Dale's early blitz trumps Blues' fightback
Rochdale 3 Wycombe Wanderers 2
A thirty minute footballing masterclass left Wycombe with their first defeat since August 17th, as Rochdale ran out 3-2 victors in an entertaining game at Spotland. Three goals in the opening fifteen minutes left the Blues with a mountain to climb, a mountain that was too big despite goals from Matt McClure and Jo Kuffour.
Gareth Ainsworth was forced to make one change to the side that drew at home to York last week, as Kuffour came in for the suspended Dean Morgan. Steven Craig was still recovering from illness, and Josh Scowen missed out again after injuring an ankle in Tuesday's Berks & Bucks win at Chalfont.
Things couldn't have started much worse for Wycombe, as Dale immediately set about them, spreading the ball out wide to Matthew Lund who's cross evaded everyone. And with just four minutes on the clock the hosts were in front. More crisp passing led to Matt Done feeding Scott Hogan, who turned Leon Johnson and finished brilliantly into the top corner.
Just five minutes later Billy Knott was dispossessed, and Dale broke forward. In a bid to atone for his error Knott charged back, but his run was impeded and the ball ended up with Joe Bunney who coolly finished under Ingram. It will need another viewing, but the incident with Knott seemed like a elbow, which could easily have led to a red card if that were the case. But take nothing away from Dale, the move and pace of their counter-attack was sheer class.
It wasn't long until further damage was done, an Ian Henderson corner was played back to the edge of the area, where Michael Rose was waiting unmarked to curl home wonderfully from 25 yards. And if you thought things couldn't get any worse, they almost did, as Matt Ingram had to receive treatment meaning Charlie Horlock was warming up in anticipation for his professional debut.
The hosts continued to look dangerous, playing some beautiful free flowing football and spraying balls out wide, it was actually a joy to watch. Don't get me wrong, Wycombe had started the game poorly, but Rochdale were contributing towards one of the finest League Two footballing displays I've seen. Wycombe meanwhile, were persistently playing the ball long to the two strikers, a plan that will never breed success considering their lack of height.
However, the work rate of Billy Knott was giving Wycombe some hope, and after Wood found the Sunderland loanee on the half hour, his dinked finish went just past the post. And only eight minutes later the deficit was reduced. Knott found McClure who fired a low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, a goal before half-time that was crucial to any remaining Wycombe hopes.
Moments later, a Max Kretzschmar corner wasn't dealt with and McClure found space in the area but blazed the ball high and wide. Five minutes earlier Wycombe were praying for the half-time whistle, suddenly it had come at completely the wrong time.
The second half saw the Blues switch to 4-3-3 with Jon-Paul Pittman and Matt Bloomfield replacing Kortney Hause and Max Kretzschmar. Sam Wood dropped to left-back with Pittman joining McClure and Kuffour up front.
Matt Ingram has picked up a reputation for some wonder saves, and this week was no different. Ian Henderson skipped up the wing before picking out Matt Done whose effort was expertly tipped over by Ingram. A save that would prove particularly worthwhile moments later.
Marvin McCoy burst up the right before seemingly over hitting a cross, but it found Jo Kuffour who's cross/shot (I'll let you decide) looped over Josh Lillis and into the far corner of the net, putting the visitors right back into the contest with over half an hour to go. If this was deliberate by Kuffour, it was some finish.
The remainder of the game passed by without any real clear cut chances. Leon Johnson headed over the bar, and Knott's long range effort was easy for Lillis as Wycombe looked to complete a remarkable turnaround. Meanwhile at the other end Ingram parried Jack O'Connell's attempt and watched on as Lund and Graham Cummins missed the target. A Matt Bloomfield free-kick was then played into the box, but McClure's glancing header just sailed over the crossbar.
In one final bid to equalise, Ainsworth replaced the superb Knott with Anthony Stewart and threw Gary Doherty up front. A move that almost worked in stoppage time as both Doherty and Johnson almost bundled the ball home only for the offside flag to be raised.
The full-time whistle signalled a first defeat in seven for the Blues, due to a combination of their slow start and Rochdale's master class. However a spirited fight back will instil some confidence going into three consecutive home fixtures against Burton, Bristol City and Torquay.
Ingram 6, McCoy 6, Doherty 7, Johnson 6, Hause 4 (Pittman 6), Kretzshcmar 4 (Bloomfield 6), Lewis 7, Knott 8* (Stewart N/a), Wood 8, Kuffour 6, McClure 6.