GARETH Ainsworth was delighted Wanderers carried out his game plan to the letter as they battled to a point from a goalless draw against free-scoring Scunthorpe.
The Blues boss took a great deal of personal satisfaction as he picked a midfield five that would protect the least experienced centre back pairing in Wanderers history, snuff out the attacking threat of the high flying hosts and work in tandem with lone striker Steven Craig to create chances.
It worked a charm and in fact Wycombe ought to have won the game despite second-placed Scunthorpe having much more of the ball, with Craig and Max Kretzschmar both fluffing gilt-edged first half chances.
But it was the fact his players stuck to their task that left Ainsworth a proud man, as they added to the gap between themselves and second from bottom Northampton Town.
He said: “You try it in training and it works and it looks very good, but you can never replicate a game in training. No matter how good it looks on a Friday, you’ve always got that nagging doubt and worry about how you can set up. I made sure the lads were very prepared for this one.
“Dobbo [Richard Dobson, assistant] and Baz [Barry Richardson, coach] deserve a lot of credit for this as well. Dobbo did a lot of work on the back four, I did a lot with the midfield and Stevie, and Baz has taught Matt [Ingram] a lot this week. We’ve all learned a lot this week and proved how, if you set up right and do it right, we can get points against anyone.
“The boys are really low when we get beaten, so a point like that and more so a performance like this away from home just goes to build them.
“We frustrated Scunthorpe. They were limited to chances – when they did have their chances Matt Ingram was there, [he was] solid, couldn’t be beaten.
“On another day we might have been able to nick the game. Max has had a great chance, Sam Wood, Stevie Craig’s header – we haven’t come just to stifle and not create our own chances. The plan worked well.
“They couldn’t break down our five. Stuart Lewis and Josh Scowen always run about - they’re the best in the league – Sam Togwell’s brain, Blooms’ experience, Max’s flair; we’ve got a great balance there.
“Stevie’s led the line like Braveheart. He was fantastic, winning every header and tackle and chasing absolutely everything. I thought he’d blow up after 60 minutes but he was determined to stay on and see the game out.
“It’s a big point against a side everyone fancies for promotion. We’ll fight tooth and nail right to the bitter end. That’s the kind of performance we’ll need from now until the end of the season. It’s looking good but the job’s way from over yet. We need to keep winning and getting these points on the board.”
A string of injuries to his defenders left the Blues boss spending the week desperately scratching round for cover and with ten minutes until the loan deadline he eventually managed to nail down the signature of Rotherham’s Danny Rowe – a man he admitted he’d never seen play live before.
The 18-year-old was given a real baptism of fire on his Football League debut against League Two’s top scorer Sam Winnall, but alongside Aaron Pierre – himself making only his second-ever appearance – the 21-goal striker was largely a peripheral figure.
Ainsworth said: “We’ve got one lad making his league debut today, one lad made his league debut on Tuesday. Before the game you’ve got one 90 minutes between your centre halves and you do worry.
“I’ve done my research on Danny. I have to admit I didn’t see him live and that was a risk, but I did a lot of research, spoke to people, saw a few clips. What I saw today was more than enough, it was a fantastic debut.
“Aaron is growing into a solid centre half who’s going to be feared.
“To get a clean sheet is really credible. Not many are going to get nil against at Glanford Park.”