Preview: Wycombe Wanderers v Bristol Rovers
Wycombe Wanderers recorded back-to-back victories with a thoroughly deserved 3-0 victory over Burton Albion last weekend. It came quickly off the heels of a 3-2 away win at Rotherham United and the six points have taken the Blues up to the giddy heights of 19th place in the League Two table.
The performance against the Brewers was arguably the best at Adams Park since the 4-2 win over Leyton Orient back in March. There were similarities too with the hosts only dominant in one half. On this occasion however it can be argued that having taken an early lead through striker Matt McClure, the side showed the defensive capabilities that have long seemed to be beyond them. Led by the imperious Dave Winfield, there was a 'thou shall not pass' attitude which was a rare joy to behold.
It was less encouraging to see possession conceded so readily in the first half but the lesson was learned after the break and Joel Grant deservedly doubled the lead from the penalty spot after McClure had been tripped inside the area. The move which led to the penalty was sublime, with precise, one-touch and move passing that was worth the entry fee alone. With Zander Diamond seeing red for bringing down McClure, the ten men simply had no answer to the attacking ability of the Blues in the final half hour or so.
Bruno Andrade and Dean Morgan were both denied by the woodwork whilst the latter was left frustrated (which won't have been an unfamiliar feeling to him) after referee Mr D Webb twice refused to award him a penalty having been fouled. The three points were wrapped up when another flowing move saw Sam Wood clip over the most delicious of crosses from which Grant was unlucky not to score due to visiting goalkeeper Dean Lyness' save from point-blank range, but McClure was on hand to smash home the re-bound.
Gareth Ainsworth will have been delighted with his side's display and the imperative now is to maintain that standard as we head into December. He made two changes to the starting line-up which won at Rotherham, both of which were enforced. Sam Wood came in to replace the suspended Charles Dunne at left-back whilst Jesse Kewley-Graham was handed a rare start alongside Josh Scowen in the middle of the park. Stuart Lewis dropped back to deputise for Danny Foster at right-back, with the defender sidelined by a knee injury.
This weekend sees the Pirates renew hostilities with the Chairboys. For some bizarre reason a dozen or so Rovers fans have felt it necessary to sneak into the home areas at some of the previous meetings between the sides at Adams Park and then act as if they had undergone lobotomies. Any antagonism has since been cranked up several notches after the events of August this year when the clash at Adams Park was abandoned midway through the second half due to a combination of lightning and a waterlogged pitch. Rovers were leading 3-1 at the time and led by Chairman Nick Higgs, they have played the part of hard done-by victims ever since.
Rovers have endured something of a nightmare season. Former boss Paul Buckle was sacked early in 2012 with the side flirting with a relegation battle and he was replaced by the experienced Mark McGhee. He steadied the ship and steered the club to a 13th place finish. Expectations were much higher than that at the start of this season of course, but with a whole succession of injuries, McGhee's experience hasn't been enough to prevent the side from suffering some poor results and they currently sit in 21st position in the League Two table, one point below the Wanderers.
Excluding the aborted August fixture, the Pirates will be making their 16th visit to Adams Park and will be looking for a seventh victory. Wycombe have already won five and there have also been four draws. The first ever clash ended in August 1994 ended in a disappointing goal-less draw with Jason Cousins smashing his penalty against the crossbar. The 1-1 draw in November 1995 was Paul Hyde's last ever appearance at Adams Park before being released by Al*n Sm*th. Striker Mark Stallard marked his Wanderers debut in March 1997 with the opening goal in a 2-0 victory as the side made 'the great escape' under John Gregory.
A mistake from goalkeeper Andy Collett led to Stallard scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory in October 1997 and the August 1998 meeting will be remembered for Dannie Bulman's infamous first goal for the club. Barry Hayles looked to have won it for the visitors when his shot squirmed under the body of Martin Taylor with just five minutes remaining but Bulman rescued a point when Rovers goalkeeper Lee Jones' clearance smacked him on the arse and bounced back into the net to make it 1-1 in the third minute of injury-time.
Striker Sean Devine's equaliser cancelled out Nathan Ellington's opener in a 1-1 draw at Adams Park in November 1999 and Andy Rammell was sent-off on his debut as the Blues were beaten 1-0 in September 2000. His challenge on Nick Culkin saw the goalkeeper stretchered off and ex-Chairboy Brian Parkin took over between the sticks. The visitors held onto Stephen Foster's first half goal to win 1-0 and the final whistle saw Parkin indulge in a petulant hissy-fit. Rovers then won 1-0 in a League Cup first round tie in August 2001.
The sides didn't meet again for over three years with Keith Ryan in caretaker charge for a second match following the resignation of Tony Adams. Nathan Tyson's penalty was enough to seal a 1-0 victory in November 2004. There was a depressing 3-1 defeat on April Fools Day in 2006 with ex-Blue Richard Walker scoring the Pirates' second goal from the penalty spot. The next two meetings under boss Paul Lambert were rather forgettable with a 2-0 defeat in the Football League Trophy in October 2006 followed by a 1-0 defeat in League Two in March 2007.
The two sides had to wait until August 2009 to renew acquaintances in the league and spectacular goals from Matt Phillips and Jon-Paul Pittman saw the Chairboys overturn an early deficit to win 2-1. The last two meetings have both come in the Football League Trophy. Jo Kuffour and Scott Rendell both notched hat-tricks in a 6-3 Rovers victory in November 2010 and in September 2011 it was Stuart Beavon's turn to claim the match ball with a hat-trick in a 3-1 win.
Gareth Ainsworth could have a quartet of players available for selection against the Pirates. Defender Charles Dunne is definitely available having served a one match ban last weekend. It would be very harsh on Sam Wood however if Dunne were to come straight back at left-back after his fine display against Burton. With Stuart Lewis likely to revert to his usual position in the middle of the park, Dunne could again fill in at right-back, having played there in the recent 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale. That would give Marvin McCoy another week to recover properly from his ankle ligament injury.
Striker Ade Azeez made his debut as a second half substitute after signing on loan from Charlton Athletic and is likely to be on the bench again. Matt Spring and Jo Kuffour will be hoping to join him after returning to full training this week. The Blues' updated injury list is as follows...
Marvin McCoy (Right Back) - doubtful (has returned to training following an ankle ligament injury and is closing in on full fitness)
Matt Spring (Midfielder) - doubtful (back in training after recovering from a calf injury)
Jo Kuffour (Attacker) - doubtful (back in training after recovering from an ankle ligament injury)
Danny Foster (Right Back) - ruled out with a knee injury (will resume training next week)
Anthony Stewart (Right / Centre Back) - ruled out with a thigh injury (will resume training next week)
Gary Doherty (Centre Back) - ruled out with a back injury (will resume training next week)
Matt Bloomfield (Midfielder) - ruled out with a groin injury (no timescale for recovery given)
Grant Basey (Left-Back) - ruled out with an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury (continues his rehabilitation following surgery and is unlikely to play again this season)
Ainsworth could name the following line-up (4-4-2):
Charles Dunne - Dave Winfield - Leon Johnson - Sam Wood
Joel Grant - Josh Scowen - Stuart Lewis - Bruno Andrade
Dean Morgan - Matt McClure
Subs: Lee Harrison, Kortney Hause, Gareth Ainsworth, Jesse Kewley-Graham, Junior Morias, Ade Azeez, Dennis Oli
Bristol Rovers have arguably endured a worse injury situation than the Wanderers this season. It has impacted on their results and they have won just one of their last eight matches in all competitions. They have kept just one clean sheet all season and won just once away from home, beating Exeter City 2-1 at St. James Park in September. They threw away a lead on three separate occasions to draw 3-3 with Bradford City at the Memorial Stadium last time out.
Mark McGhee is definitely without the services of half-a-dozen players this weekend. Loan defender Cian Bolger was set to return to the club this week after recovering from a serious knee injury only to suffer a twisted ankle and will now miss the next three weeks. Worse still is the news that defender Adam Virgo has had to undergo another operation on his knee having only just recovered from a similarly serious injury. He will miss the rest of the season and may even be forced to retire. Chelsea loan goalkeeper Sam Walker will continue between the sticks after goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was recalled from his loan by parent club Fulham last week.
Young midfielder Ollie Clarke injured his knee in training last week and has also had to undergo surgery. Midfielder Wayne Brown serves a one-match ban whilst striker Eliot Richards, who notched an impressive brace in August's abandoned fixture, serves the last of a three game suspension. There are trio of ex-Chairboys in the Rovers squad, with loanee Guy Branston set to continue in the heart of defence after joining from Aldershot Town. Goalkeeper Scott Bevan and striker Matt Harrold won't be involved however. Bevan hasn't recovered from wrist surgery during the close-season whilst Harrold is unlikely to play again this season as he recovers from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament.
A quartet of players who missed out last weekend will be hoping to return to face the Blues this weekend. Winger Fabian Broghammer should have recovered from illness and midfielder Matt Lund is expected to shake off a knock. Striker David Clarkson, who has spent the last month playing in the centre of midfield, has been struggling with an ankle problem whilst defender Tom Parkes is set to make a speedy recovery from a sprained ankle. Midfielder Matt Gill could replace the suspended Wayne Brown to make his first start in over six weeks after recovering from exploratory knee surgery.
Bristol Rovers could line-up as follows (4-4-2):
Michael Smith - Gary Kenneth - Guy Branston - Jim Paterson
Danny Woodards - Matt Gill - Seanan Clucas - Derek Riordan
Joe Anyinsah - Tom Eaves
Subs: Conor Gough, Tom Parkes, Fabian Broghammer, Lee Brown, Matthew Lund, Oliver Norburn, David Clarkson
Here are all the stats...
The league table currently shows Wycombe in 19th place with 19 points from 19 games and Bristol Rovers in 21st spot with 18 points from 19 games.
Rovers Away Record.........W 1 - D 3 - L 5 - Pts 6...Ppg 0.67 (Rank-23)
Wycombe Home Record....W 2 - D 3 - L 4 - Pts 9...Ppg 1.00 (Rank-19)
Rovers' last five results (All Competitions)
Lg2: Southend (H)............Lost 2-3
Lg2: Chesterfield (H)........Won 3-2
Lg2: Rochdale (A).............Lost 1-2
Lg2: Port Vale (A).............Lost 0-4
Lg2: Bradford (H)............Drew 3-3
Wycombe's last five results (All Competitions)
Lg2: Aldershot (A)............Drew 0-0
Lg2: Rochdale (H)..............Lost 1-2
Lg2: Northampton (A).........Lost 1-3
Lg2: Rotherham (A)...........Won 3-2
Lg2: Burton (H).................Won 3-0
Rovers Goal Stats (22 games in all Competitions)
Goals Scored (Total)..........Lg: 23...Cups: 2...Total: 25
Goals Conceded (Total)......Lg: 37...Cups: 8...Total: 45
Goals Scored (Away).........Lg: 7.....Cups: 1...Total: 8
Goals Conceded (Away).....Lg: 18...Cups: 3...Total: 21
Clean Sheets.....................Lg: 1.....Cups: 0...Total: 1
Wycombe Goal Stats (22 games in all Competitions)
Goals Scored (Total)..........Lg: 21...Cups: 4...Total: 25
Goals Conceded (Total)......Lg: 30...Cups: 6...Total: 36
Goals Scored (Home).........Lg: 9.....Cups: 0...Total: 9
Goals Conceded (Home).....Lg: 10...Cups: 0...Total: 10
Clean Sheets.....................Lg: 4.....Cups: 0...Total: 4
Rovers' Top Goal Scorers - (All Competitions)
Eight other players have each scored 1 goal
Wycombe's Goal Scorers - (All Competitions)
Rovers Shooting (Top-3) - All Comps
Tom Eaves........22 on-target...12 off-target...1 against woodwork
Dave Clarkson...19 on-target...15 off-target...1 against woodwork
Eliot Richards.....11 on-target...16 off-target...0 against woodwork
Wycombe Shooting (Top-3) - All Comps
Dean Morgan......17 on-target....9 off-target...2 against woodwork
Joel Grant..........12 on-target...15 off-target...0 against woodwork
Charles Dunne.....7 on-target.....7 off-target...1 against woodwork
Shooting (Club) - League only
Rovers......111 on target...115 off target...5 against w'work (Rank-7)
Wycombe....72 on target.....76 off target...4 against w'work (Rank-22)
Rovers - Tom Eaves.....3
Wycombe - Joel Grant...3
League Form Guide
Rovers.......Pld: 19...W: 4...D: 6...L: 9.....Pts: 18...Pts per game: 0.95
Wycombe...Pld: 19...W: 5...D: 4...L: 10...Pts: 19...Pts per game: 1.00
Last Five league Games
Rovers...........LWLLD - 4 points (Rank-21)
Wycombe......DLLWW - 7 points (Rank-10)
Last Five League Games (Away)
Rovers.............DLLLL - 1 point (Rank-24)
Last Five League Games (Home)
Wycombe......WDLLW - 7 points (Rank-15)
Against Top Half Opposition
Rovers.........Pld: 11...Pts: 12...Pts per game: 1.09...(Rank-14)
Wycombe.....Pld: 11...Pts: 10...Pts per game: 0.91...(Rank-18)
Against Bottom Half Opposition
Rovers..........Pld: 8...Pts: 6...Pts per game: 0.75...(Rank-24)
Wycombe......Pld: 8...Pts: 9...Pts per game: 1.13...(Rank-20)
In 29 previous meetings there have been 13 wins for Bristol Rovers, 12 for Wycombe and 4 draws.
At Adams Park the tally is 6 wins for the Pirates, 5 for the Blues and 4 draws.
1994/95: LG1 Wycombe 0 Bristol Rovers 0
1995/96: LG1 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 1
1996/97: LG1 Wycombe 2 Bristol Rovers 0
1997/98: LG1 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 0
1998/99: LG1 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 1
1999/00: LG1 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 1
2000/01: LG1 Wycombe 0 Bristol Rovers 1
2001/02: LCp Wycombe 0 Bristol Rovers 1
2004/05: LG2 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 0
2005/06: LG2 Wycombe 1 Bristol Rovers 3
2006/07: FLT Wycombe 0 Bristol Rovers 2
2006/07: LG2 Wycombe 0 Bristol Rovers 1
2009/10: LG1 Wycombe 2 Bristol Rovers 1
2010/11: JPT Wycombe 3 Bristol Rovers 6
2011/12: JPT Wycombe 3 Bristol Rovers 1
The Man In The Middle
Saturday's referee is David Coote from Nottingham who was promoted to the National List of Referees in 2010. His only previous Wycombe games were both at Adams Park - a 1-0 win over Bury in December 2010 and a 2-1 victory over Tranmere Rovers in February 2012. During the current campaign he's issued 2 red and 43 yellow cards in 15 appearances.
Benny: Wycombe 3 Rovers 1
Len: Wycombe 2 Rovers 1