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Match Report


Posted Sat 05 Feb 11 at 16:59 PM


Wycombe came from behind and saw Nikki Bull save a late penalty to record a 1-1 draw with Port Vale at Adams Park.

After an entertaining but goalless first-half, the game came to life when Leon Johnson turned a low cross into his own goal just two minutes after the break to give the visitors the lead.

But Scott Donnelly marked his first start for the club with a maiden goal just ten minutes later, wriggling past a number of defenders to poke home.

A handball in the box by Johnson gave Tom Pope the chance to win it for his side, but Nikki Bull denied him from 12 yards to ensure the points would be shared.

Gary Waddock's usual preference to keep a winning side was done no favours by the injuries suffered by Matt Bloomfield and Alan Bennett in midweek, paving the way for Scott Donnelly and Leon Johnson to come into the starting XI.

Vale's intent was clear from the outset, opting to race into the Blues' territory from the kick-off rather than playing it backwards to keep possession, and they were the first to threaten when Nikki Bull had to produce a smart save to tip Doug Loft's effort over the crossbar.

At the other end, Gareth Ainsworth came close to diverting Danny Foster's free-kick past Chris Martin before the keeper recovered to make a second block from Kevin Betsy, with both sides generating a lively start in a display worthy of two of the division's front-runners.

The visitors' midweek success over Rotherham looked to have instilled confidence in a team which was previously bereft of any sort of morale, having struggled to hit any sort of form since the arrival of Jim Gannon in the managerial hotseat.

Loft again brought a save from Bull as they looked for the opener but Wycombe's football was at least as impressive, although the end product around the area was the only thing missing.

Efforts from distance seemed to be the order of the day and Danny Foster saw his 20-yard shot saved by Martin before a rifle from Ainsworth flew just over the bar from the corner of the box.

But the best opening came moments later, when Ben Strevens found himself onside on the right-hand side of the box. With two options available, the striker looked to play in Scott Donnelly but Ritchie Sutton recovered just in time to slide the ball clear when a goal had looked a certainty.

They were almost made to pay when Doug Loft shot low at the near-post, only to see Bull dive to his left to keep the ball out. Gareth Ainsworth fired narrowly wide from fully 60 yards with the keeper scrambling, and that proved to be the last entertainment of a half which had offered plenty of attractive football but nothing to break the deadlock.

It took less than two minutes into the second half for that to change though, as Kris Taylor wriggled into the box and sent a low cross across the six-yard area which Leon Johnson could only turn into his own goal. It was a hammer blow for the Blues - and one which was undeserved on the balance of play - but it left them facing an uphill battle to salvage their excellent record of consecutive home league victories.

The goal virtually ended Vale's attacking intent, as a wall of white shirts swamped the Blues' attacking white third in a hope of stifling the home side's potency. So it needed something special to force the breakthrough, and it came courtesy of Scott Donnelly who wriggled past a number of defenders to poke the ball into the corner and level matters. His passionate celebration was as impressive as his nifty footwork on the edge of the box and all of a sudden, the game was alive again.

Nikki Bull had to be alert to keep out Lewis Haldane's downward header after a free-kick had caused brief panic in the box before Kevin Betsy's glancing header sailed just past the far post from Gareth Ainsworth's deep cross.

Vale then survived a handball shout in their area during a goalmouth scramble before Wanderers introduced Scott Rendell into the action, taking the place of Gareth Ainsworth for his first appearance since returning from an ankle injury.

It was ironic then that the referee should spot a handball in the other area with nine minutes remaining, as a low cross struck the arm of Leon Johnson and gave Tom Pope the chance to regain the lead for his side. But Nikki Bull has earned his reputation as the best keeper in the league for a reason, and he stuck out a leg to deny Pope's fiercely-struck effort.

The momentum was now firmly behind the Blues and they pushed on in search of the winner but Vale's defence held strong to secure a point in an absorbing encounter at Adams Park.


3mins: SAVE - Nikki Bull keeps out a good effort by Doug Loft.

4mins: SAVE - Chris Martin denies Gareth Ainsworth and Kevin Betsy.

20mins: SAVE - Loft's shot forces a save from Bull.

21mins: SUB - Ritchie Sutton replaces the injured Gareth Owen.

36mins: SAVE - Danny Foster's shot from 20 yards is straight at Martin.

38mins: CHANCE -Ainsworth rifles one just over the bar.

39mins: CHANCE - Sutton takes the ball of Scott Donnelly's toe just as he was poised to shoot.

42mins: SAVE - Nikki Bull keeps out Loft's near-post shot.

45mins: CHANCE - Ainsworth's shot from distance travels just wide.

47mins: GOAL - Leon Johnson turns Kris Taylor's cross past his own keeper.

57mins: GOAL - Scott Donnelly levels matters with a fine individual effort.

57mins: SUB - Lewis Haldane comes on for James O'Shea.

66mins: SAVE - Nikki Bull's savedenies Lewis Haldane's header.

70mins: CHANCE - Kevin Betsy's header goes just wide.

71mins: SUBS - Tom Pope comes on for Justin Richards before Scott Rendell replaces Gareth Ainsworth.

76mins: SAVE - Nikki Bull turns Pope's piledriver behind for a corner.

81mins: PENALTY - Leon Johnson handles a low cross.

82mins: SAVE - Nikki Bull keeps out Pope's powerful shot.

83mins: SUB - Jon-Paul Pittman makes his long-awaited return, taking the place of Stuart Beavon.

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