United picked up their second away win of the season with a convincing victory at Wycombe this afternoon. Goals from strike duo James Constable and Tom Craddock at the opening of the two halves, and a deft header from Johnny Mullins eased United home despite Joel Grant's second half penalty for the Chairboys.
It took just 41 seconds for United to register their first effort at goal, Adam Chapman curling a 25 yard free kick just wide of the right hand post as United started on top. Chapman and Jake Wright were the two changes to the line-up after Tuesday’s game at Rochdale, with Chapman joining Peter Leven in midfield and Wright partnering Mullins at the heart of the back four.
Having started much the better of the two team it took just four minutes before the U’s took the lead. Leven chipped a clever ball forward which Craddock knocked inside for his strike partner Constable. His first time strike was low, hard and deadly and home keeper Nikki Bull was helpless as it flashed past him to give the U’s an early advantage.
The front pairing are starting to look good together, a goal apiece again confirming this, but then there are pairings working in tandem all over the field. With Leven and Chapman spraying passes around and Potter and Rigg out wide United have plenty of options going forward, as proved on 20 when Leven freed Constable. He may have been offside, and the ‘goal’ rightly chalked off, but the freedom Wycombe gave both players will have encouraged the U’s still further.
Wycombe’s best effort was a free kick from caretaker player/Manager Gareth Ainsworth which flew well wide and will have earned him a rebuke, from himself. Otherwise they looked slightly toothless in the opening half, with only the hard tackling Stuart Lewis in midfield really catching the eye. The Yellows were quietly going about their business and the game was undoubtedly played mostly in the Wycombe half of the pitch in the first half, although the home side had gradually edged their way into the game without really testing Ryan Clarke and might have equalised on 45 as the keeper spilled a Dunne shot then got up and threw himself in front of Joel Grant’s follow up, with captain Wright also hurtling in to block the shot.
What was needed was a nice second goal to settle any nerves, and after just 57 seconds of the second half it came from the right boot of Craddock. A deep ball from the left bounced awkwardly in front of the striker but Craddock had no hesitation, latching on to the volley and smashing it over the head of Bull to make it 2-0.
There was hardly time to draw breath before it was 2-1. From our vantage point at the far end of the ground it looked a harsh decision as Constable tried to stand his ground but manhandled Ainsworth to the ground. Ref Swarbrick had seen enough and pointed to the spot, from where Joel Grant sent Clarke the wrong way to halve the deficit.
It was rip-roaring stuff with the next goal crucial, and on 61 minutes it was United who got it. Leven’s free kick was lobbing gently towards the top corner but looked straightforward for Bull to deal with. The keeper inexplicably spilled the ball and Constable was on him in a flash to recycle possession and work it back to Rigg. He crossed to the edge of the six yard area and Mullins calmly guided the ball into the net to make it 3-1 with his first goal for the club. We'd have liked someone to hang on the crossbar really, but we won't complain too much.
Mullins and the superb Wright were dominant in defence, although Grant should have scored on 70 when he screwed his shot wide when clean through. United should have wrapped the game up sixty seconds later though as Potter raced away once again and pulled a great ball back for Craddock to blast at goal, only for Bull to save and keep his side alive.
Wycombe threw men forward in the closing stages, desperately trying to get something out of the game and try and put some space between them and the relegation places, but United were in defiant mood and the defence stood strong. When they play like this, with every part of the side functioning, you wonder how far the U's can go. The trick will be repeating this sort of performance on a regular basis and finding that one missing component so far, consistency.
When your fans have walked 24 miles to see you I guess there is a little extra pressure but United responded brilliantly today and were not to be denied. A fine team performance and a fully deserved three points. Walk on...
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher. Stats by PA Sports
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