Lions tamed by gutsy ten-man Wycombe
Wycombe Wanderers battled hard to win three valuable points this afternoon, beating Millwall 1-0 in a game of few clear-cut chances but plenty of incident.
The first half was a relatively tame affair compared to the blood and guts of the second forty-five minutes.
Wycombe started well but Millwall gradually gained the upper hand, although neither side looked particularly threatening in front of goal.
The Chairboys' best chance of the half fell to Matt Harrold when, following a neat interchange of passes between Kevin Betsy and Alex Revell, a low cross was fired into the Lions' six yard box, where Harrold found himself slightly ahead of the ball and fell as he attempted to turn it in.
Millwall's best chance was even better and Shaun Batt will be kicking himself for directing his free header wide of the post when he looked certain to score.
The only goal of the game arrived in first half stoppage time when debutant right-back Julian Kelly saw his inswinging cross evade everyone in the crowded Millwall box before glancing off the foot of the far post and into the net.
The Chairboys then had a lucky escape when another header from Batt hit the crossbar shortly before referee Andy Hall blew the half-time whistle.
If the first half had been a strategic affair, the second half certainly wasn't. It was a full blooded clash which really lifted the atmosphere in Adams Park and had both sets of supporters howling at full volume.
Going for their sixth win in a row today, the Lions introduced top scorer Neil Harris at the start of the second half, and they soon had a glorious chance to equalise when a low cross from Chris Hackett evaded everyone in the crowded Wycombe box before rolling harmlessly past the far post.
Wycombe's best effort during this spell saw Kevin McLeod control a difficult ball before rifling a fierce drive just past the Lions' post.
The Blues were fighting hard to protect their narrow lead and it looked like a cruel blow when first Dunne and then Batt went to ground in the Wycombe box and Millwall were awarded a penalty with just over twenty minutes remaining.
Harris stepped up to take it in front of the Millwall fans, but it was the home crowd who were cheering when on-loan keeper Tom Heaton dived low and to his right to pull off a superb save.
In what was no doubt intended to be an inspired substitution, Wycombe manager Gary Waddock then introduced Gareth Ainsworth in place of Kevin Betsy, only for it to turn sour five minutes later when Ainsworth was sent off, presumably for something the officials spotted when he clashed with Tony Craig on the right touchline.
As Craig lay on the ground, Danny Schofield ran up to Ainsworth and pushed him off his feet with both hands raised, signalling the start of a melee involving most of the players from both sides.
When order was restored, the upshot was a red card for Ainsworth, although how Schofield escaped with only a yellow card is a mystery.
Tensions were high now and not long afterwards Harris was booked for appearing to push a ball boy who he presumably felt was too slow in returning the ball.
Ten-man Wycombe certainly had their backs to the wall now, but were throwing themselves into every tackle in the pursuit of all three precious points.
The home fans breathed a sigh of relief when a cross from Millwall's Alan Dunne floated across the penalty area and glanced off the crossbar, while at the other end Wycombe full-back Kelly wriggled his way forward and had a tame shot saved by Lions' keeper David Forde.
The last word went to Blues keeper Tom Heaton who flung himself to his left to keep out a fierce shot from Millwall substitute Jonathan Obika and ensure that Wycombe's fight for survival is still very much on.
Millwall will feel they deserved at least a draw on the balance of play, but as the Chairboys have discovered many times this season, you don't always get what you deserve.
Wycombe occasionally threatened down the wings or from Dean Keates' dead ball deliveries, but whether the Harrold - Revell partnership has enough goals in it remains to be seen.
The defence can celebrate their third clean sheet of the season and the two new boys both did well. Kelly looked good going forward and seemed solid enough at the back, while Bennett did a fine job alongside Chris Westwood, whose reading of the game was superb today.
Heaton, Kelly, Bennett, Westwood, Woodman, Betsy (Ainsworth 71), Keates, Mousinho, McLeod, Harrold (Pittman 88), Revell (Phillips 90).
Man Of The Match
Tom Heaton - Crucial penalty save