Preview: Hartlepool United v Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe Wanderers will be looking for a third win on the bounce this weekend when they hit the road to face Hartlepool United at Victoria Park.
They say a week is a long time in politics and this time last week the Blues had just a single victory to their name in five attempts. Seven days later and they have put together back-to-back wins in both League and Cup to put a far more rosy glow on life at Adams Park.
It began with a hard fought 2-1 home win over Southend United last weekend. Many predict the Shrimpers to be amongst the promotion shake-up next April so taking their scalp can only be a good thing. Dean Morgan continued his goal-scoring start to the season with an early header only for the visitors to equalise soon afterwards.
There will be some concern at just how easy Ryan Leonard and Freddy Eastwood cut open our defence but the reaction was impressive with striker Steven Craig notching his first goal since his summer move from Partick Thistle. He met Max Kretzschmar's superbly taken corner with a powerful glancing header into the far corner. It was a move successfully crafted from the training ground courtesy of Richard Dobson.
The three points were won by a strong team effort, particularly after the loss of midfielder Josh Scowen to injury in the first half. The second half saw the hosts forced onto the defensive for the most part but with the central defensive pairing of Gary Doherty and Leon Johnson in imperious form and goalkeeper Matt Ingram putting in another man-of-the-match display, the visitors were unable to find a way through.
With three points on the board the midweek trip to St James Park saw the Wanderers put in the perfect away display as they beat Exeter City 2-0 in the Football League Trophy. The visitors were in control of the game for almost all of the ninety minutes with Matt McClure notching his first goal of the season with trademark left-footed finish midway through the first half.
Anthony Stewart headed home the second with less than ten minutes remaining to wrap up the Southern Area first round tie and it all bodes well for the future with several players improving on their fitness and finding their form. Captain Stuart Lewis returned from his three-match ban, Max Kretzschmar made his full debut whilst teenage centre back Tommy Fletcher made his debut as a late substitute.
Anthony Stewart and Kortney Hause both got a full ninety minutes under their belts, Matt Bloomfield continued his return from a nasty pelvic shear injury whilst Matt McClure`s goal, and a full ninety minutes will have done him a power of good. The Blues have climbed six places to 12th in League Two table following the win over the Shrimpers and they are now just two points off the play-off places.
The September slog sees the club make another long trip this weekend with a trip to the North East to take on Hartlepool United at Victoria Park. The Monkey-Hangers have endured a tough start to the new season after a dreadful campaign last year that saw them relegated from League One. Former Middlesbrough defender Colin Cooper has taken over the reigns in his first managerial role, and he is assisted by Craig Hignett.
They have failed to score a single goal in their opening five matches in League Two so far. It leaves them without a win and just two points on the board following a couple of goal-less draws. They sit second bottom of the table but will have been boosted by their 5-0 thumping of League One side Bradford City in a Football League Trophy Northern Area first round tie at Victoria Park in midweek.
It will be the fifth meeting between the two sides at Victoria Park, all of which have come in the last decade. Both sides have won one each, with the other two matches ending in 1-1 draws. The first ever meeting came in October 2003 following the sacking of Lawrie Sanchez as manager the previous month.
John Gorman was in caretaker charge and the visitors made a great start with Darren Currie slotting home after only three minutes. The home side levelled six minutes before half-time when Micky Barron`s shot through a crowd of players found the net via the post. The Chairboys should have won it after the break but missed a host of chances, with Jermaine McSporran the main culprit.
The sides met again three years later in November 2006 with the Blues now managed by Paul Lambert. They put in a lethargic display with the hosts winning comfortably courtesy of goals from loan striker Darryl Duffy. The first came midway through the first half when he rounded loan goalkeeper Ricardo Batista and the second was a sweet volley into the bottom corner on the hour.
The next meeting came in September 2009 as the sides again shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw as Peter Taylor`s side struggled to adapt to life in League One. Stuart Beavon`s daisy-cutter gave the visitors the lead midway through the first half but Adam Boyd came off the bench to level for the Monkey Hangers with 13 minutes remaining.
The last encounter was just under two years ago in October 2011 when Gary Waddock`s side sprung a surprise with a 3-1 win in League One. It will be remembered for a sublime piece of skill from Stuart Beavon as he doubled the Wanderers lead following Scott Donnelly`s opener. An own-goal made it 3-0 before Boyd`s last minute penalty gave the home side small consolation.
Gareth Ainsworth made just the one change to his starting line-up against the Shrimpers with defender Kortney Hause handed his first league start of the season in the unusual position of left-back as he deputised for suspended defender Charles Dunne. He has been called up to the Republic of Ireland under-21 squad for their qualifier with Germany but serves the last of a three match ban this weekend anyway.
Captain Stuart Lewis is available after returning from a three match ban in midweek and is likely to be the only change with midfielder Josh Scowen doubtful after being substituted with an ankle injury in the win over Southend United that saw him miss the midweek cup defeat. Striker Jon-Paul Pittman is also a doubt as he is struggling with a back injury.
Matt Bloomfield made his first appearances in over a year after recovering from a pelvic shear. He isn't ready to start games just yet but will be named on the bench again. Winger Paris Cowan-Hall remains sidelined with a knee ligament injury but will hoping to return to face his former club Plymouth Argyle next weekend.
The Chairboys starting eleven may look something like this (4-4-2):
Marvin McCoy - Gary Doherty - Leon Johnson - Kortney Hause
Nick Arnold - Stuart Lewis - Billy Knott - Sam Wood
Dean Morgan - Steven Craig
Subs: Lee Harrison, Anthony Stewart, Matt Bloomfield, Matt Spring , Max Kretzschmar, Jo Kuffour, Matt McClure
Hartlepool United will be hoping to use their midweek cup thrashing of the Bantams as the springboard for their season as they search for their first win in League Two. Manager Colin Cooper made just one change to his starting line-up last weekend with winger Jonathan Franks recalled to the side in place of striker James Poole, who dropped to the bench.
Winger Jack Compton recovered from a slight calf strain to start in the midweek cup win and scored his first goal for the club alongside defender Christian Burgess with striker Nialle Rodney also marking his full debut with a goal.
Winger Andy Monkhouse and striker Luke James were partnered in attack and Cooper has said they will start together again in this weekend's clash with the Chairboys. Striker Steve Howard had to be substituted at half-time last weekend after being kicked in the face and needed six stitches in his eye. He missed the midweek cup win but has returned to training and is expected to be available. Captain Antony Sweeney remains sidelined with a calf tear.
Pools are expected to line up as follows: (4-4-2):
Michael Duckworth - Christian Burgess - Jack Baldwin - Neil Austin
Jonathan Franks - Brad Walker - Matty Dolan - Jack Compton
Anthony Monkhouse - Luke James
Subs: Andy Rafferty, Darren Holden, Sam Collins, Simon Walton, James Poole, Nialle Rodney, Steve Howard
Here are all the stats...
Wycombe's last five games (All Competitions)
Lg2: Wimbledon (A).......Lost 0-1
Lg2: Mansfield (H)..........Lost 0-1
Lg2: Oxford (A)............Drew 2-2
Lg2: Southend (H).........Won 2-1
JPT: Exeter (A)..............Won 2-0
Hartlepool's last five games (All Competitions)
Lg2: Southend (H)..........Lost 0-1
Lg2: York City (A).........Drew 0-0
Lg2: Fleetwood (H)..........Lost 0-1
Lg2: Torquay (A)..........Drew 0-0
JPT: Bradford (H)...........Won 5-0
Year-on-year performance comparison
After 5 league games last season Wycombe were 20th with 4 points
After 5 League games this season Wycombe are 12th with 7 points
After 5 games last season Pools were 18th in Lg-One with 5 points
After 5 games this season Pools are 23rd in Lg-Two with 2 points
Wycombe Goal Stats (7 games in all Competitions)
Goals Scored (Total)..........Lg: 5...Cups: 3...Total: 8
Goals Conceded (Total)......Lg: 5...Cups: 2...Total: 7
Goals Scored (Away).........Lg: 2...Cups: 2...Total: 4
Goals Conceded (Away).....Lg: 3...Cups: 0...Total: 3
Clean Sheets.....................Lg: 1...Cups: 1...Total: 2
Hartlepool Goal Stats (7 games in all Competitions)
Goals Scored (Total)..........Lg: 0...Cups: 6...Total: 6
Goals Conceded (Total)......Lg: 5...Cups: 3...Total: 8
Goals Scored (Home).........Lg: 0...Cups: 5...Total: 5
Goals Conceded (Home).....Lg: 2...Cups: 0...Total: 2
Clean Sheets.....................Lg: 2...Cups: 1...Total: 3
Wycombe Goal Scorers - (All Competitions)
Hartlepool Goal Scorers - (All Competitions)
Wycombe Shooting (Top-4) - (All Competitions)
Dean Morgan........6 on-target...7 off-target...1 against woodwork
Charles Dunne......1 on-target...3 off-target...0 against woodwork
Max Kretzschmar...1 on-target...3 off-target...0 against woodwork
Billy Knott.............1 on-target...3 off-target...0 against woodwork
Hartlepool Shooting (Top-3) - (All Competitions)
Luke James............4 on-target...4 off-target...0 against woodwork
James Poole...........3 on-target...5 off-target...0 against woodwork
Andy Monkhouse.....2 on-target...6 off-target...0 against woodwork
Shooting (Club) - (League only)
Wycombe.......15 on target...24 off target...1 against w'work (Rank-20)
Hartlepool.......17 on target...32 off target...0 against w'work (Rank-13)
Discipline - (All Competitions)
Wycombe..........2 Red Cards - 16 Yellow Cards
Hartlepool..........0 Red Cards - 12 Yellow Cards
In 8 previous meetings there have been 3 wins for Hartlepool, 3 for Wycombe and 2 draws.
At Victoria Park the tally is 1 wins for Pools, 1 for the Blues and 2 draws.
2003/04 LG1: Hartlepool 1 Wycombe 1
2003/04 LG1: Wycombe 3 Hartlepool 4
2006/07 LG2: Hartlepool 2 Wycombe 0
2006/07 LG2: Wycombe 0 Hartlepool 1
2009/10 LG1: Hartlepool 1 Wycombe 1
2009/10 LG1: Wycombe 2 Hartlepool 0
2011/12 LG1: Hartlepool 1 Wycombe 3
2011/12 LG1: Wycombe 5 Hartlepool 0
The Man In The Middle
Saturday's referee is Mark Heywood from Cheshire who was promoted to the National list of Referees in 2011. His most recent Wycombe game was a 5-2 defeat at Brentford in January 2012. So far this season, Mr Heywood has issued 2 red and 12 yellow cards in 5 games.
Hartlepool 1 Wycombe 1