Blues & Bees in frustrating stalemate
Vital Wycombe would like to thank regular guest writer Dale Jenkins for the following report.
Wycombe and Barnet scrapped their way to a no-score draw tonight in a disjointed encounter.
The bad news began before the game even kicked off. Leon Johnson was ruled out with a knee injury and replaced by Dave Winfield. Also failing to make the game were Danny Foster (groin strain), Bruno Andrade (bruised foot) and Jo Kuffour (suspended), with Ainsworth, Stewart and McClure reinstated.
As for positives, the defence picked up their second clean sheet in three games and Wycombe`s first at home since March, Stuart Lewis put in a tenacious performance in midfield and it was good to see Sam Wood back from injury and putting in a workmanlike effort after coming off the bench.
However, these 90 minutes provided far more questions than answers. Barnet, bottom of the league, were not seriously troubled until the game became stretched in the last ten minutes. Even then the Wanderers lacked the attacking potency to break down a stubborn defence.
The first half was particularly woeful. 'Distribution` Dave Winfield (black humour alert) was winning everything aerially, but hooked the ball high into the misty sky every time it went near his feet. Matt McClure was lacking support but had an absolute stinker, failing to retain the ball and looking low on confidence throughout. Dean Morgan looked uninterested before picking up an injury and being replaced by the returning Wood.
The only moments of interest were an off-target Ainsworth header after two minutes, Joel Grant`s effort comfortably gathered by Graham Stack, and a big opportunity where Ainsworth broke clear, only to poke his effort tamely at the goalkeeper. The attack lacked the purpose, pace and threat that it had in abundance on recent travels and the game was stifled into a midfield battle. It should be said that only Grant from the front 4 who started at Fleetwood remained in place by the end, but the performance was frustrating nonetheless.
Barnet offered even less, with only a Jake Hyde effort to show, but he was ruled offside rendering Nikki Bull`s superb save needless.
The second half started in similarly sluggish fashion and little happened of note until the 64th minute when John Oster`s long range curler was superbly tipped around the post by Bull.
A double substitution finally sparked Wycombe into life, with Morias and Logan replacing Ainsworth and the disappointing McClure.
Morias impressed immediately, turning neatly before firing inches wide from the edge of the box. Set pieces looked the most promising chance of a goal however, with Logan`s shot being deflected wide by Wood, Winfield`s header going harmlessly wide and Grant just failing to reach Doherty`s flick-on.
In an action-packed injury time, Edgar Davids was found in the clear but snuffed out by a fine challenge by Stewart, before Wood`s powerful drive was parried by Stack, and a penalty appeal waved away in the aftermath.
There is no denying that Gareth Ainsworth has done an excellent job to date but the previous two results have been disappointing, there is still much work to be done and the local derby against Oxford on Saturday could prove particularly critical.
Ratings: Bull 6, Stewart 6, Winfield 5, Doherty 6, Dunne 6, Ainsworth 5 (Morias 6), Lewis 7*, Scowen 5, Grant 5, McClure 4 (Logan 4), Morgan 4 (Wood 6)