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Wanderers go down to league leaders as poor form continues
WANDERERS slumped to a tenth home defeat of the season, losing 2-0 against league leaders Rochdale to leave Blues fans staring nervously into the abyss.
Despite a raft of first half Blues chances, League Two’s second highest scorers notched two second half goals including a 20-yard screamer from Jamie Allen, with Blues unable to respond.
The defeat leaves Gareth Ainsworth’s men dangling precariously over the League Two drop zone after Dale inflicted Blues' third defeat in four.
And despite their friendship, Ainsworth received no favours from former Blackburn colleague Keith Hill, with the Rochdale boss walking away with the spoils and three points badly needed by both sides for very different reasons.
Injury problems forced Ainsworth to tinker with his forward line once again, putting out a different strike force for the tenth consecutive game.
Matt McClure and Steven Craig were unable to shake off hamstring injuries and Jo Kuffour was ruled out after sustaining an injury in training, with forward duties falling to top scorer Dean Morgan and loanee Reece Styche.
The Gibraltar international came into the contest without a goal to his name in a Blues shirt, despite featuring nine times this season.
But Wanderers were buoyed by the return of captain Stuart Lewis, out since the home win over Chesterfield last month.
Styche came a whisker from opening his Wanderers account when he broke free after ten minutes, with a delightful flick to lose his marker setting him up to smash the ball against the Rochdale post.
The lively Sam Wood was unlucky not to find a team mate’s boot three minutes later when he drilled the ball low across the six yard box but watched it sail through untouched.
Morgan was gifted a free header from the resulting corner, but Blues top scorer nodded it wide from five yards out.
Off the back off a lengthy lay-off, Lewis looked a little uncertain on the ball in midfield in the first half, conceding possession on several occasions.
The same couldn’t be said of Sam Wood whose tireless runs moved play forward as Blues built up a head of steam.
Blues were presented another opportunity just outside the box when Peter Cavanagh’s raised boot nearly caught Styche in the face.
Kretzschmar stepped up to curl the ball past the wall, requiring a fingertip save from Josh Lillis in the Rochdale goal to keep the scores level.
Morgan looked to be limping slightly from the half hour mark, putting the target man several yards off the pace when Styche rolled the ball invitingly along across the box into space inside the box.
Without top scorer Scott Hogan, out through injury, the visitors looked shy of options in the final third, creating little to trouble Blues back four.
Dale were also missing Matty Lund, with the playmaker suspended after receiving his marching orders against Northampton in midweek.
Crosses sailed in, presumably looking to find the giant frame of visiting 6ft 8in midfielder Peter Vincenti, but Leon Johnson performed his duties each time, booting the ball away to safety.
Matt Ingram was called into the action for the first time after 38 minutes, reaching to his right to pull off a top class save from Vincenti’s close range turning volley when Rochdale did finally find a man in the box.
Blues kept up the early momentum after the break, with captain Lewis heading just wide within second of the restart after Morgan’s searching cross.
And Kretzschmar scooped his close range effort just over when the ball bobbled to his feet from a long Marvin McCoy throw.
But for all blues chances, it was the visitors who took the lead, with a piledriver of a volley from Jamie Allen after an attempted headed clearance from Wood sat up nicely for the Dale midfielder to smash it home from outside the box.
Michael Rose followed up with a long range effort which beat everyone but the bar, with the Dale defender coming a whisker away from doubling the lead.
Blues did their best to forge an opening and get themselves back in the game, but despite some hard-working set up play from Kretzschmar, Scowen and Lewis, nothing seemed to stick.
And Vincenti piled further misery onto Blues fans when he poked home from close range after a goal-mouth scramble when Wanderers failed to clear their lines following a Rochdale corner.
Blues pushed hard to pull one back as the game slipped away late on, but not one of their crosses and close range stabs could find their mark.
A late free kick presented Morgan with a chance, but his shot dribbled through to Dale stopper Lillis.
And Blues were lucky not to ship a third when the back four switched off and allowed Ian Henderson to turn and shoot, but the Dale hitman could only roll it into the arms of Ingram.
As the final whistle approached, Blues were left to rue their missed early chances, with the inconsistency in Ainsworth’s forward line personnel contributing to another blank score sheet – their twelfth in the league this season.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Wood, Johnson, Stewart, Scowen, Lewis (c), (Togwell 79), Bloomfield, Kretzschmar (Jeffrey 78), Morgan, Styche (Pittman 86).
Subs not used: Horlock, Pierre, Kewley-Graham, Arnold,.
Attendance: 3594 (347 from Rochdale)
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