Blunt Blues pay the Penalty
Wycombe Wanderers were given a taste of their own medicine as they somehow conspired to lose 1-0 to Exeter City at Adams Park on New Years Day.
The Blues had nicked all three points at the Grecians' Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle at the weekend with a fortunate 1-0 victory that relied in part on the woeful finishing of the hosts. This time is was Wycombe's turn to waste possession and a number of half-chances to fall to defeat.
In many ways this was more calamitous with the visitors reduced to ten men five minutes before half-time when the experienced Jamie Cureton kicked out at defender Anthony Stewart and a sharp-eyed linesman ensured he was punished fully with a straight red card.
Yet the ten-men defended comfortably against a blunt Blues attack except for the 53rd minute when Joel Grant's dancing feet were too quick for defender Pat Baldwin, who tripped the winger in the box to concede a penalty.
Grant's feet must have still been dancing as his powder-puff spot-kick was comfortably saved by visiting goalkeeper Artur Krysiak. To make things worse he then used his hand to bundle the re-bound into the net and the goal was disallowed.
The hat-trick of farce came seven minutes from time when goalkeeper Jordan Archer could only parry striker John O'Flynn's shot into the middle of the goal where defender Kortney Hause, under pressure from two opponents, turned the ball into his own net.
On a cold afternoon in the Chair Metropolis a crowd of 3,679 arrived at Adams Park to see a pitch which had deteriorated into an unedifying glue-pot courtesy of recent heavy rain and the efforts of our rugby union playing tenants.
It didn't exactly make for slick, passing football and the players on both sides had trouble controlling the ball and finding their team-mates with accurate passing. It certainly didn't play to the strengths of the Blues' wingers Bruno Andrade and Joel Grant.
The first half-chance came after five minutes but midfielder Matt Spring fired Krysiak's weak clearance straight back into his arms. Exeter enjoyed the better of the possession but couldn't create any chances and it was McClure who was unable to untangle his feet before slicing over in the 20th minute.
It was a niggly encounter with both sides frustrated by the fussy refereeing of Mr Andy Davies. Grant blazed over before visiting striker Alan Gow curled a free-kick wide. The first half ended with Cureton losing his head and half-time arrived with the game goal-less.
Wycombe would have been looking to make their extra man count in the second half, and had been shown how to do it by Morecambe in their last home game almost a month ago. Ainsworth made a change at the break with Dean Morgan replacing the ineffectual Jo Kuffour.
Matt McClure sent a header straight at Krysiak within four minutes and four minutes later the home fans were celebrating when the referee pointed to the spot after Grant had tricked his way into the area before being tripped by Baldwin.
Sadly such celebrations were premature as Grant's woeful penalty was comfortably saved by Krysiak. It looked like Grant had been given a reprieve however as he seemed certain to score from the re-bound only to handle the ball into the net under pressure from a number of defenders and the referee awarded a free-kick to Exeter.
McClure had made little impression during his 58 minutes on the pitch and he was replaced by Ade Azeez. The loanee certainly was noticed but sadly not for the right reasons as he showed almost no semblance of ball control whatsoever with several attacking moves coming to nothing following his involvement.
Exeter were happy to put men behind the ball and defend against the Blues. The tactics worked a treat as Grant disappeared into his shell and the home side appeared to possess all the cutting edge of a blancmange.
Andrade fired straight at Krysiak but frankly the only problem the Grecians' glovesman had was keeping his goal kicks on the pitch. Defender Michael Harriman came on to make his debut with a dozen minutes remaining following his loan move from QPR, replacing the disappointing Marvin McCoy.
Despite looking comfortable at the back the visitors never really threatened to score a breakaway goal with the central defensive partnership of Anthony Stewart and Kortney Hause belying their tender ages with impressive displays.
Sadly the latter suffered the ignominy of scoring the winner in the 83rd minute when O'Flynn was allowed to turn inside the box and shoot low at goal. Archer got down to make the parry but Hause could only turn the ball into his own net under pressure from two opponents.
Ninety seconds later the otherwise anonymous Spring made a crucial last ditch tackle to prevent O'Flynn from going through clear on goal following a woeful clearance from Archer. Krysiak was finally called upon to make a meaningful save when he acrobatically tipped Stewart's shot over the bar with four minutes remaining.
An equaliser was never on the cards and the visitors held on to take the points. The performance was rather disappointing, to say the least, and to have lost the game in those circumstances is all the more galling. It could even be described as unprofessional and hopefully Ainsworth won't let it happen again.
It is far from the ideal way to start the new year but five wins in eight games does at least bring hope that the first few months of 2013 will not involve a relegation battle for the Wanderers.
Ratings: Archer 6, McCoy 5 (Harriman N/A), Hause 8*, Stewart 7, Wood 7, Andrade 6, Lewis 7, Spring 5, Grant 6, Kuffour 5 (Morgan 5), McClure 5 (Azeez 4).