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Blues can't complete comeback after shocking start
Rochdale 3, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
WANDERERS paid the price for a terrible start at Rochdale as they just failed to complete a stirring comeback.
There were just 15 minutes on the clock when Blues found themselves three goals down as they failed to get to grips with a clinical Rochdale side who looked like they were going to hand out an absolute hammering.
Scott Hogan, Joe Bunney and Michael Rose all scored at five minute intervals at the start of the game as the home side ran riot, before Matt McClure and Jo Kuffour netted as Wycombe threatened to come back and steal an unlikely point.
But in truth the final scoreline flattered Blues, who were bailed out by a number of excellent saves from goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
Rather than looking like the side that had stormed up the table off the back of a six match unbeaten run, Wanderers looked more like the chaotic mishmash manager Gareth Ainsworth inherited this time last year as they were dismantled by a rampant Rochdale.
Some of the football the home side produced at times in a swashbuckling first half hour was a joy to behold and it looked like it was going to be a case of just how many they would score.
The first chance of the game produced the opening goal as Hogan received the ball from a precise pass and he superbly span past Leon Johnson before lashing an unstoppable shot arrowing into the top corner.
Blues responded through Kuffour, drafted into the side with top scorer Dean Morgan suspended, but his shot from the edge of the box lacked the power or direction to trouble Josh Lillis in the home goal.
Minutes later the lead was doubled as Hogan turned provider after robbing possession from Billy Knott. Having won the ball he held off the Sunderland loanee before splitting the visiting defence, and a couple of swift passes later the space opened up for Bunney to slot past a helpless Ingram.
And it kept getting worse for a shellshocked Blues side, who found themselves three goals down with barely quarter of an hour played. Bunney stole a corner off Kortney Hause and Wanderers switched off at the set piece which followed, with nobody rushing out to close down Rose. The midfielder took full advantage, setting himself before curling a brilliantly placed shot right into the top corner beyond a despairing Ingram.
The keeper needed treatment for an ankle problem just as it looked like the day couldn’t get any worse from a Wanderers fan’s perspective, with their side being pulled apart by a display of passing football that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a higher level.
Sam Wood tried to show some positivity when he burst through the midfield and fired in a low shot from 20 yards, which Lillis spilt but nobody from the visiting side was on hand to tuck home the loose ball.
Ingram’s battered pride was restored as he saved low down from Hogan before Hause tugged back Bunney after his opponent had picked his pocket.
The defender escaped with just a booking with the home fans baying for blood, and the resulting free kick was worked left for Rose to have another crack from distance but this time Ingram leapt to his right to turn the ball away for a corner.
The best move of the half from a Wanderers perspective saw Wood slip an excellent channel ball through for Knott, who dinked the ball over the advancing Lillis after beating the keeper to the ball, but it crept just wide of the far post.
That showed signs of a recovery for Wanderers and they managed to pull one back before the break as Knott’s pass created space for McClure, with the striker smashing the ball into the bottom corner from just inside the box.
The power of his shot probably came out of frustration and he had a chance to reduce the arrears further before half time as, leaning back, he shot over from close range following a Max Kretzschmar pull back.
That was the youngster’s final act as he was replaced by Matt Bloomfield at the interval, with Hause also being removed in favour of fit-again Jon-Paul Pittman as Wood slotted in at full back.
But Rochdale had clearly been told to refocus at the interval with Wycombe threatening to get a foothold in the game, and a world class save from Ingram stopped Matt Done from restoring the three goal cushion.
Ian Henderson, scorer of three goals in his last four against Wanderers, shuffled his way past a pair of defenders before crossing to the back stick for Done to lash a fierce volley goalwards, only to look on open mouthed as Ingram somehow jackknifed in mid air and turned it over the bar.
Blues’ overworked keeper then turned a powerful Rose free kick over the top before Wanderers managed to pull another one back.
Skipper Stuart Lewis played the ball down the line for Marvin McCoy after having his shot charged down, with the overlapping full back’s cross appearing to have been overhit. Lurking at the far post however was Kuffour, who stopped the ball from running out before cutting back inside and finding the far top corner from an improbable angle.
Now Wanderers showed the pressing and energy that had been missing from their first half display but chances were hard to come by, with Johnson looping a header over Lillis and onto the roof of the net.
A slick passing move ended with Knott’s shot lacking the power or direction to test Lillis and McClure flicked his header off target, but at the other end Jack O’Connell’s acrobatic volley threatened to wrap a topsy turvy game up once and for all only to see it drift wide.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Doherty, Johnson, Hause (sub Pittman), Kretzschmar (sub Bloomfield), Knott (sub Stewart), Lewis, Wood, McClure, Kuffour. Substitutes not used: Horlock, Dunne, Spring, Arnold.
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