Blues grind out another victory
Macclesfield Town 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1
The Blues ground out an ugly win at Moss Rose to close the gap on league-leaders Chesterfield and set the scene nicely for Tuesday's top of the table clash at the b2net Stadium.
Victory came at a price though. Having struggled all season to find the right combination of central-defenders, Wycombe manager Gary Waddock arrived in Macclesfield with only two in his squad and finished the game with none on the pitch.
Signed from Watford on Wednesday, centre-half Rob Kiernan went off injured on his debut and to make matters worse, Dave Winfield was sent-off following a mass brawl in the final minute of the game.
With Chris Westwood still out, Alan Bennett reportedly ill and Leon Johnson obviously not part of Waddock's plans, it's anybody's guess who plays against the Spireites in three days time.
In the first-half of today's game, Wycombe enjoyed most of the possession but struggled to break down a stubborn Macclesfield defence containing three in the middle and two wing-backs.
The Silkmen were set-up to defend in numbers and attack Wycombe on the break while trying to make the most of any set-pieces that came their way.
The first opportunity of the match fell to Wycombe when Dave Winfield back-headed Marvin McCoy's long throw but Ben Strevens failed to get enough power in his shot to trouble Jose Veiga in the Macclesfield goal.
Hamza Bencherif then fired one over the bar from distance for the Silkmen and Lewis Montrose replied with a long-range effort of his own which slid past the post.
Macclesfield almost opened the scoring from a set-piece when Nat Brown got his head to free kick and forced a fine save from Blues' keeper Nikki Bull, but it was a rare chance for the home side who struggled to create much of note in the first half.
At the other end, Jon-Paul Pittman met Marvin McCoy's excellent cross but couldn't direct his shot on target.
Wycombe were repeatedly trying to make use of Pittman's pace with long balls over the top, and when he outfoxed his marker down the right and fired in a low cross, Scott Rendell and a defender both pounced and the ball was deflected onto the crossbar and back into play with Veiga beaten.
When Stuart Lewis saw a gap open-up in front of him he clearly had visions of repeating Tuesday's goalscoring heroics but on this occasion his strike was well off-target.
Danny Foster also fired one wide when well positioned, but the pressure was mounting and the opening goal wasn't far behind.
Five minutes before the break another long throw from McCoy was nodded into the danger area and there was Gareth Ainsworth to launch himself at the ball and hook it home with both feet off the ground. It was 1-0 to Wycombe and the veteran rocker clearly enjoyed celebrating in front of the away fans. He's so sharp in the box, it's a wonder we don't play him up-front.
Shortly before half-time the hosts almost grabbed an equaliser when another set-piece - this time a long throw - caused havoc in the Wycombe box, and when the ball dropped to Tony Diagne his shot crashed off the post and out to Paul Bolland whose follow-up effort was cleared off the line by Winfield.
The Blues fully deserved their half-time lead but the second-half was a different matter and they had to absorb most of the pressure.
Emile Sinclair broke free and was only thwarted by a superbly timed intervention from Bull who dived full length to pluck the ball cleanly from his feet at exactly the right moment. Sinclair was looking for a penalty but the referee was having none of it.
Tyrone Barnett then hit the post with a header from another set-piece at a time when the Blues only had ten men on the pitch. Kiernan was receiving treatment on the touchline but was unable to continue and was replaced by Anthony Straker who took over at left-back with Foster slotting into the middle.
Shortly after Foster moved to centre-half, Macclesfield brought on the giant Ricky Sappleton who was making his first appearance of the season having reportedly reached a weight of 19st during his long rehabilitation from injury. It was a worry, but Foster did well.
Wycombe's best opportunities of the second-half fell to Ainsworth who headed a Straker cross over the bar, and Strevens who headed an Ainswoth cross straight at the keeper.
Beavon and Betsy replaced Pittman and Ainsworth, both newcomers looked lively and the two of them combined well to fashion a half-chance for Beavon which Veiga saved comfortably.
As full time approached, all hell broke loose. Two Wycombe players were brought down in quick succession, the second challenge on Stuart Lewis being the trigger for a prolonged brawl which culminated in Winfield's dismissal along with Macclesfield's Sappleton and Sinclair.
As the main bundle worsened and several satellite skirmishes broke out, it was difficult to decide who was trying to act as peacemaker and who was simply getting stuck in. In truth, the referee could probably have sent another three or four off and still not collared all the villains.
The final whistle went shortly afterwards and the Wycombe players' passionate celebrations left their fans in no doubt about their commitment to the common cause.
My man of the match was Dave Winfield with arguably his best performance so far in a Wycombe shirt. It's a shame it was marred by a red card which could have been avoided.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (6), McCoy (6), Winfield (7), Kiernan (6) (Straker 60 (5)), Foster (6), Ainsworth (6) (Betsy 79 (5)), , Lewis (6), Montrose (6), Strevens (5), Rendell (5), Pittman (6) (Beavon 72 (5)).