Stevenage 1, Wycombe Wanderers 3.
PETER Murphy scored his third goal in four games as Wanderers continued their promising start to the season by coming from behind to win at Stevenage.
They had fallen behind in controversial circumstances as Darius Charles left goalkeeper Matt Ingram crumpled in a heap before slotting home to give the hosts the lead.
A thunderous volley from Paul Hayes levelled things up before Murphy finished off one of the cleverest free kick routines you’ll see this season to turn the match on its head before half time.
Substitute Matt McClure sealed the victory in the last minute with a breakaway goal as Blues secured their third win in four games.
Wanderers showed another side to their game; having blown Carlisle apart last Saturday with some excellent, flowing passing football, they had to be more pragmatic at Broadhall Way.
Blues changed their starting team for the first time this season as Gareth Ainsworth went for the additional height supplied by Danny Rowe and Steven Craig against their strong and muscular opponents.
It was a change that was needed, with the ball seemingly superfluous at times in a game that never promised to be pretty.
Craig broke the offside trap to latch onto Joe Jacobson’s long pass out of defence but the Scotsman headed wide under pressure when the ball was sent into the Boro penalty area after Murphy and Sido Jombati combined.
Charlie Lee crashed a volleyed cross-shot off the outside of the post as the hosts responded but the game was largely fragmented as two teams high on graft and low on craft scrapped it out in midfield.
Skipper Hayes’ darting run forward was halted temporarily by Jon Ashton but Paris Cowan-Hall nipped in to steal possession, centring the ball for Rowe to balloon high and wide from 20 yards.
Indeed the closest Wanderers came to breaking the deadlock was courtesy of an opponent as a Jacobson cross crept just wide of the near post after cannoning off Chris Whelpdale, while Alfie Mawson failed to get over the subsequent corner delivery and headed it high over the crossbar.
In a rare opening for Stevenage Charles showed a deft touch to control the ball before rolling it across the six yard box, but none of his team mates had the swiftness of thought to get onto the end of his pass.
Charles’ next involvement was more telling, and much more controversial. A pass with no real direction ended in a foot race between the striker and Ingram, with Charles making a crunching challenge on the Wanderers keeper.
It left Ingram in a heap but Charles showed good awareness to get to his feet and squeeze the ball home at the near post – and after a lengthy delay while Wycombe’s keeper received treatment, the goal was eventually signalled by referee Kevin Wright.
Feeling aggrieved at that perceived injustice Wanderers attacked straight away and Hayes brought them level with an outstanding goal. His first touch killed a lofted pass stone dead, his second flicked it up and over Dean Wells’ head and his third was a thumping volley that crashed into the net.
A nasty challenge by Dembele on Paris Cowan-Hall led to a second Wanderers goal, and one straight from the training ground. Craig, Jacobson and Sam Wood all appeared to make a hash of things as they seemingly all left the ball for one another.
But Wood ran back onto it and swung the ball in on his favoured left foot and just as keeper Sam Beasant looked odds-on to claim it Murphy came steaming in to nip it out of his grasp and ram home his third goal in four league games.
Unhappy at what he was seeing after seeing his side surrender the lead, Stevenage boss Graham Westley made a double change at the break as Bira Dembele – who had been off the field for a good ten minutes to receive treatment for a cut head – was replaced by one-time Wanderers transfer target Tom Pett, while Andy Bond made way for Adam Marriott.
Aside from a Lee cross that Aaron Pierre diverted over the crossbar and an Ashton header that went wide – although the whistle had already gone for a foul – the double change failed to spark the hosts into life, although there was also now a paucity of chances for Wanderers.
Pierre, up from the back, wasted one as he showed good skill to open up the space for a shot after collecting Ingram’s long ball forward, but he lashed it high and wide of his target.
Cowan-Hall saw a header from a superb Jacobson cross deflected wide before Ainsworth opted to shut up shop, replacing the hardworking Craig with an extra midfielder as Stuart Lewis made his first appearance of the season as a substitute.
Whelpdale curled wide, Roarie Deacon saw a shot flick wide off Mawson’s head and Pierre blocked Wells’ effort after a shot from outside the box fell kindly to him, but Wanderers couldn’t be said to have had to weather a sustained period of pressure.
And they made sure of the win as Lewis latched onto a long pass and touched the ball around the exposed Beasant, with McClure winning the foot race ahead of his team mate to roll the ball into an empty net with more or less his first touch.
Wanderers: Ingram, Jombati, Pierre, Mawson, Jacobson, Cowan-Hall (sub Bloomfield), Murphy, Rowe, Wood, Hayes (sub McClure), Craig (sub Lewis). Substitutes not used: Richardson, Walker, Holloway, Kretzschmar.