Date:Sunday January 23 2011
Wycombe Wanderers 1 Rotherham United 0
It's only January and there's still a long way to go, but the Adams Park faithful seemed to sense there was an extra importance to this top of the table clash, and the game that followed kept them on the edge of their seats right up until the final whistle.
The Blues eventually triumphed thanks to a superb headed goal from Gareth Ainsworth which was the least they deserved from a dominant first-half performance that made the high-flying Millers look very ordinary indeed.
Nevertheless, as the home fans applauded their team off the pitch at half-time, there was a nagging concern that they hadn't taken full advantage of their superiority and that the visitors would surely improve after the break.
Sure enough, the second-half followed a different pattern to the first, but although the Millers frequently surged forward in search of an equaliser, the Blues defended well and continued to cause problems themselves on the counter attack.
Overall though, Wycombe thoroughly deserved a victory which cements their place in the top three ahead of a ten day break before their next game.
Rotherham's Nick Fenton put an early header wide of target, and that was all the visitors had to offer during an opening forty-five minutes in which they found themselves permanently under the cosh.
The Blues were playing like a well oiled machine and Stuart Beavon came close to opening the scoring with a shot on the turn that flew just past the post and an angled effort which Millers' keeper Andy Warrington did well to block.
Gareth Ainsworth had a volley saved as Wycombe began to turn the screw and the Millers' only answer seemed to be persistent fouling, some of which was downright dangerous. Beavon was hacked down a few times and Andy Sandell was on the receiving end of a particularly nasty tackle which caused him to be replaced by Danny Foster after only 24 minutes.
Four minutes later, the Blues scored the only goal of the game when Foster whipped in an excellent cross and Gareth Ainsworth rose above his marker to powerfully head the ball home.
Kevin Betsy fired a shot wide and the exquisite Beavon had another effort saved shortly before the half-time whistle sounded on a 1-0 scoreline which flattered Rotherham.
The Millers' improved second-half performance featured shots off-target from Marcus Marshall, Nicky Law, Ryan Taylor and Mark Randall, but the closest they came to an equaliser was when Law eased past Foster and whipped in a cross which Taylor headed Goalwards only for Nikki Bull to make a stunning save, turning the ball onto the crossbar when it looked certain to find the net.
The Blues also came close with Betsy seeing one shot cannon off the post and having another turned round the post by Warrington, while Beavon's screaming volley was in all the way until the Millers' keeper acrobatically tipped it over the bar.
As Wycombe played keep-ball near the corner flag in the dying seconds, Rotherham's Jason Taylor was sent off for losing his rag and kicking Ben Strevens. The only surprise was that the Millers had kept eleven players on the pitch for so long.
There were some great performances all over the park for Wycombe today, but veteran Gareth Ainsworth caught the eye with his overall contribution which included the match-winning header and some stout defending in his own box during the second-half. Stuart Beavon also excelled with an energetic display brimming with craft in the face of some brutal treatment.
Men of the Match
Gareth Ainsworth & Stuart Beavon
Bull, McCoy, Winfield, Westwood, Sandell, (Foster 24), Ainsworth, (McClure 83), Bloomfield, Lewis, Betsy, Strevens, Beavon.
Date:Sunday January 23 2011
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