Wycombe & Brighton in eight goal cup thriller
Wycombe Wanderers and Brighton will have to do it all over again after their FA Cup first round tie at Adams Park this afternoon finished 4-4.
The crowd was only 2,749, but the atmosphere was electric at times during a match which included two sendings-off and three penalties and could easily have gone either way right up until the moment the final whistle was blown.
Gary Waddock made one change to the side that lost against Walsall last week, with Jon-Paul Pittman coming in for Chris Zebroski as the Chairboys lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows:
Hunt Duberry Johnson Woodman
Betsy Doherty Davies Phillips (63)
Harrold Pittman (81)
Subs: Young Mousinho Westwood Green Harris Bloomfield(63) Zebroski(81)
Brighton tore Wycombe apart at the start of the game with their forwards taking advantage of the lack of pace in the home side's defence and simply sitting on the shoulder of the last man in Wycombe's high defensive line and waiting for a through-ball to chase.
The tactic almost produced a goal in the first minute when Nicky Forster broke clear only for the linesman's flag to save the Chairboys.
In the third minute the Seagulls repeated the move and this time the flag stayed down, allowing Elliot Bennett a free run towards goal and all the time in the world to pick his spot past keeper Scott Shearer.
A minute later, they broke through again and only a poor finish from Dean Cox prevented the Seagulls from taking a two goal lead with the Wycombe defence again missing in action.
Brighton continued to look the better side until Wycombe equalised from a penalty kick awarded after 17 minutes when a Pittman cross was headed back into the danger area by Matt Phillips and Seagulls defender Adam Virgo was penalised for stupidly pushing Matt Harrold, who had received the ball with his back to goal and was unlikely to score.
Harrold himself rifled the spot-kick home and Wycombe were somehow back on level terms.
The goal gave the Chairboys a boost and the next 15 minutes of play was fairly even, although there were already signs of panic in the unconvincing Wycombe defence every time they were forced to defend a cross or a set-piece.
When Brighton's Gavin Hoyte inexplicably kicked out at Jon-Paul Pittman after 32 minutes the referee had no choice but to send him off and the game turned in Wycombe's favour.
Only five minutes later, the Chairboys were 2-1 up when Kevin Betsy flew down the right-wing and crossed for Scott Davies to brilliantly clip the ball home with a well controlled first-time shot.
With Wycombe in the lead, the opposition down to ten men and the best part of an hour still to play, hopes of a rare victory were high among the Adams Park faithful.
'2-1 to the referee' shrieked the indignant Brighton fans, but they wouldn't have long to wait before the object of their derision evened things up.
Confidence was now high in the Wycombe camp and Scott Davies fired one wide before Matt Phillips stung the Brighton keeper's hands with a powerful shot from 30 yards as half time approached.
Then a flurry of Brighton corners right on the stroke of half time caused the usual consternation in the Wycombe defence and when they were unable to clear the ball, it broke to Forster in the crowded box and Craig Woodman pulled him back, conceding a penalty and earning a rather harsh red card at the same time.
Forster himself, scored from the penalty spot before cranking the tension up a few more notches by running to the home crowd and blatantly winding them up with his celebration.
In the second half Wycombe played with only three at the back, which says a lot about new manager Gary Waddock's attitude to the game. Under previous boss Peter Taylor, you suspect a striker would have been sacrificed at half time.
Five minutes after the restart, Brighton were ahead again when Glenn Murray escaped down the right-wing and helped by the fact that Leon Johnson slipped, he cut inside and shot, the ball deflecting off Lewis Hunt's last ditch tackle and looping into the net with keeper Shearer stuck in no man's land.
On the hour mark, Wycombe were level again when Matt Harrold nodded the ball down inside the box and Jon-Paul Pittman did well to escape his marker and flick the ball over the keeper's head and into the net.
Two minutes later Matt Bloomfield came on for Matt Phillips who wasn't having one of his better games today.
The visitors looked a bit deflated at this point and despite another decent effort from Murray, it was Wycombe who were looking more likely to win the game.
Sure enough it was the Chairboys who went 4-3 up after 69 minutes when Doherty found Betsy on the right and his low cross was turned into the net by Matt Harrold.
Pushing for a crucial two goal cushion, Wycombe went close with further shots from Jon-Paul Pittman and Scott Davies before Pittman was replaced by Chris Zebroski with just 10 minutes remaining.
Two minutes later, a Brighton cross struck Matt Bloomfield's hand and the referee promptly awarded his third spot-kick of the day. It looked a little harsh and Bloomfield certainly claimed it was ball to hand, but it was difficult to be sure either way.
The impressive Murray made no mistake from the spot and we were all square yet again.
There were no clear-cut chances for either side in the final eight minutes and although the Wycombe fans had to suffer the anxiety of watching two Brighton corners right at the death, the game finished with honours even, which was probably about right.
The Chairboys attacking play continues to improve but the defence certainly doesn't.
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