Preview: Wycombe Wanderers

From the depths of a nine-game winless run to back-to-back wins, football can change quickly. While it was a scrappy and frustrating showing overall against Southend, the Sky Blues produced an attacking move of supreme quality and poise to score the game’s decisive goal. While that recent winless isn’t quite behind us yet, stringing together a third win in a row away at a tough Wycombe Wanderers side would be a huge step in the right direction.

Possible Line-Up

Expected Line-Up

The late substitution of Brandon Mason for the teenager Sam McCallum in the Southend game underlined how stretched the squad is at the moment. There are few changes available to Mark Robins, which could be a huge factor in how a fourth game in the space of 11 days plays out.

The main area for potential tweaking is in attack, where the continued struggles of Conor Chaplin in front of goal came into focus once again with two notable misses against Southend. With Jordy Hiwula showing good form at the moment in front of goal, it’s hard to see what role a misfiring small forward plays in the starting line-up. Jonson Clarke-Harris’ physical presence would appear to be a good foil for Hiwula’s sheer pace and is surely worth a try.

Elsewhere, Zain Westbrooke is likely to continue on the right of midfield after making his debut on Saturday. Although the former Brentford youngster caught the eye with his use of the ball, his lack of direct running made it difficult for us to break through the opposing defence. Promisingly, Westbrooke’s link play with Dujon Sterling on the wing points towards a way the team can overcome our current lack of penetration in wide areas.

Last Time We Met

It looked set to be a frustrating afternoon at the Ricoh Arena as the Sky Blues struggled to find a breakthrough against a resolute Wycombe side who had made it clear from early on that they were content with a point. It took an almost nonchalant pitch-length break from Dujon Sterling and pinpoint cross from the Chelsea loanee to pick out Conor Chaplin to score a decisive late goal, almost cancelled out by an incredible from Wycombe keeper Ryan Allsop volley from a late corner.

The Opposition

Manager – Gareth Ainsworth

One of English football’s longer serving managers, Ainsworth has progressively built Wycombe Wanderers back from the verge of non-league into an upwardly mobile League One side. A reputation for an egregious brand of long-ball football and game-spoiling tactics obscures Ainsworth’s incredible eye for rough diamonds as well as his ability to develop and improve players under his charge.

The step-up to League One initially proved challenging for Wycombe and Ainsworth, but they have generally improved as the season has progressed, partially driven by an injury to key striker Adebayo Akinfenwa which forced the manager into evolving Wycombe’s style of play to get the best out of some of the pacier, more skilful players in the squad.

Possible Line-Up

Who To Look Out For?

In the void of Adebayo Akinfenwa, Wycombe have built their season around some electrifying wing play, with Millwall loanee Fred Onyedinma standing out over the past couple of months. With Randell Williams and Paris Cowan-Hall also capable of exciting out wide, the threat of failing to secure Onyedinma for the season may not be such a huge blow for the Chairboys, although the pace, skill and end product that the youngster has puts him among the best wingers currently operating at this level.

In attack, Craig Mackail-Smith has assumed Akinfenwa’s mantle as the team’s talismanic centre-forward. The former Peterborough striker’s incredible work-rate unsettles defenders, acting as a foil to Wycombe’s exciting wide players, as well as their younger forwards such as Alex Samuel and Scott Kashket.

As ever with Wycombe, the pinpoint deliveries of left-back Joe Jacobson are a huge threat from both set-piece and open-play situations. In midfield, the energy and determination of Dominic Gape and Curtis Thompson are likely to make it difficult for us to play through the centre of the park.

Of course, with Akinfenwa back to full fitness, there’s a strong likelihood that the big man will at least be involved from the bench in this game. While Dominic Hyam and Jordan Willis have dealt relatively well with him in the past, he is such an awkward opponent to play against that he’s always likely to unsettle an opposing defence.

Areas To Exploit

As useful as Wycombe are going forward, there’s always a suspicion about their organisation at the back. Although they can be a gutsy and determined defensive unit, they defence tends to be made up of players who lack positional discipline. Furthermore, their back four have played under four different goalkeepers this season as a result of an injury crisis and resultant emergency loan signings, which can’t have helped the situation.

If we are quick-witted and clinical enough, there could be goals for us in this game, although Wycombe are a fearsome team at home.

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