Wycombe Wanderers 0
Bradford City 3
Doyle 1, 83 (pen), Atkinson 81
Tuesday 12 February, 2013
By Mike Holdsworth
A slow news week, then the top left footer moves on (not Nakhi Wells, thank Christ), another Extra Value Spag Bol is doomed and more importantly this damn fixture is subject to a late pitch inspection again. But not to worry it’s all on! Wycombe were flying on the original December date, we were slipping in the league. A ‘P’ next to the fixture was the best we could have hoped for back then, save ourselves for Villa perhaps. But wait … plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, que sera sera, whatever will be will be. Wycombe have only gone and overtaken us, but we’ve only gone and done it!
And so to this fixture. Poor track record at Wycombe, form poles apart. But it was great to roll up at the away turnstile and not pay a bean. Free, gratis, you’re in. Thank you Mr Lawn. Lower than average Wycombe crowd at 3,068 with a big City following. Gareth Ainsworth had called for better support thinking Wycombe deserved more. With 9 wins in 13 league games he was right and City must have expected a tough test.
Not unexpected that City rang the changes, interesting to see how they fared with no James Hanson and no Wells and a welcome back to Andrew Davies. I fancied a 3-4 with Darby to score first at 250-1. Forget that, there’s no bookie and no beer in the cheap seats at Adams Park. Not the done thing in South Bucks, perhaps, although Douwe Egberts coffee at half time was a welcome, southern poncy sort of touch.
Yes, Wycombe really, really were on a roll coming into the game with a feel good factor to match most, except ours of course. They claim five of their players were pursued in January, some good young talent storming up the league. Nailed on they will sell them all. Some ownership issues unresolved but, hey, look at Leeds, if you must. The pitch looked a bit muddy. As fan and local celeb Bill Turnbull had tweeted ’14 centimetres of snow on the pitch on Monday, pitch ready for game on Tuesday’. That’s just another old man exaggerating about six inches but there really was a lot of snow and serious doubts about the game.
City were in dreamland after 70 seconds of this match. Throw on the left wing, Nathan Doyle gathers a flick on the edge of the area and in space expertly steers the ball to the right of keeper Archer. He seems to celebrate as though relieved to shake off his recent form and it’s game on. Wycombe should have equalised after 4 minutes with their best chance of the match. Joel Grant easily shook off Davies on the right deep into the area and crossed for Scowen to head over a clear scoring chance. On 7 a Wycombe corner saw Davies head backwards and somewhat luckily straight into Duke’s hands.
Fortunately it would get no better for Wycombe and Davies only improved, significantly. He seemed to dominate the early exchanges in one way or another. An absolutely crunching but superb challenge by Davies on Lewis had the Bradford ref baiters up in arms as the ref blew for a Wycombe free kick 20 yards out. But Nelson had caught him on the way through and Morgan clipped the free kick over. Davies’ battle with the excellent Morgan became a feature and it was good to see Davies so rugged in the challenge, especially in the air. The James Hanson Protection Society take note – Davies smashed Morgan around all first half to great effect and great viewing. Wycombe fans were not amused, fairly quiet but not amused.
But City continued to push forward. An excellent Reid run and shot forced a corner and a strong Thompson shot was kept out. With only Morgan carrying much threat for Wycombe, the City eleven were putting up an increasingly effective all round show. Stephen Darby impressed going forward, well supported by Will Atkinson. Kyel Reid came to the fore as the first half wore on. He drew three quick free kicks as Wycombe grew frustrated.
But the set pieces were not working well for City. Jones had clearly decided not to play the ball directly into the box from the many corners and free kicks we won but invariably we fluffed our lines on them and a few worrying Wycombe breaks and a little fan frustration resulted.
Davies continued to dominate the defensive corners and did well to withstand Winfield’s aerial threat. Just before the half there was more Reid kicking by Wycombe and Reid baiting by their fans. Reid acknowledged the strong City support and produced a Hollywood juggle before blasting high and wide, not for the first time. On 45 minutes Atkinson produced a sublime run and shot cutting in from the right.
Limited direct attempts on target in the first half but City were carrying much the greater threat and variety. They were untroubled at the back, with Ryan Dickson settling in well. A highlight was the screen provided by Gary Jones and Doyle who seemed to be in the right place at the right time all night and justified their places in the shake-up, not that they were ever in doubt.
Wycombe started the second half as they ended the first, a bit ragged and desperate. Morgan had two poor, long-range efforts and fortunately went off the boil. The industrial challenges continued, Winfield on Atkinson who was collecting as many bruises as Reid.
10 minutes into the half and the theme of City fluff set pieces, Wycombe break well, Morgan puts in a poor shot continued. But around the hour mark, Wycombe had their best spell, albeit short, and their crowd became vocal for about the only time in the match. Duke saved well to his left and again cleared his lines on the edge of the area after Grant outjumped Dickson. Grant was the key Wycombe man in the second half but lacked support.
On 63 minutes, excellent play by Thompson saw him beat his man deep on the right, cross for Reid to put in a shot which was blocked but fell to Thompson 10 yards out on the right. He smashed an excellent shot against the bar (déjà vu) and you just wondered whether it really was to be our night. A header flashed past the City post, Dunne outfought Atkinson and shot from distance. But Wycombe stayed predictable and City stayed comfortable.
Hanson replaced Andy Gray on 72. We showed far better discipline as yellow card number three went to Grant for a foul and kick the ball into the stand combination. Another brief dodgy spell with 15 to go as a couple of decisions didn’t go our way, but again it was shots from distance until Matt Duke missed a high lobbed cross but the ref’s whistle rescued us.
On 80 minutes, City worked a deserved and superb second goal. Jones was increasingly prominent in the Wycombe half, found Hanson near the penalty spot who surprised all around him with a short, intelligent pass to his right finding the unmarked Atkinson. It was another typical night of graft from Atkinson and he still had work to do but gave Archer no chance with a splendid shot into the bottom right corner. The game was up, we knew it and a disappointing Wycombe knew it.
Reid was again prominent towards the end of the half, holding the ball up well and really battling for the team. The work rate of the forwards in sprinting from distance to balls played into space was a positive feature all night for City with Garry Thompson especially making tireless runs. But it was Hanson who outsprinted Archer to the ball on the corner of the box on 82 minutes, tipped the ball past him, drew the foul, penalty.
There was little debate from Wycombe, Doyle sent the keeper the wrong way. The Wembley songs rang out! Davies made an 86th minute departure to a great reception; I think he might find the style of Swansea and the wide open spaces of Wembley come a bit too early for him, but he was a star. Duke saved his best until the last minute. Goodnight, great job done by City.
This really was a superb, complete team showing. We seemed to suck the life out of Wycombe in the first half, dealt with their trickery well and generally looked a class apart. The night showed the strength and spirit of the squad. It was good to see that Hanson/Wells isn’t the only option and we have a plan B, although equally good to see Hanson’s match clinching contribution when he came on.
The effort that went into producing such a great result was a credit to the players and a pleasure to watch, especially for nowt!
City: Duke, Darby, Davies (McHugh 87), Nelson, Dickson, Atkinson, Jones, Doyle, Reid, Thompson, Gray (Hanson 73)
Not used: McLaughlin, Connell, Wells, Turgott, Good