Tag Archives: Alfie Mawson

Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oxford United 3

In front of a bumper holiday crowd, Wycombe Wanderers were undone by an impressive performance by Oxford United. Gareth Ainsworth kept the same formation that he had effectively employed in the last five games, with only one personnel change in that run (McClure for Onyedinma vs Dagenham & Redbridge) it certainly is a settled side.

Credit must be extended to Michael Appleton for the manner in which Oxford attacked Wycombe in the first half as it was a game plan that was clearly designed to exploit the offensive set up of the home side. With the effectively rotund Patrick Hoban dropping deep to create the extra man in midfield, possession was soon switched to the flanks where Kemar Roofe and Danny Rose were able to get at the Wycombe full backs. It was the wide pair that did the damage in the first half, both setting up and scoring a goal each whilst the Chairboys struggled to find a footing in the game.

Wycombe looked a much better side after the break and they pulled a goal back on forty-eight minutes with Paul Hayes forcing the ball over the line after an impressive knock down from Alfie Mawson. A concerted period of possession followed for the home side but they did not really trouble Ryan Clarke in the visitors goal and it was Oxford who scored the next goal. Rose was the architect again, assisted by a back from the dead Hylton, and Roofe was left with a simple chance which he calmly slotted past Matt Ingram on the hour mark.

Gareth Ainsworth responded by making a double substitution with Aaron Holloway and Peter Murphy coming on in place of Matt Bloomfield and Sam Wood. Hogan Ephraim followed shortly afterwards in place of Sam Saunders and to the Wanderers credit, they ran themselves into the ground in their pursuit for a way back into the game. A glimmer of hope arrived on eighty-nine minutes when Holloway slid home Onyedinma’s cross but even though six minutes was allotted for injury time the equalizer never materialised.

For the post match thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth click here

So the eight game unbeaten run has come to an end. On the whole it has been a wonderfully entertaining period of the season with thirty-two goals (eighteen for and fourteen against) coming since the last defeat against Newport County. With the promotion target set and the fear of relegation banished, Gareth has set up the team to attack which is why the defence is more porous. The team deserve great credit for where they find themselves at this stage of the season. The only cloud in the sky currently is that Wycombe have only won once at home in seven attempts. Much has been made of the concrete state of the pitch and how it contributes to poor performances at Adams Park. The stats and away performances back this up and hopefully enough money is generated through the share scheme to invest in the pitch. Invest is the key word because if Wycombe can bring their away form to Adams Park on a regular basis then a significant rise in attendances will surely follow.

I will no doubt see some of you at Burton on Monday, have a safe journey up. If you are not making the trip then the game will be live on BBC Three Counties 98FM, 104.5FM and on Chairboys Player.


My occasional partner in crime on the commentaries, Keith Scott, is cycling from London to Amsterdam to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. It’s a great cause and one close to Scotty’s heart so if you can, please sponsor him here


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A deflected Alfie Mawson effort secured a point against a dogged Accrington Stanley as the Chairboys extended their unbeaten run to six games. It’s been an entertaining passage of matches too with no less than three action packed ‘two two’ draws achieved with Gareth Ainsworth throwing off the shackles and going on the attack.

Four days earlier, the line up against Shrewsbury on paper looked to be very attack minded, even with the last minute change of Sam Saunders coming in for Hogan Ephraim. As a result, Sam Wood was pushed into the front three with Saunders taking on the advanced central midfield position to occupy Shrewsbury’s play-maker Michael Woods. With the Wycombe number eleven being earmarked with this vital role in training all week, the last gasp switch would have unsettled most teams. However, it took just thirty-nine seconds for Wood to score what turned out to be the winner whilst Saunders turned in a man of the match performance.

The Wycombe manager won the tactical battle all ends up. The formation, coupled with the effort and aggression that has always been there under Ainsworth, stopped Shrewsbury from playing their game as all they could offer were aimless long balls forward. Visiting manager Micky Mellon tried to stem the tide with a triple substitution and change from 3-5-2 to a diamond 4-4-2. For ten minutes they edged back into the game but they still didn’t lay a glove on the Chairboys. Ainsworth reacted by matching Shrewsbury’s new formation and introduced Aaron Holloway into the action. Connor Goldson looked pleased to see the back of Fred Onyedinma, who had not given the centre back a moments respite, but Holloway just changed the method of grief by holding the ball up and providing an aerial threat. It was the young Welshman’s finest appearance in the quarters and he was dreadfully unlucky not to score a goal that would have been talked about for years. Spinning off his man and heading infield, Holloway nonchalantly stroked the ball with his ‘wrong’ foot from twenty yards only to see it crash off the underside of the bar and out. Wycombe held on comfortably and the promotion buzz was palpable in the bar afterwards. Magnificent!

Here are the commentary highlights of the Shrewsbury game with myself and Will Vince. many thanks to keith Cummings for the audio.

Mobile & tablet version here

Given the nature of the performance and the well documented size of Wycombe’s squad, Ainsworth unsurprisingly named an unchanged team against Accrington Stanley. Although they were not as swashbuckling as the previous game, it looked to be working against another back three. Sam Wood popped up to finish off a concerted period of pressure with his second headed goal in as many games on the half hour. This prompted Stanley manager John Coleman to swap Dean Winnard into midfield with the giraffe like Matty Crooks slotting into the back three in an attempt to halt the home side. It stabilised the visitors who fired a few warning crosses into the Chairboys penalty area before Piero Mingoia slid the ball invitingly into the path of Terry Gornell, who equalised from close range on the stroke of half time.

The Chairboys looked leggy in the second half but still nearly took the lead on fifty-five minutes through a wonderful Saunders free kick. Somehow the ball came off the post and across the face of goal before going out. Five minutes later it looked as though Wycombe’s luck was out with the impressive Mingoia rifling the ball into the top corner from eighteen yards. Holloway was introduced again but for ten minutes Wycombe offered little threat until Alfie Mawson picked up a loose ball from a free kick into the box and found the equaliser for the second time in three games. Despite a lot of huff and puff, Saturdays herculean efforts appeared to catch up with the Chairboys and a winner could not be found.

This is how close Sam Saunders was to scoring his first goal for Wycombe.

This is how close Sam Saunders was to scoring his first goal for Wycombe.

For the post match thoughts of Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth, talking to me on BBC Three Counties, click here  

A special mention must be afforded to Mike Newell for his tremendously angry second half cameo on the touchline against Accrington Stanley. With finger pointing in all directions it was vitriol at its very best and a real pleasure to watch. He seemed fine in the tunnel afterwards, even breaking into a smile at the sight of my hat. I googled Newell when I got home and discovered that he held the record for the fastest Champions League hat-trick, nine minutes for Blackburn Rovers against Rosenborg BK. Sadly for Mike, this record was taken by Bafétimbi Gomis, then of Lyon, who netted three times in seven minutes in 2011/12. You learn something everyday…

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Rolling The Dice…

The Chairboys are going for League One! With survival assured, there is a new target and I for one am delighted.

Interviewing Wycombe Wanderers’ manager Gareth Ainsworth each week for the past two seasons has been a fantastic experience for me so far. He has always been a lucid and free talker, so much so I gave up preparing questions before our radio encounters as he would invariably answer them all in his first answer. It’s made me have to think on my feet and go with the conversation, something I hope will stand me in good stead in the future. However, this season has seen a very different Gareth, with his verbose answers somehow always ending up on his own, and more importantly the clubs agenda.

“55 points and survival Phil”

“We’ve got a small squad and budget Phil”

“We are the underdogs coming into this game Phil”

I’m pretty sure if I’d asked Gareth his thoughts on the upcoming new album from the Kings Of Leon, he would have eulogised about their career and how great they are live before ending on how important they’ve been in Wycombe Wanderers fight for survival this season.

At the start of the campaign it was an understandable approach. The near fatal battle scars from last season had barely healed and were still visible. Ainsworth was never going to go there again. The changes made have all been well documented, least of all on these very pages, and have been spectacularly successful. After the pre Christmas dismantling of promotion hopefuls Southend United, which saw the Chairboys strengthen their position at the top of the table, the post match survival mantra was beginning to sound a little farcical. If Gareth ever gets fed up of football, surely a career in politics beckons…

Shortly after the New Year, I spoke with Alfie Mawson. Having just extended his deal until the end of the season I enquired if he was at Adams Park to win promotion with the then (still) top of the table Chairboys. I swear he entered into a trance before trotting out the line about reaching the points target and surviving in League Two.

My mind began to race. Was David Wates actually the next Derren Brown rather than the Head of Conditioning? Either way, it has been an impressive effort from the entire club as they’ve attempted to turn the fortunes of Wycombe Wanderers around.

With the away win at Cambridge United taking Wycombe beyond their target to fifty-six points, the two subsequent home defeats resulted in their first back to back losses of the campaign. Every club has a sticky patch at some point during the season and few can be surprised that it has arrived at the end of a harsh transfer window for the Chairboys. I have previously written about the importance of Josh Scowen to the formation that Gareth had employed with great effect at Wycombe. He was the insurance policy in midfield whose reading of the game allowed Jombati and Jacobson to push forwards. Quite simply, Wycombe Wanderers are really missing him.

The loss of Paris Cowan-Hall has been softened greatly by the emergence of Fred Onyedinma, but it’s been the injury of talismanic skipper Paul Hayes that led to the the goals drying up. Despite the recent shyness in front of goal, the unbeaten run was still extended to an impressive twelve games, largely due to the immense displays from Matt Ingram and his defence. The two defeats have been a stark reminder that these are young players who have played a lot of football this season already. All four goals conceded were preventable but the defensive errors could not be offset by the strikers.

Plymouth was a poor performance all round, written off as a bad day at the office. The first half against Newport County was flat too, before a much improved second half which really should have seen Wycombe take something from the game. The cameo from Hayes in the final thirty minutes was most welcome as he provides the guile that the Chairboys require to unlock the stubborn League Two defences.

With Pierre and Jacobson approaching suspension through yellow cards, the loan market will be required at some point. Whilst at the other end of the pitch Gareth has to somehow help Matt McClure rediscover his mojo in front of goal whilst getting a fit again Hogan Ephraim to sparkle too.

With Shrewsbury, Burton and Luton all looking ominous, promotion will be a big challenge. Now is the time for the whole club to pull together and achieve what looked liked a fairy tale last August. Remember, Gareth has previous with these too…

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