Date:Saturday October 31 2009
A lack of clinical finishing cost Wycombe Wanderers dearly this afternoon, as Walsall came from two goals behind at half-time to snatch an unlikely 3-2 win in front of a stunned Adams Park crowd.
Wycombe started in a 4-4-2 formation as follows:
Hunt Duberry Johnson Woodman
Betsy Davies Doherty Phillips
Zebroski (68) Harrold (73)
Subs: Young Westwood Mousinho Bloomfield(68) Green Harris Pittman(73)
New Wycombe manager Gary Waddock promised the fans an attacking, entertaining style of play and his side certainly delivered that in the first half today, with on-loan midfielder Scott Davies in particular giving the best individual performance seen at Adams Park for quite some time.
Taking the game to Walsall right from the first whistle, the Chairboys' slick build-up play saw them carve out five goalscoring opportunities within the first seven minutes of the match.
Chris Zebroski had two chances, one resulting in an embarrassing fresh air shot and the other sliding wide of the post.
His strike partner Matt Harrold fared no better, squandering two good early chances before winger Matt Phillips lashed his shot well wide when a simple pass to the unmarked Kevin Betsy looked the better option.
Nevertheless, it was heart warming stuff for the Wycombe faithful who have been starved of this type of attacking mentality since the heady days of John Gorman.
Midfielder Scott Davies was everywhere during the first half and was even caught offside twice, as he demonstrated exactly what Wycombe have been lacking in central midfield for the past few seasons, someone who pushes up and supports the front men.
It was Davies who scored the opening goal after 13 minutes with a free kick which wouldn't have looked out of place in the Premiership.
Spotting Walsall keeper Clayton Ince off his line, Davies curled a free kick over his head from all of 30 yards, showing a degree of vision and technique not normally seen in League One.
It was all Wycombe now, and they should have gone further ahead after 18 minutes when Harrold could only direct his header over the crossbar following a superb move involving Betsy, Davies and full-back Lewis Hunt.
The Chairboys weren't to be denied though, and their pressure was rewarded when Davies fired home his second goal of the game after 36 minutes.
A well-worked short-corner was played back to Davies lying in wait on the edge of the Saddlers' box, and the midfielder duly picked his spot before drilling a low drive into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Four minutes later, Craig Woodman surged into the box and laid the ball back for Davies who almost grabbed his hat-trick, only for his initial shot to be blocked and his follow-up effort cleared off the line.
A moment later, it was Davies again who ran onto a superb pass from Tommy Doherty but couldn't keep his rasping shot under the Saddlers' crossbar.
When the half-time whistle went, the 2-0 scoreline flattered Walsall and the home crowd rose to applaud a fine performance, with no hint of the disaster yet to come.
The Saddlers came out fighting at the start of the second half and a shot from Darren Byfield narrowly missed the target with only a minute gone.
Scott Davies shot over the crossbar for Wycombe and Matt Harrold failed to get on the end of a fine cross from Matt Phillips but it was clearly shaping up to be a much closer affair in the second half with Walsall looking a lot livelier and the Chairboys unable to sustain the pace and power of their first-half performance.
The Saddlers' first goal was scored by Steve Jones after 54 minutes when he took advantage of some slack defending in the Wycombe box and fired the ball home from close range.
Wycombe had changed shape now, with Zebroski moving to the right wing and Betsy moving inside in a 4-5-1 formation, but the home side were still creating chances and Matt Phillips cut in from the left flank before unleashing a low stinger which keeper Ince was equal to.
Matt Harrold was again the villain of the piece when he first failed to convert following good work by Doherty and Betsy and then missed an even better chance after being teed up by Matt Bloomfield who had just come on in place of Zebroski, with Betsy reverting to the right wing.
Phillips and Davies had further efforts which flew over the bar before Harrold was replaced by Jon-Paul Pittman after 72 minutes.
The irrepressible Davies had three more shots on goal and Pittman fired narrowly wide following a mazy run from Phillips as the Chairboys continued to press forward in an attempt to restore their two goal lead, but it was all about to go horribly wrong.
With just ten minutes remaining, a fine diving save from Scott Shearer led to a Walsall corner kick, which the keeper came for, but could only push out as far as the edge of the penalty area, where Saddlers' central defender Mark Hughes was lurking to fire the ball home.
There was just time for another shot from Wycombe's Scott Davies, before Walsall were celebrating again after scoring the winning goal.
A Steve Jones breakaway and perfectly weighted pass to Alex Nicholls caught Wycombe napping and when Nicholls duly dispatched the ball past Scott Shearer and into the back of the net, the visiting supporters went wild and the home crowd couldn't quite believe their eyes.
Wycombe piled forward in search of an equaliser, and when Pittman wriggled and turned just inside the box there was a glimmer of hope, until a Walsall defender managed to block his shot and the game was up.
After a superb performance in many ways, the lack of a natural goalscorer cost Wycombe dearly yet again, with Matt Harrold in particular, guilty of wasting several clear-cut chances.
Such chances were few and far between for the Saddlers, but they made the most of them, converting three of their five shots on goal this afternoon.
Scott Davies alongside Tommy Doherty in midfield is about as good as it gets, and if Wycombe are somehow able to extend his loan and find a striker with an eye for goal, there may yet be hope of survival.
Otherwise it's looking bleak.
Man Of The Match
Date:Saturday October 31 2009
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