot turned one way and then the other as he dithered over who to pass it to and by the time he realised he was in trouble it was too late to just whack it clear and Kayode Odejayi dispossessed him with ease and rolled it into the empty net.
It was a bitter blow for a Wycombe side who had performed without fear and had obviously taken note of new manager Gary Waddock's stated desire to play a passing game throughout the side, starting from the back.
To their credit the Chairboys picked themselves up and a shot from Craig Woodman whistled past the post, before Matt Phillips received a sublime cross-field pass from Davies and fired off a shot which U's keeper Ben Williams was equal to.
Another dangerous free kick from dead-ball specialist Scott Davies flew across the face of the Colchester goal with neither Matt Harrold or Duberry able to apply the finishing touch.
There was more danger at the other end though, when O'Toole spotted Shearer's dodgy positioning and tried a shot from 30 yards which had the keeper frantically back-pedalling before tipping the ball over the crossbar.
In the midst of all this action, the referee had retired injured and was replaced by a gentleman who certainly did Wycombe no favours throughout the remainder of the game, making some strange decisions along the way.
The start of the second half saw Matt Bloomfield take the field for the first time since his horrific injury in August, replacing Marlon Pack who had taken a knock and received treatment during the first half.
If the Wycombe players were downhearted and feeling a little sorry for themselves at half time, new boss Waddock must have picked them up again because they came out fighting and took the game to Colchester straight from the kick-off.
Their best chance during a decent spell of pressure fell to Michael Duberry who was again the beneficiary of a pinpoint cross but couldn't direct his header on target.
Waddock made a further change when Jon-Paul Pittman was introduced in place of Ian Westlake after 55 minutes and the Chairboys changed to a 4-4-2 formation.
It would have been just reward for his efforts today if Scott Davies had been able to convert from Pittman's clever cut-back a few moments later, but the youngster's 20 yard shot flew narrowly wide of the post.
Meanwhile Scott Shearer went some way towards making amends for his earlier howler by saving smartly at his near post from an Odejayi shot.
Waddock then introduced fresh legs in the form of Chris Zebroski who came on for Kevin Betsy after 77 minutes as the Chairboys continued to probe in search of an equaliser.
The game was becoming more physical as Colchester tried to hang on to their slender lead and the substitute referee produced his yellow card five times to add to the two bookings given before his arrival.
Many felt there should have been a red card brandished after 82 minutes when a posse of Colchester defenders dragged Pittman to ground when he was clean through on goal, but the referee seemed to have lost the plot by this stage and inexplicably settled for yellow.
Pittman was in the thick of things again two minutes later when he squandered a glorious opportunity to score. In fact, his shot was so poor that it actually went out for a throw-in.
Wycombe were clearly trying to use Pittman's pace to force a breakthrough and it finally paid off after 86 minutes.
A perfectly weighted pass from Matt Bloomfield over the top of the Colchester defence had Pittman sprinting towards goal yet again and this time he escaped the defenders' clutches to bring the ball under control and fire it home past keeper Williams to the delight of the home support.
Colchester's efforts to regain the lead showed us the best and worst of keeper Scott Shearer.
A superb reaction save was immediately followed by a clumsy attempt to claim a cross that was never within his reach. Stranded out of position as a result, he could only watch the ensuing goalmouth scramble which ended with O'Toole firing his shot wildly over the crossbar.
The period of Colchester pressure following the equaliser raised suspicions that they had previously been content to sit on their one goal lead. But even if that's the case, it shouldn't detract from a fine fighting performance from Wycombe which deserved at least a share of the points.
A good start for Gary Waddock and Martin Kuhl who had clearly managed to resurrect the players' confidence levels.
Whether some of our players are comfortable enough on the ball to successfully implement his style of playing it out from the back remains to be seen.
Although Matt Harrold worked as hard as ever, he still doesn't look like the 20 goals a season man Wycombe are lacking and Jon-Paul Pittman certainly won't score that many from the bench.
If all the players Gary Waddock brings in are as good as Scott Davies, no one will be complaining.
Man Of The Match