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Craig off the mark as Blues get back to winning ways
Wycombe Wanderers 2, Southend United 1.
STEVEN Craig’s maiden Wanderers goal proved to be the difference as Blues got back to winning ways at Adams Park.
The Scotsman powered home a first half header to open his account for the season and ease the pain of last week’s last minute concession at Oxford.
All the goals of an entertaining encounter came before the break, as Dean Morgan made it three goals in two games with a deft header before former Welsh international Freddy Eastwood grabbed an equaliser for Southend.
Eastwood’s goal came minutes before a potentially game changing moment as Josh Scowen limped off injured, but his replacement Max Kretzschmar went on to have an excellent game as he supplied boundless energy in midfield along with the cross for Craig to win it.
A day of positives for Blues also saw a return to action for Matt Bloomfield, who made his first appearance for Wanderers after a year out of action.
Blues had to weather early pressure before taking the lead with their first chance of the game. Sam Wood’s inswinging free kick from the right was begging to be attacked and Morgan, fresh from his brace last week, snuck in ahead of his marker to bury the ball into the bottom corner with a header.
Encouraged by that Craig chased down a channel ball before pulling it back for Morgan, whose shot was charged down – as was a follow-up volley from Wood.
But the Shrimps’ response was instant as the Essex side’s own man in form, Eastwood, drew them level as he diverted an inviting low cross from Ryan Leonard out of the reach of Matt Ingram to tie the scores up before quarter of an hour had been played.
Blues could have fallen behind shortly afterwards as Ingram pulled off a top notch full length save to prevent a misdirected Nick Arnold corner from finding the back of his own net from a corner.
At times Blues struggled to clear their lines as long balls and throws rained down on their area in the direction of target man Barry Corr, and Leon Johnson made a superb challenge to stop Luke Prosser’s shot finding the net at the near post.
Again they had to weather the storm but Wanderers went back in front thanks to a move that had Kretzschmar at the heart of it. The midfielder drove at the middle of the retreating visiting defence with a powerful run before referee Dean Sheldrake incorrectly awarded Wycombe a corner as former Blues defender Adam Thompson looked to have played the ball out off Morgan.
Kretzschmar swung in the resulting corner and Craig rose above his marker to send a thumping header screaming into the roof of the net to restore the home side’s lead.
The Scotsman was put clean through moments later by a precise through ball but his shot was off target, before he was denied at the near post by some brave goalkeeping from Dan Bentley and defending from Thompson. Southend couldn’t clear and the ball sat up for Kretzschmar to ping in a volley that hit Prosser and was cleared.
Neither side was having much joy at defending set pieces and from a stoppage time corner Southend almost drew level as skipper John White’s header thundered against the crossbar and Wanderers were relieved to see Corr jab the ball wide in the scramble that followed.
Ingram was called into action within seconds of the restart as he made a great save to push a header from the dangerous Eastwood out for a corner – from which Craig had to make a goalline clearance from another header by White.
The increasingly influential Kretzschmar snatched a volley wide after Arnold had dispossessed Anthony Straker all too easily.
Southend made a double change as Conor Clifford and, somewhat surprisingly, Corr were both removed and it was one of the new faces, Craig Reid, who almost tied things up again as his well-struck volley rippled the side netting via a deflection off Johnson.
The absence of Corr made life easier for Blues as the bombardment from the visitors became less effective, but a poor header from Gary Doherty presented Southend with a gift of a chance as the ball dropped to Straker, whose shot was superbly stopped by Ingram.
The ball then ran loose to the former Wanderers loanee with the keeper on the floor, but he somehow managed to smack the crossbar when it looked easier to score.
It was a major let off for Blues, who were indebted to Ingram making another stop low down to thwart Leonard, but it was last time hearts were in mouths amongst the home supporters.
Morgan couldn’t quite ensure the fans were able to relax through the six additional minutes at the end as he became the latest player to hit the woodwork as his rising shot from Bloomfield’s fine pass bounced back into play off the bar.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson, Doherty, Hause, Arnold (sub Bloomfield), Scowen (sub Kretzschmar), Knott, Wood, Morgan, Craig (sub McClure). Substitutes not used: Harrison, Spring, Pittman, Kuffour.
Attendance: 3,533 (859 from Southend)
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