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Sorry Blues beaten at home
Wycombe Wanderers 0, Mansfield Town 1.
WANDERERS were hit by a late sucker punch as a desperate match ended in defeat against newly-promoted Mansfield Town.
Substitute Ollie Palmer netted the only goal of a dire game to give the visitors their first win since rejoining the Football League after a five year absence.
The game had long looked destined to finish goalless as neither side showed any real quality.
Annoyed at last week’s defeat by AFC Wimbledon, Blues boss Gareth Ainsworth rang the changes as no fewer than five new faces were drafted into the starting line-up.
Matt McClure and Jo Kuffour were paired together in attack, Gary Doherty took the captain’s armband as he took his place in the centre of defence, Matt Spring replaced the suspended Stuart Lewis and there was a first start for Nick Arnold.
It was a bold move but it failed to pay off as Wanderers put in one of the poorest showings of the Ainsworth era, although Mansfield were little better in a match low on quality throughout.
There was little to write home about early on, as Anthony Stewart’s shot was deflected behind and Matt Ingram added to his growing reputation with a good save to turn James Jennings’ effort from the edge of the box over the bar.
Mansfield’s team of giant defenders were generally first to everything and prevented Blues from having a sight of goal, and it wasn’t until a stretching Matt McClure just failed to tuck away a pinpoint Nick Arnold centre that the first chants were heard from the home fans.
At last a chance was created as Calvin Andrew headed a floated free kick back across the face of goal but Sam Clucas could do more than to head narrowly wide of a gaping goal at the far post when he probably should have opened the scoring.
Experienced striker Andrew made a nuisance of himself at another set piece as he managed to hook away a shot after doing well to take the ball out the air, but he didn’t get the finish he wanted and the ball cleared the crossbar.
Blues finally managed to fire a shot in anger with seven minutes remaining of the first half as Paris Cowan-Hall managed to pick Lee Beevers’ pocket with the defender trying to shepherd the ball out of play for a goalkick. The Wanderers winger seized on the ball and pulled it back for Josh Scowen, whose effort was beaten out by visiting keeper Alan Marriott.
Cowan-Hall forced Marriott into action again before half time as his low skidding shot was parried away by the keeper, but he was untroubled as the half closed with Arnold wildly slicing a shot into the stand.
A free kick from Spring went untouched and almost snuck in at the far post with Marriott statuesque, before the Stags broke the offside trap through Clucas and his shot went behind via a deflection off Stewart and the fingertips of Ingram. From the corner that followed skipper John Dempster headed over the top.
Then Jennings burst into the area and Ingram stopped his first shot before Marvin McCoy heroically managed to block his follow up.
Ainsworth decided it was time to shake things up and the mercurial talent of Dean Morgan was introduced from the bench in place of McClure.
Blues were forced into another change shortly afterwards as Cowan-Hall – who had looked the most likely Chairboy to create something – was stretchered off with what appeared to be a knee injury. Sam Wood replaced him.
Mansfield somewhat surprisingly elected to replace the lively Clucas with Palmer, but it was the visitors who continued to have the better in front of goal as Andrew’s deep header went across the face of goal and crept agonisingly wide of the far post.
Morgan’s first attacking action was to ape Andrew as his angled shot missed the target but it was a rare chance at either end.
With the game seemingly destined for a goalless draw, Mansfield went in front with 12 minutes remaining. Dempster was first to attack a free kick into the box and was unlucky to see his header come back off the post, but it sat up nicely for Palmer and the substitute justified his introduction to the game as he dived to head home the Stags’ first goal of the season.
He should have had a second in the closing stages as Stewart failed to cut out a pass and Palmer bore down on Ingram, but the keeper made an excellent block with his foot.
Kuffour missed a golden opportunity to level as he stabbed wide from close range, and in stoppage time a stretching Max Kretzschmar couldn’t quite touch home a low cross.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Doherty, Stewart, Dunne, Arnold (sub Kretzschmar), Spring, Scowen, Cowan-Hall (sub Wood), Kuffour, McClure (sub Morgan). Substitutes not used: Harrison, Johnson, Pittman, Craig.
Attendance: 3,352 (251 from Mansfield)
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