The importance of Tuesday night’s draw against Luton Town will depend on the result we get in this upcoming game against Wycombe Wanderers. A win here will make it eight points from four games and take us to as much as nine points from danger, a poor result in this game could see us dragged back towards the drop.
The two games we have against Wycombe Wanderers this season are the only two where we are genuinely expected to win. Having picked up points in recent weeks by sacrificing attacking threat for defensive security, this game is likely to provide a different challenge to what we’ve faced this season. Even if it’s only the psychological factor of being the favourites, this fixture presents a different dynamic that we’re going to have to adapt to.
Mark Robins named an unchanged starting XI on Tuesday night, which, in retrospect, may have been a mistake. It was a fatigued performance where at least one or two, if not more, of the team could have benefitted from being spared the full 90 minutes. While there isn’t a great deal of options available to the manager to change things up, this is a season where changing a winning team may be the wiser decision.
The most obvious attacking change to the starting line-up that can be made from the Luton Town game would be to bring in Ryan Giles at left wing-back. However, with Wycombe Wanderers a physical team, Sam McCallum may continue to be preferred in the position – in addition to the excellent performance he delivered in this fixture last season.
A change of shape in attack in order to hand a rest to Maxime Biamou or Callum O’Hare is a possibility, although, there it’s hard to identify anyone in reserve who could make the same impact on games. Either or both of Jordan Shipley and Amadou Bakayoko are the prime candidates to freshen things up in attack. Another possibility would be to play Giles in an advanced position, aside from that, there isn’t really anywhere else to turn to – which explains why Mark Robins didn’t change the team in mid-week.
Last Time We Met
It was the performance and result that turned a decent start to last season into a genuine bid for promotion. Having failed to win a league game away from home up until that point – just after Christmas – the Sky Blues not only got that monkey off their backs but did so with panache.
The Sky Blues got off to an excellent start with Sam McCallum – at last, justifying the links to bigger clubs – curling in a beautiful effort with his right foot in the third minute. However, Wycombe quickly got back into the game, with Adebayo Akinfenwa bulldozing through our defence in typical fashion to level the scores.
Any fears that it would be another typical set of dropped points away from home were allayed by Wycombe’s Sido Jombati produced a comedy piece of defending by needlessly hacking Sam McCallum down for a penalty kick almost immediately after the equaliser. It provided the cue for Matt Godden to score the first of what would be a hat-trick – and his first goal for the club in over three months – to light the fire of our promotion bid.
The Manager – Gareth Ainsworth
England’s longest-serving manager, Gareth Ainsworth has taken Wycombe Wanderers from the brink of non-league into the Championship. What is most remarkable about Wycombe’s rise under Ainsworth is not just the relative lack of investment but the amount of players that have been with the club since their days in League Two. 10 of Wycombe’s current first-team squad were with the club in the bottom-tier, compared to five for ourselves.
As a result of their lack of financial muscle in this division, Wycombe looked completely out of their depth in the early weeks of the season. They struggled to cope with teams that could move the ball more quickly across the pitch and into dangerous areas than they had been accustomed. Combined with a lack of firepower in attack, Wycombe looked like finishing bottom by a long distance. However, they have become increasingly competitive since that poor start – especially in defence – without quite doing enough to win games.
Who To Look Out For
Key creators and scorers from last season, Joe Jacobsen at left-back and Adebayo Akinfenwa up front, remain important players for Wycombe this season, but have struggled to make the same impact as last year due to their advancing years. While Joe Jacobson’s accuracy from set-piece situations remains deadly, his lack of pace as a defender has been exploited on a few occasions at this level. Akinfenwa, meanwhile, remains a supremely awkward striker to defend against, but hasn’t got into dangerous positions as regularly due to Wycombe’s lack of control of games.
Instead, the main attacking threat for Wycombe has been the nippy Scott Kashket, who has found some form in front of goal after a lean couple of years. In addition, the pace and directness of wide players, Daryl Horgan, Garath McCleary and Fred Onyedinma has been the key source of creativity for this Wycombe Wanderers side, with Horgan and McCleary having been particularly strong performers thus far.
In midfield, a lack of fitness from key holding player, Dominic Gape, has caused issues at the back, but he has returned to the side recently. Everton loanee, Dennis Adeniran, has caught the eye with his ability to drive forward with the ball, but has had a spell out of the team over the past couple of games.
At the back, the emphasis is on competitiveness and, increasingly, on organisation, with Leicester City loanee, Josh Knight, having helped improve a defensive unit that looked at sixes and sevens over the opening weeks of the season.
Where This Game Will Be Won Or Lost
As much we feel that Wycombe are our most beatable opponent in this division, we have to be aware that the feeling is mutual. Given their current position in the relegation zone, they are likely to attack this game with a level of urgency and desperation that we haven’t contended with this season. Add in the pressure that we are likely to put on ourselves to get the win, there’s a significant banana skin factor for us entering this game.
With the emphasis likely to be on what we can do in possession, a lot of the responsibility for our performance is likely to rest on Gustavo Hamer’s shoulders. With Wycombe playing a slightly weird system at the moment involving just one out-and-out central midfielder, there is likely to be a lot of space in the centre of the pitch for Hamer to utilise, if our wing-backs and attacking players can make enterprising runs around him, it will make his job easier.
What we’re going to have to be most wary of is the pace and directness of Wycombe’s main attacking players – Daryl Horgan, Garath McCleary and Scott Kashket. As we saw on Tuesday night against Luton Town, there is space behind our wing-backs that opponents can exploit, Leo Ostigard and Dominic Hyam are going to have to make sure they’re positioning is spot-on in order to prevent danger building.