The comedy of defensive errors


After a reasonably successful December with goals aplenty – six in four by Fulham loanee Marcello Trotta, it appeared Wycombe Wanderers’ fortunes were on the up and we had got our Christmas present early. Out of the relegation zone, a squad full of confidence, things couldn’t have been better, apart from the fact the next fixture was due to be against Stevenage.

Up until the eve of 2012 the team had been playing attacking exciting and relatively successful football,  it was clear that Stevenage were not going to allow them to continue this.  In the build-up to the encounter most of the talk and discussion was of Graham Westley’s side’s tactics and physical mentality. In the previous seasons encounters both sides celebrated victories on each other’s patch, Stevenage’s victory at Adams Park was my first site of their style of play and I was certainly less than impressed.

Yet again, 8 months later I was feeling equally frustrated and also slightly bored of the Borough boy’s bullish manner. I expect any ‘new’ fans in attendance at either of these encounters would be considering whether live football was worth it. The only credit you can give to Stevenage is that they are well organised and work hard. Unfortunately they also slow down and effectively kill the game.

Professional fouls and constant little kicks unsettled Wycombe’s passing game and soon the men in blue began to send aimless balls towards the oppositions defence. The more Wycombe became frustrated, tired and out of ideas, the more they began trying to actually win. Their troubles in this match and for the subsequent fixtures were not helped by the loss of Big Dave Winfield who seemed to of regained confidence and form in this match – his style of defence is similar to that of Stevenage’s – went off injured.

With just one centre half on the field and a suspect Alice band wearing midfielder back in the side it was inevitable that for all Wycombe’s work and efforts, they would lose again and end the mini revival. John Halls failed to clear a simple cross confusing Laurie Wilson’s shout for the ball as one of his Stevenage teammates who dispatched it with ease.

At the time while deeply frustrated with the defeat and the way it was secured, it was clear the players tried hard and so a visit to Bournemouth, who at the time had a home record worse than Wycombe, seemed to be a good opportunity. In the end I was just glad I visited the beach. The Stevenage game clearly had made mental and physical damage to the squad. Right from the off most of the side looked hurt and uninterested.

Confidence had gone, wingers seemed scared of running, the ball boys saw more of the possession than the visitors. Another poor defensive goal was conceded, the ball yet again not cleared. In the second half boss Gary Waddock had to change something, either motivationally or tactically. Out came the same team in the same formation, surely then the players will all look interested now then? This was not the case and after an early goal was conceded in the half more players lost care.

Nikki Bull took it upon himself to rally the troops, “Get one now and were right in this lads!”, well received by the fans, but by the looks of it ignored by the players. Such a dire display let fans creating their own entertainment, pretending that Wycombe had scored one and then a second, then a third. At the time it would have been unimaginable for the team to have changed their ways and got back into the match in such a fashion, yet just weeks before a spirited comeback against Chesterfield was made.

Press reports suggested that the players were sorry, and would change it in their next game, they suggested to the fans they would be watching a masterful performance in the next fixture, it’s what they deserved. Whilst writing apologies and fighting talk it appears no-one thought to look at who their next opponent was – Huddersfield Town and Mr. Jordan Rhodes.

Live on Sky the players should have been motivated, firstly to right the wrongs of the past fixtures but also to put themselves in the shop window. Mr Waddock should have prepared to ensure that a repeat of Wycombe’s last televised fixture with the Terriers was repeated. Someone should have been putting extra hours working on defending set pieces and clearances, maybe the signing of a new defender, maybe someone should of looked at videos of Jordan Rhodes and equipped themselves for battle. None of these were achieved.

The result was another gutless defeat made worse by the fact that all football fans looked on laughing. Jordan Rhodes was sensational, however he should never have scored five, how Huddersfield were allowed such freedom to run riot we will never know. So again what followed was more talk of getting back bigger and stronger, harsher words were spoken. In the process of the defeat the team also lost another centre half and they appeared in big trouble, but everyone at the club was talking of redemption away to Preston.

What didn’t help was the fact that we weren’t sure who would be in charge of the opponents, also the fact that the club seemed incapable of bringing in a defender, and the fact two current defenders couldn’t even keep a clean sheet against Chalfont St. Peter in the Berks and Bucks Cup.  However Graham Westley was not to be in charge and Anthony Stewart was rightfully given his debut at centre half alongside right back Danny Foster.

Wycombe made a promising start and Trotta netted his first in three games. However 8 minutes was too early for to open the scoring. Just before the break, from yet another corner came the equaliser. Bull came to collect the ball and missed it, Stewart behind him desperately readjusted himself to get a head on it, only to divert it downwards into Bull’s back before the ball was stabbed cruelly into the Wycombe net.

For the fourth time since Christmas it was a corner that wasn’t cleared. Waddock had to do something to change this before the game but failed, at half time he needed to restore confidence and try resolve this issue. A corner came in, Strevens and Basey failed to track their man and are beaten, Clarke Carlisle heads goalwards and mayhem on the line leads to the ball scrambled in, the fifth goal conceded from a corner in five games.

Wycombe were still in the game, but Waddock had to make a change and the defence had to work out how to defend set pieces. Even when Preston delivered another corner kick which did not lead to a goal, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, to sicken the travelling support. Debutant Stewart was adjudged to have been too strong in battling for the ball – penalty. Even if it was a penalty, quite often referees ignore such challenges, but not this time. Paul Parry sent Bull the wrong way to make it 3-1 and despite a red card plus a late goal from Marcello Trotta, Wycombe were defeated again. The defence were the comic stars of the show, Marcello the leading man of the sub-plot who deserves so much more. Score two away from home and still lose.

With time running out many are beginning to question the leadership of Waddock. But would sacking him now make any difference? Any new manager would either have to work miracles with the current squad or find defensive equivalents of Trotta in the loan market. Safety is still very much possible, a win at home to Rochdale and the team may be back in contention with the others, leaving ‘Dale in their wake.

If Waddock leaves and a replacement is not found before that game or if they don’t have time to make the changes necessary Wycombe could well out of touch, with Chesterfield their competitors for 23rd spot. Whoever is in charge has to get three of the magic stuff in this game and a good performance is even more important, if only to slightly make up for previous displays that have disgraced the great quartered Oxford/Cambridge blue men.

Waddock is running out of time and so are Wycombe. I just hope I don’t have to quote Shakespeare and say “Proceed, Waddock, to procure my fall, and by the doom of death end woes and all!”

Written by Cameron Quigley, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

Cameron tweets at @squigley93


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