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Match Reports

Report: Wycombe 3-1 Forest Green

Cowan-Hall, Stewart and O'Nien on target.

2 September 2017

An outstanding first-half display set the Chairboys on their way to a first home win of the season in their first ever EFL meeting with Forest Green Rovers.

Paris Cowan-Hall struck first with a crisp low shot before Anthony Stewart and Luke O’Nien continued the barnstorming start to the match to put Wanderers out of sight.

Christian Doidge converted from close range midway through the second period to give Rovers hope, but the result never looked in doubt as Wycombe made it three league wins from five played.

Gareth Ainsworth stuck with the same XI that defeated Grimsby last weekend, keeping new loan signings Josh Umerah, Ebere Eze and Dan Scarr on the bench, and a fast start to the game saw both sides go close to opening the scoring in the first three minutes.

Liam Noble forced a smart save from Scott Brown with a dangerous free-kick from 20 yards, before Brown’s long kick forward put his opposite number Sam Russell under pressure, but his dropped catch fell to safety.

Then Paris Cowan-Hall came close to converting a header from a whipped cross from the left, Adebayo Akinfenwa had a header of his own diverted wide for a corner, and Craig Mackail-Smith’s acrobatic overhead kick landed in the side netting.

The breakthrough came on seven minutes through a clinical first-time strike from Paris Cowan-Hall, thrashing a loose ball low into the net after Akinfenwa and Mackail-Smith both unsettled the defence.

Rovers struggled to get a foothold in the game, being harried all over the pitch by a fired-up Chairboys outfit, but they were inches away from levelling when Noble’s exquisite free-kick bounced back off the inside of the post and flew back across the face of goal.

However, Wanderers struck again midway through the first half, doubling their lead with a strikers’ finish from Anthony Stewart. A deep cross from the right from Cowan-Hall evaded Akinfenwa but Stewart had stayed forward from a set-piece and showed elegance to control the ball, shift it past his man and drill it into the bottom corner from 15 yards.

Confidence oozed through the hosts, and a sublime burst between two defenders from Matt Bloomfield wasn’t quite matched by the cutback as the Blues looked to rattle home a third.

Then Akinfenwa rolled the ball just past the far post after Mackail-Smith’s low cross reached the striker on his left foot, and Bloomfield again sprinted past a defender into the box but Russell thwarted him just in time, darting from his line.

The third goal was no less than Wycombe deserved, and Akinfenwa was unlucky that it wasn’t his name on the scoresheet after charging at goal, taking advantage of another defensive mishap. Noble passed the ball straight to the striker, but his low shot was parried out by Russell into the path of Luke O’Nien, who gleefully rolled the ball into the net.

Rovers boss Mark Cooper reacted with an immediate substitution, bringing on Emmanuel Monthe for a man-marking job on Akinfenwa, with Alex Iacovitti the unfortunate man to make way.

But chances kept coming. Stewart could have had a second goal, but his downward bouncing header was well tipped away by Russell after the defender peeled away to meet Joe Jacobson’s deep free-kick.

There was a scare when Noble converted a loose ball in stoppage time, but the offside flag had already been raised to deny Rovers any consolation before the break. Another offside flag at the other denied Mackail-Smith a first Wycombe goal ahead of the whistle, after more superb play from Bloomfield and Akinfenwa.

The half-time whistle was met with rapturous applause from the home supporters but howls of derision from the away fans, who may have been cheered to see Toni Gomes handed a debut from the bench in the second period, with Dan Wishart making way.

But the game carried a familiar pattern after the break, Stewart continued to excel at the back and displayed consummate calmness with the ball at his feet, driving forward some 50 yards in one instance before teeing up Cowan-Hall to win a corner.

Stewart and Noble both missed the target with half-chances at either end, while Scott Laird bent a free-kick well over the bar on the hour-mark.

Forest Green’s final substitution arrived shortly after when Shamir Mullings replaced Drissa Traore, prompting a change in formation to play three up top.

Then came another flowing Wycombe move when Luke O’Nien won the ball back high up the pitch and it found its way to Matt Bloomfield, whose low ball was almost met by the onrushing Mackail-Smith before being turned behind for a corner.

But the hosts’ hopes of a clean sheet were dashed midway through the half when Christian Doidge pulled one back at the second attempt, seeing his initial header bounce back off the post before nodding the rebound into an empty net with Scott Brown stranded.

It came against the run of play, with Brown having been a spectator for most of the game, and Wycombe freshened thing up with a change as Josh Umerah took the place of Mackail-Smith in attack.

Adam El-Abd did well to hook the ball away from danger after a Forest Green free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Brown and escaped his grasp, before Umerah was denied a maiden senior goal by a last-gasp tackle from Dale Bennett after reaching Brown’s long ball and controlling it neatly into his own path in the box.

Marcus Bean came on for Matt Bloomfield, who’d collected a knock, before O’Nien collected a yellow card for leaving the ground to contest a loose ball with Noble.

Umerah then again came close, with Wycombe’s hunger on show as Michael Harriman won the ball back by the corner flag, and as the move stayed alive, Jacobson flashed a low cross into the six-yard box but the Charlton loanee couldn’t quite connect.

Nick Freeman replaced Paris Cowan-Hall at the start of five minutes’ stoppage time, in which the hosts saw the game out with no late drama to move to 10 points from five games.

50/50 Draw Numbers

Blue £1: 03110
Prize: £490.00

Orange £2: 28303
Prize: £49.00

Sponsors’ man of the match (Beechdean): Anthony Stewart

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