Date:Saturday February 25 2012
Wycombe Wanderers 5 (yes, five) Hartlepool United 0 (yes, nil)
Watching today's magnificent performance inspired by the injection of four quality loan-signings, it was difficult to avoid making comparisons with the fare that's been on offer so far this season.
Maybe this is what it's supposed to be like in league one. One-touch passing (on the deck), intelligent movement off the ball, playing through midfield and not over their heads - it was all a bit of a shock to be honest.
Some will say it's too late, and it probably is, but if the Blues play like that for the next thirteen games, they'll give themselves a chance and at least we'll get some belated value for our money.
The team that disappointed so badly at Walsall last week had to be torn apart. It was the performance of a side going nowhere but down. Radical surgery was required and Blues' boss Gary Waddock made six changes for today's game.
In came new signings Gary Doherty, Craig Eastmond, Chris Hackett and Paul Hayes. Further refreshment was provided by the recall of relative newcomer Anthony McNamee and the rarely utilised Marvin McCoy.
Out went Danny Foster, Dave Winfield, Gareth Ainsworth, Ben Strevens, James Harper and Matty Whichelow.
And what a difference it made. There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the crowd even as the teams lined up. Some voiced fears that with so many changes the team would play like eleven strangers. Others pointed out that the team has been playing like eleven strangers all season.
It turned out there was no need to worry. Proving that good players don't need months to adjust to new surroundings and unfamiliar teammates, the four newcomers grabbed today's game by the scruff of the neck and made it theirs.
The Charlton fans who posted messages warning that Doherty was past his best must have vastly different expectations to ours. On today's performance, the veteran centre-half is just what the doctor ordered for Wycombe's ailing defence. He was calm and collected, read the game well, won almost everything in the air, and even popped up with a debut goal.
Craig Eastmond oozed quality in central midfield. His vision, quick incisive passing, boundless energy and tough tackling could make him the most important signing of the season.
Another debutante was striker Paul Hayes. The Charlton fans were surprised to see him go and on today's performance you can see why. Scoring two goals and showing a similar work ethic to Stuart Beavon is a sure-fire way to get the Wycombe fans on your side.
Winger Chris Hackett had the quietest debut of the four new boys but looked tidy in everything he did. Like the other three, he's tall with a good physical presence, and for the first time in a while the Blues weren't dwarfed by the opposition.
Starting like a house on fire, the Blues were 2-0 up in no time. The opener was scored after 5 minutes by Hayes who collected the ball close to the half-way line raced clear of a chasing Pools' defender and slotted it home at the second attempt after keeper Scott Flinders had blocked the first.
Doherty scored the second after 11 minutes when he met Anthony McNamee's corner with a powerful header.
Hartlepool's best spell of the match came at 2-0 down and Wycombe's normally porous defence had to deal with several dangerous balls into the box with Louis Laing's headed clearance preventing a certain goal after 17 minutes.
The killer third goal was scored in the 42nd minute by Stuart Beavon who took advantage of a mistake in Pools' defence to pounce and poke the ball past Flinders.
After 55 minutes Wycombe made it 4-0 with a goal fashioned by Beavon and Hayes with some help from Flinders. The Hartlepool keeper's attempted clearance hit Hayes on the back and rebounded to Beavon who unselfishly returned it to Hayes leaving him the simple task of rolling it home.
The fifth and final goal was scored by Beavon whose persistence and tenacity was rewarded when he battled to win possession inside the Hartlepool box before turning and firing the ball home via the inside of a post.
The Blues were the width of a crossbar from making it six when Basey's excellent free kick rebounded off the woodwork, and late substitute Matt McClure almost scored his first senior goal with a glancing header that drifted narrowly past the post with Flinders beaten.
There were other second-half efforts from Eastmond, McNamee and Beavon while at the other end Bull made a superb fingertip save from Neil Austin and Marvin McCoy ensured the Blues kept their third clean-sheet of the season with a goalline clearance to thwart Adam Boyd.
This was a special performance from Wycombe and the Adams Park atmosphere was superb as the crowd responded to what they were seeing. It was a rare treat and you couldn't help thinking, had the quality been in place in August, this season would have been a different ball game altogether.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (7), McCoy (7), Doherty (8), Laing (8), Basey (7), Hackett (7), Lewis (7), Eastmond (8) (Bloomfield 86 (n/a)), McNamee (7), Hayes (8) (Strevens 86 (n/a)), Beavon (8) (McClure 88 (n/a))
Date:Saturday February 25 2012
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