When Huddersfield Town beat Wycombe Wanderers 6-0 the season before last, it really felt like men against boys; Wycombe never looked like being in the game, and Town put them to the sword pretty brutally. If Theo Robinson hadn’t been so hell-bent on scoring (he netted a penalty in the end – hurrah!) the scoreline might have been around double figures. That game was as one sided as any I’ve seen, and I think it was as much Wycombe being poor as Town being good. Certainly the team were flattered by it, and never quite lived up to that level again.
This season, the 0-6 game at Wycombe was just as comprehensive, but my feelings afterwards were completely different. In the hype that went around Jordan Rhodes (and there was a lot) there was a lot of other details about the game that were missed. I wrote a piece about Lee Novak’s influence from a deeper role – though he looked incredibly leggy next time I saw him playing there, at home against Oldham – but the eyes were firmly on the five goal hitman.
During the first half of that game, I was really impressed with Wycombe going forwards, particularly down the right; there a number of good breaks, a number of interplays – admittedly, a lot involved Marcello Trotta, in his penultimate game before he went back to Fulham – but a lot of occasions that the clearances of Jamie McCombe were more than welcome.
I felt, by the end of that game, incredibly sorry for Wycombe. They hadn’t played as badly as a team who had lost 0-6. Admittedly, there were points that their defence was beyond porous, but the passing play, and the way they tried to work the ball out, and forward, reminded me a little of Leyton Orient a couple of years ago. The players, perhaps, weren’t at the same level as Town’s players, but it was obvious that Gary Waddock was trying to do something, and it wasn’t a million miles away from coming off.
I kept a close eye on Wycombe after that, hoping that they’d sort themselves out and start winning a few games. (Any of my Twitter followers may remember my excitement around Wanderer’s transfer dealings towards the close of the transfer window), and things gradually got better. I wanted to write this piece to act as valediction of the green shoots I saw in Wycombe in that 0-6 game (though I have to admit, they looked strong down the right that night, every goal I’ve seen of their since has come from the left) now that Stuart Beavon has found form.
At the end of that game, Wycombe had 20 points from 25 games (0.8 per game), since then, they’ve got 23 from 18 (1.28 per game) and they’ve been scoring goals pretty much for fun; 33 goals in the same 18 games, compared to 28 in the 25 before that -1.83 v. 1.12 – this despite the goals going in the other end not really having been shored up; (1.92 before v. 1.77 after). Indeed, the 61 goals Wycombe have scored is the joint highest – with Stevenage – of the teams outside the playoffs . I can’t say I predicted that level of improvement up front, but it was obvious, despite the result, that the team that lost at Adams Park were a hell of a sight better than the team that lost at the Galpharm a couple of years back.
I’m happy Gary Waddock got the chance to see his work come to something like fruition – though there’s still hard work ahead, the Chairboys seem to be bouncing a bit at the moment – and happy a team that have tried to play football, despite their league position, are beginning to see the upside of it, even if it did need an injection of loan players to really get the ball rolling.
I wish Wycombe Wanderers all the best for the last three games of this season and I hope they’ll be in League One next; they deserve it for the courage they showed backing Gary Waddock, and he deserves it for the courage he’s shown in revamping the team.
Looking at the table now, with 43 played, there’s 3 teams who either are, or seem to be, relegated already (sorry Rochdale, Chesterfield and Exeter) and three teams who will be hoping that they’re not the fourth – Wycombe, Walsall and Leyton Orient. Wycombe sit 3 points behind the other two on 43 (and 46) but Wanderers goal difference of -19 is better than Orient’s -27 (and far worse than Walsall’s -5). In theory, then, if Wanderers gain 3 points more than Orient over the last 3 games, they will likely be safe.
Wycombe’s run-in is as follows – Charlton (A), Notts C (H), Sheffield W (A). Projecting off those, I can’t see three points coming easy – in fact, unless either Charlton or Wednesday have really taken their foot off the gas, I would say Notts County is the only likely source; taking that into account – I’d say Wycombe will end up on a 46 point maximum. That will allow Walsall to canter home (Exeter – away, Huddersfield – home, MK Dons – away) through their three games, but put a bit of pressure on Orient, who would need another point against one of Yeovil (H), Hartlepool (A), Rochdale (H). I would expect Orient to win at least one of those – possibly both the home games – and pull themselves safe.
After all my favour and positivity about Wycombe, they’re going to have to surprise me again if they want to be playing League One football next season. At the moment, the 1/7 looks a pretty sure thing.