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Match Report

 

Posted Sat 31 Oct 09 at 17:00 PM

BLUES SUFFER HALLOWEEN HEARTACHE

By Elliott Day

Wanderers slipped to a 3-2 defeat to Walsall on Saturday afternoon as the visitors overturned a half-time two-goal deficit to steal the points at Adams Park.

Two stunning strikes from Scott Davies looked to have set the Blues on the way to their first victory under new boss Gary Waddock, but the Saddlers somehow pinched the victory courtesy of a complete turnaround after the break.

Steve Jones, Mark Hughes and Alex Nicholls did the damage for Chris Hutchings' men and the Wanderers can now turn their attentions away from the league as they welcome Brighton and Hove Albion next weekend in the first round of the FA Cup.

Blues boss Gary Waddock made one change from the side that drew with Exeter last weekend, with Chris Zebroski replacing Matt Bloomfield. Waddock also sprung a surprise with the inclusion of youth team winger Kadeem Harris on the Wanderers bench.

On the opposite bench, Walsall's armory was severely dented with the news that their linchpin at the back, Clayton McDonald, was only fit to enough to make the bench and influential midfielder Dwayne Mattis didn't even travel.

With a gap developing at the foot of the table, Wanderers headed into this clash six points adrift of 20th placed Stockport meaning it was imperative that the Blues went for the jugular.

Indeed they did, as Wanderers took the lead on 11 minutes when Scott Davies scored from a free-kick, just over the half-way line. Davies executed a spectacular lob over Walsall 'keeper Clayton Ince after spotting he had strayed off his line.

The Chairboys threatened to double their lead on 18 minutes when Matt Harrold, unmarked in the area, blazed his header over the bar after an inch-perfect cross from Kevin Betsy.

Tommy Doherty's first home appearance in a Wanderers shirt since returning from an ankle injury was greeted by a rapturous applause from the Wanderers faithful. Doherty added some much needed composure to the Blues midfield as well as that extra sparkle in his diamond double-act with Scott Davies in the centre of midfield.

Matty Phillips, whose wing play was a joy to behold, continued to pile on the pressure after he had, once again, reached the byline but his tame cross was easily intercepted by the Walsall defence on 35 minutes.

Indeed Phillips pace and trickery on the left wing gave Walsall right back Rhys Weston a torrid time, forcing a corner on 36 minutes. Davies doubled the score line from the resulting corner when the ball was played short to him on the edge of the area and his low drive, with the outside of his right boot, sizzled into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Wanderers went close again on 39 minutes when Davies' shot was cleared of the line after Craig Woodman had ventured forward into the Saddlers' penalty area. Having drawn the keeper out of his goal, Woodman's lay off to the on-loan Reading man so nearly resulted in Davies, on a hat-trick, delivering the coup de grace.

Deft of touch and quick of feet, Walsall front man Byfield oozed quality and was a rare flicker of light amongst the otherwise dampened flames of the red shirted Walsall players in a limp first-half display.

In the second half, the Saddlers re-grouped and showed greater attacking impetus. Most notably, Byfield went close immediately after the re-start. His shot from the left side of the area only narrowly went over the bar.

Walsall's Matt Richards similarly posed a threat from the left side of midfield with his penetrative out-swinging crosses consistently hitting Wycombe's six-yard box.

However, a Matty Phillips cross on 58 minutes which skimmed over the head of Matt Harrold - who was lurking dangerously in the penalty area - posed a timely reminder to Walsall that Wycombe weren't prepared to rest on their laurels.

It was as if the second half was played in front of the house of mirrors instead of the house of Frank Adams, as it was Wanderers who employed the counter-attacking tactics in the second-half, with Walsall clinching the lion's share of possession.
Walsall got the goal that they deserved on 55 minutes, with Steve Jones replying for the Saddlers. His neat left-footed finish nestled into the bottom right-hand corner of the net after he was left in acres of space in the Wycombe danger area.

Wanderers spurned numerous opportunities to increase their lead with Michael Duberry heading over the bar from Phillips' 58th minute corner and Harrold sending his shot high and wide, from six-yards out, after good play from substitute Matt Bloomfield in the area on 72 minutes.

Bloomfield must have whispered something along the lines of 'wind me up and let me go' into manager Waddock's ear at half-time, as he made an immediate impact from the bench. Full of running and ambition to drive forward into Walsall's box, Bloomfield shared the same boundless energy as a fully loaded jack-in-a-box.

At 2-1 the next goal was going to be crucial, particularly as Wanderers surrendered a one goal lead away to Exeter last weekend in second-half stoppage time.

Phillips wasted another glorious opportunity for the Chairboys on 76 minutes after expertly teeing himself up for the volley in the area but his shot flew over the bar.

Davies low drive from the edge of the area was well held by Walsall stopper Ince on 78 minutes and substitute Jon-Paul Pittman likewise threatened to increase Wanderers advantage moments later, with a swiveling shot that crashed into the side netting.

In the 81st minute, Walsall's Jones turned sharply before unleashing a ferocious drive that was deflected over the bar for a corner. From the subsequent corner, Walsall's Mark Hughes capitalised on some poor Wycombe defending to level the scores at 2-2.

However, despite looking like Wanderers would have to settle for a point in manager Waddock's third game in charge of the Chairboys, Walsall's Alex Nicholls completed a remarkable comeback when he snatched the winner on 86 minutes.

The goal came after Nicholls was left one-on-one with Wycombe's Scott Shearer and his composed finish sent the Saddlers into the lead for the first time in the match.

However, there are plenty of positives to take away from this game - most notably Wycombe's renewed vigor and creative threat reflected by the fact that the Blues twice took the lead against a side who were only five points off a play-off spot before the match. Manager Waddock echoed those sentiments post-match, commenting that his side 'played very well other than the result'.





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