Blues fall short against ten man Lions

Gareth Ainsworth

Gareth Ainsworth

First published in Sport Bucks Free Press: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Millwall 1, Wycombe Wanderers 0.

WANDERERS were eliminated from the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle as they beaten by ten man Millwall.

It was rough justice on Blues as they pushed their higher graded opponents all the way, having the better of the chances at The Den.

Matthew Briggs supplied the game’s only goal midway through the first half but the defender was later sent off for the second of two avoidable yellow cards.

Despite playing with a man advantage for half an hour Wanderers were unable to force home the goal their display justified, as they crashed out of the competition in the first round for the third season in a row.

It was Wanderers who had the first clear sight at goal as a wonderful delivery from advancing full back Sido Jombati was volleyed goalwards by skipper Paul Hayes, who produced a diving save from keeper David Forde.

Blues weren’t overawed by their Championship opponents and Paris Cowan-Hall couldn’t stretch quite enough to divert Joe Jacobson’s deep cross on target, putting it wide under pressure from Lions debutant Briggs.

Hearts were in the visiting fans’ mouths as Alfie Mawson had a clearance charged down by Lee Gregory, but the ball started bouncing around like a Mexican jumping bean and Wanderers were able to get it away as the striker couldn’t get it to sit right.

Gregory’s touch deserted him again as he could only prod the ball gently through to Matt Ingram after an inviting ball in from Magaye Gueye.

An inability to control a ball was catching as Forde and full back Byron Webster got themselves into a terrible pickle and the Lions were relieved to see their keeper’s attempt at a clearing kick roll out of play for a goalkick after cannoning off Hayes.

Webster’s bearings were off target again as Sam Wood latched onto a loose pass from the defender but his shot from distance was comfortable enough for Forde to deal with despite zipping up off turf that was now sodden after a heavy downpour.

Just as the home fans and manager Ian Holloway were becoming increasingly irate at their team’s inability to get the basics right, Millwall took the lead. Scott McDonald waited and waited in the corner, holding the ball up and freeing Briggs as he burst forward and latched onto the pass before firing past Ingram from six yards.

But the south Londoners were continuing to look jittery at the back and ought to have been punished as good build up play featuring Cowan-Hall and Hayes presented a chance for Wood. Like his previous effort, it was sliced by the midfielder and Webster recovered to block Peter Murphy’s follow up at the expense of a corner, which Mawson was inches away from converting as it was fizzed in low across the box.

Blues came even closer to pulling level as Matt McClure expertly held off the challenge of the imposing Danny Shittu before pulling the ball back for Jombati to hammer goalwards, with Forde getting just enough of a touch on the ball to turn it round the post.

It only just crept wide but Forde probably deserved his good fortune after reacting superbly well to a fierce hit from the Portuguese defender.

Not even a rocket from Holloway at half time could spark Millwall into life as they continued to look sloppy after the break, but save for Wood’s free kick skimming off McClure’s head and going wide Wanderers weren’t able to translate their continuing to have the upper hand into chances.

And the game took an interesting turn as goalscorer Briggs lunged in at Jombati and was given his second yellow card by referee Andy D’Urso – who had previously booked him for removing his shirt celebrating his goal.

Ironically Millwall’s best chance of the game followed immediately as a precise through pass set Gregory free, but he scuffed his shot and Ingram was easily able to stop his tame effort.

The striker was denied by an excellent challenge from the impressive Jombati as he got onto the end of Josh Wright’s searching pass, before Wanderers almost took the lead in bizarre fashion as Murphy and Webster came together with an almighty crash trying to win a 50/50 ball and it looped up and over the crossbar.

Aaron Holloway was brought on for McClure as Gareth Ainsworth looked for a way back into the game, and Hayes came close to an equaliser as his shot clipped the unwitting Alan Dunne and flew harmlessly wide.

Gregory’s quest for a goal continued to frustrate him as his well struck 20 yarder curled inches over the top, but Wanderers’ luck was also out as a Hayes cross was deflected off Cowan-Hall by Jimmy Abdou and rolled just where Forde was able to claim it.

Substitute Steven Craig twice sent headers wide from a Cowan-Hall crosses as Blues were unable to find an equaliser despite five minutes of added time.

Wanderers: Ingram, Jombati, Pierre, Mawson (sub Craig), Jacobson, Cowan-Hall, Kretzschmar (sub Bloomfield), Murphy, Wood, McClure (sub Holloway), Hayes. Substitutes not used: Richardson, Rowe, Morias, Walker.

Attendance: 3,403 (342 from Wycombe)

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