Brunt bags Pirates the points
Bristol Rovers 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0
Vital would like to thank guest writer Dale Jenkins for the following report.
A solitary goal from Ryan Brunt gave Bristol Rovers a closely-fought 1-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon at the Memorial Stadium.
In the programme notes, Rovers' chairman Nick Higgs wrote 'we don`t need to go into what happened earlier in the season when we took on Wycombe, as every game is now equally important,' presumably now realising how much of an embarrassment he had made of himself with his outburst earlier in the season when he effectively accused Wycombe of cheating on the back of a referee`s decision.
John Ward was more phlegmatic, challenging his players to reach the sort of benchmark the Wanderers have set recently, and it seems his players are responding to the challenge as they move further away from danger. If there was still some bitterness in the home terraces and playful taunting from the visiting supporters, the extra edge failed to transpire on the pitch as both teams turned in a rudderless, insipid display with precious little goalmouth action to write about.
Gareth Ainsworth made two changes with Jo Kuffour and Marvin McCoy replacing Dean Morgan and the suspended Josh Scowen. Rovers named Ryan Brunt in their line up, a recent-signing who has now started six games for the Pirates and is yet to appear on the losing team, and he looked a class above most on the pitch today as Rovers won their 6th game in 8.
To their credit, the Wanderers started brightly, with an early Joel Grant effort deflected comfortably wide, and Jo Kuffour finding himself in a promising position but shooting wastefully into the side netting. For the next 30 minutes lethargy became the order of the day as both sides cheaply conceded possession and struggled to put together any discernible passing moves.
The game desperately needed a moment of quality to break the lull and it arrived on 35 minutes as Joe Anyinsah`s cross found Brunt who volleyed into the corner with Jordan Archer presumably unsighted and not moving a muscle. Brunt looked comfortably the hosts` most dangerous attacking outlet throughout the half but had precious little support to work with.
The goal failed to ignite any further excitement in the first half however, with Wycombe often seeing Matt McClure winning flick headers but his strike partner Kuffour rarely anywhere near getting on the end of them.
The second half began with a couple of harmless efforts over the bar from Fabian Broghammer and John-Joe O`Toole before Kuffour again found space in the Rovers box but after controlling well, he fired wastefully over from just six yards. It is now just two goals from twenty games from Kuffour who arrived with a good lower league record: a poor return whichever way you look at it.
In a desperate attempt to inject some attacking spirit into the team, Ainsworth introduced Morgan for the ineffective Grant, and Spring for McCoy with Harriman reverting to full-back. it was however, slow in coming.
The next notable action came in the 78th minute. Again Kuffour found himself in the clear and went down after a push from the defender, but referee Mick Russell was surprisingly unmoved. Kuffour looked to have little reason to go down with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Just four minutes later Kuffour was in the clear yet again but this time he was obviously looking for a penalty as he went down all too easily. It seems Kuffour`s strength is getting himself into dangerous goal scoring positions, but his conversion rate is far too low for a striker.
There were three more half chances for Wycombe to steal a point. Firstly when Charles Dunne fired into the side netting following McClure`s superb pass, and secondly when Harriman`s excellent low cross evaded everyone when a predatory number 9 probably would have snaffled it up. Finally, in the last minute, an almighty scramble ensued from Dunne`s long throw which saw a number of blocked attempts before Sam Wood fired high over the bar and the game was up.
Rovers offered little in attack throughout but seemed content to soak up any pressure and hold on to the lead they earned in the first half - and it worked.
Ratings: Archer 6, McCoy 5 (Spring 4), Winfield 6, Stewart 6, Dunne 6, Grant 4 (Morgan 4), Lewis 6, Harriman 6, Wood 5, Kuffour 5, McClure 5 (Oli n/a)
Attendance: 7,324 (388 Wycombe supporters)