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Match Report


Posted Tue 27 Sep 11 at 21:41 PM


Wanderers gave Preston a huge scare on their way to a seventh consecutive victory in a thriller at Adams Park on Tuesday evening.

The visitors were seemingly cruising when Neil Mellor and Iain Hume fired them into a two-goal lead but they trailed at the break thanks to a stunning Wycombe comeback.

Gareth Ainsworth, Scott Donnelly (penalty) and Stuart Beavon were the men behind the turnaround and they continued to create chances to extend their lead even further.

However, Hume and Mellor turned the game on its head once again in the second half to condemn the Blues to an unlucky defeat after the most spirited of performances.

Gary Waddock made two changes to his side on his 250th managerial appearance, bringing in debutant Martin Rowlands following his loan move from Queens Park Rangers, while former Preston man Gareth Ainsworth returned on the right wing, with Ben Harding and Joel Grant making way.

It was a positive start from the Blues, who saw Rowlands curl an effort wide from 25 yards and Donnelly fire narrowly over from just inside the Preston half within two minutes of the kick-off.

However, the Blues' ambitions were seemingly torn to shreds within just nine minutes as they succumbed to two clinical Preston attacks. Firstly a quick free-kick was nodded back across goal by Clarke Carlisle for Mellor to bundle home at the back post, before a counter-attack following a Wycombe corner resulted in Mellor picking out Hume in acres of space, and the Canadian international made no mistake from 15 yards.

But Gary Waddock's men proved at the weekend that they're made of tougher stuff than that, and they were handed a lifeline straightaway when Andy Sandell's low free-kick was fumbled by keeper Andreas Arestidou and Ainsworth found the net against former employers, opting not to celebrate in front of the Dreams Stand out of respect.

And the Adams Park crowd couldn't believe their eyes when Donnelly's impeccable pass set Kadeem Harris free inside the penalty area and Conor McLaughlin brought the winger down, allowing Donnelly to step up from the spot and make it 2-2 with just 14 minutes on the clock.

Harris was having the game of his life, and it was his magical feet that brought about the Blues' third. Having torn right-back Conor McLaughlin to pieces, his cutback found Ainsworth whose effort was deflected over the bar. From Scott Donnelly's corner, Stuart Beavon found space at the near post to head home, sparking wild celebrations on and off the pitch.

Beavon was at it again moments later, seizing on a mistake to dart towards goal and firing low towards the back post, forcing an uncomfortable save from Arestidou, and James Tunnicliffe headed wastefully wide from the corner.

Such was Harris' impact on the game, opposition manager Phil Brown hauled McLaughlin off the pitch after just 30 minutes, with Gray taking his place. "Kadeem's too good for you," sang the Valley Terrace. They were spot on.

Preston eventually settled after the shell-shock of the turnaround but they were so close to falling even further behind on 40 minutes. A wonderful move saw Stuart Lewis burst into the box and crash his effort against the base of the post, signaling the hosts' refusal to settle for what they had.

In an incredibly open first half, Nikki Bull then had to produce a fine save to tip Jamie Proctor's swerving drive behind, but Wycombe ended on top, playing a breathtaking brand of football which was full of imagination and flair.

There was a scare in more than one sense when Jamie Proctor's low cross found its way into the six-yard box just after the restart - the first fear was allayed by Nikki Bull bravely threw himself at the ball to deny Neil Mellor a clear goal, but the second saw Bull lying in pain as a result of the collision, although he got to his feet after gathering his senses.

At the other end, Andreas Arestidou made an unorthodox save with his face when Leon Johnson nodded on Scott Donnelly's superb free-kick, before Bull was called upon again to tip Jamie Proctor's curling shot round the post with a smart save.

It was end-to-end stuff, losing none of the tempo of the first-half, and Harris and Beavon were both denied by blocks in quick succession after good work from Ainsworth.

You had to be there to believe some of the football on show, and that was particularly the case when Beavon mesmerized Clarke Carlisle at the byline before pulling the ball back, only for Kadeem Harris to fire into the side netting.

But while Wanderers kept attacking, there were always going to be chances at the other end, and Preston took it when it came. Iain Hume was set free by a clever forward pass and he kept his composure to dink it past Bull, who was still not looking 100% following his earlier collision.

Not to be put off by the threat of a swing in momentum, the hosts continued to push forward, and saw Beavon's glancing header miss the target before Gary Waddock made his first change of the night, bringing on Ben Strevens for Gareth Ainsworth.

However, the tide was turning, and Preston's fourth goal came on 74 minutes courtesy of their leading marksman. Persistent play down the right paid off when the ball was crossed low across the six-yard area and Mellor bundled home to make it 4-3.

The game was almost over when Andy Sandell flicked a free-kick just past his own post, but the closing stages offered hope. Arestidou made a superb stop to keep out Strevens' header, and Preston just about held firm to continue their winning run.

Gary Waddock and his troops made their way over to the fantastic vocal support to show their appreciation, and despite leaving the field with no points to show for their efforts, this was a magnificent display against likely promotion candidates.

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