Ainsworth gets it spot-on as Blues hold Iron
Scunthorpe United 0 Wycombe Wanderers 0
A resilient display and a tactically spot-on game-plan earned Wycombe an excellent point at 2nd placed Scunthorpe United who are unbeaten in 24 games. In truth, the visitors missed chances to win the game themselves, but it was a point that can't be groaned at as almost every Wanderers fan was expecting a straightforward home victory.
Gareth Ainsworth deserves huge praise for the way he set his side up, and after being suspect tactically for the majority of the season, he deserves recognition for getting it near enough spot on today. And considering the list of players currently in the treatment room, it really was a superb point.
Anthony Stewart and Leon Johnson had both picked up hamstring injuries leading to Aaron Pierre partnering new loan signing Danny Rowe in defence. These two are 21 and 18 respectively, only met each other yesterday and were up against the division`s deadliest strike force, with Rowe making his football league debut. Both had a brilliant game and defended resolutely to keep the likes of Sam Winnall, Paddy Madden and Paul Hayes at bay.
Ainsworth preferred Nick Arnold to Marvin McCoy, and played Steven Craig up front on his own with Stuart Lewis also back in the starting line-up.
Wycombe started the game well enough but the opening two chances fell to Scunny. First Eddie Nolan headed wide, and shortly afterwards Gary McSheffrey fired past the post.
In the first period the hosts` main threat was coming from corners. Matt Ingram did well to keep out a David Mirfin header from one of these, and from another, Aaron Pierre blocked brilliantly from a Dave Syers shot. Despite these set pieces the clearest opportunities of the half fell to Wycombe.
After twenty minutes a Matt Bloomfield cross was headed over by the impressive Steven Craig, when he should have at least hit the target. But the best chance fell to Max Kretzschmar. Bloomfield's low cross was neatly dummied by Josh Scowen, and after Max had rolled his man his left footed shot from close-range flew over the top of the crossbar.
The referee was also causing some debate in the first half. He only booked Scunthorpe's Niall Canavan when he brought Kretzschmar down and was debatably the last man. He then failed to even give a free-kick when Kretzschmar was caught on the touchline and it seemed as if the Scunny player went over the ball, in an incident that you've seen red cards given for on more than one occasion. Later on, he bizarrely booked Scowen after a perfectly fair 50/50 challenge to the disbelief of the men in yellow and orange.
After a promising first 45 minutes, Wycombe were hoping for more of the same in the second, but Scunthorpe were certainly quicker out of the blocks after the break as Paddy Madden headed a corner over the top before strike partner Sam Winnall volleyed wide.
Russ Wilcox then opted to bring Paul Hayes on, and he replaced left-back Marcus Williams to applause from the away fans. Matt Sparrow came on shortly afterwards for Sean McAllister, who had been down for some time receiving treatment.
In between these substitutions a brilliant Wanderers move fed Bloomfield but his low cross was well cut out by Mirfin. It was a fine example of what was on show for most of the afternoon from Ainsworth's men. They regularly got the ball down and played some lovely passing football at times, hopefully this will continue in the remaining six games.
A Gary McSheffrey cross hit the bar but his game was over shortly after. Wilcox had just made his third and final substitution with Hakeeb Adelakun replacing Terry Hawkridge, but McSheffrey then pulled up with a hamstring complaint leaving Scunny to play the final 20 minutes with only ten men.
At this stage Ainsworth had to decide whether it was worth the risk of bringing on a second striker in a bid to snatch all three points, but he chose to ensure his side held on to the one they currently had.
Another nice move involving Wood and Scowen led to Kretzschmar dancing his way into the box but he couldn't slide his shot under Sam Slocombe when he should have cut it back to the poised Steven Craig.
Wanderers then received their second ridiculous booking of the afternoon. A brilliant Matt Bloomfield slide tackle, where the ball clearly changed direction, was penalised by referee James Adcock and he brandished the yellow card.
Despite some pressure towards the end Pierre and Rowe stood firm, while Togwell and Scowen were winning balls in the midfield. Josh put in another class performance, and deserves a lot of praise and respect for the loyalty shown in turning down a move away from Adams Park this week, although he'll surely be off in the summer.
A nervy six minutes of stoppage time followed, but after a Sam Wood cross was turned past his own post by Mirfin, and from the resulting corner Wood's shot was saved, the referee's whistle ensured a well deserved point.
It was an encouraging performance from the Blues and with Northampton losing, it leaves them three points clear of the relegation zone with a far superior goal difference. If this performance, and some similarly astute tactics can be taken into the next six games, Wanderers should find themselves 22nd or higher come 5pm on May 3rd.
Ingram 7, Arnold 5, Pierre 8, Rowe 8, Wood 6, Togwell 8, Bloomfield 6, Lewis 6, Scowen 8, Kretzschmar 7, Craig 8