Light & Dark Blue Monday: Wycombe 3-2 MK Dons

Have you come down yet? Yep? Cool. Let’s reflect.

LIGHT BLUE

The Scoreline

We’ve all missed a 3-2, haven’t we? It’s been seven months and 22 league games since we last came out on the right side of one (the home win over Doncaster), and four and nine since we found ourselves in one at all (the home loss to Portsmouth). This was also the first 3-2 since Crawley away in March last year that we’ve won without going behind at all – four 3-2 wins ago, if you like. Anyway, what’s the point I’m trying to make? This is OUR scoreline, that’s what, and that’s the way we like (we like it).

The Substitutions

Sure, the odd one of his subs raises eyebrows, but Gareth Ainsworth nailed these tide-turners.

64: David Wheeler for Paul Smyth: The Belfast Messi had arguably his best game in the quarters so far. Baily Cargill and Dean Lewington on the MK left couldn’t handle him – nor could the rest of them, really, as evidenced by the careless shove that resulted in our penalty. Some were surprised to see his number go up, but it worked out alright in the end, eh. Wheeler’s almost baffling prowess in the air (he won 5/7 aerial duels) ensured he got the better of Cargill. That aided our more direct style in the last 15 minutes or so, while his superior physicality – compared to Smyth – proved useful in our attritional breaking down of the Dons’ door. His winner was alright too, I suppose.

72: Nick Freeman for Matt Bloomfield: I don’t care if Chairboys Central is becoming an unofficial Nick Freeman fan club; he deserves one. Blooms had a solid game, doing what was required of him well, and, two weeks after a hit and miss 80 minutes against Bolton, was our most accurate passer (21/23, 90%). He looked fatigued relatively early in the second half, though, so it was rather inevitable that he’d make way. Enter Zinickdine Zidane/Kevin De Bruynick (sorry), who changed things for the better yet again. Was his assist better than The Pass to Scott Kashket at Southend? Some might say.

74: Adebayo Akinfenwa for Alex Samuel: More on Samuel shortly, but this is the change that will go underappreciated. Bayo missed a sitter – no more of those please, big man – and didn’t win a whole lot in the air (just 1/7 duels), but he served the purpose of making the visitors’ defence panic somewhat and lapse from a generally solid display. Even if he doesn’t end up with the ball, he’ll create space for others to do so, and that was on show yet again as he drew an extra man to afford Wheeler more space for his winner.

Fred Onyedinma

The official man of the match and Chairboys Central man of the match, Fred is home and making himself comfortable. He annexed the left-wing and delighted his adoring public with his second goal of the season. Two in three isn’t a bad return; could be the 20-goal man we never thought we’d have? Just asking.

He’s already proving important in a defensive sense too. Not only does he have the speed and stamina to get up and down the left, he also took on Joe Jacobson‘s responsibility himself at least once, maneuvering his way out of trouble in the corner with minimum fuss. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I feel entirely confident every time he’s in possession, wherever that is on the pitch.

Onyedinma heat map v MK
Fred’s heat map from the game (via SofaScore): quite toasty in the left-back position.

We appear to have a proper Fred song now as well. It goes to the tune of Whigfield’s 1993 one-hit wonder ‘Saturday Night’, but I can’t say I got the hang of most of the words. Someone whack them up somewhere, please. Oh, and get the man a goal GIF!

Alex Samuel

Left on the bench at Bristol Rovers, restored to the starting 11 against Reading in the week and kept in it on Saturday, Samuel had one of his best games for us. The quintessence of the term ‘willing runner’, he could press apples into juice. He’s also a right pain in the arse to dispossess and one of the most passionate players I’ve ever seen pull on a Wycombe shirt. If ever there was a week in which Samuel defied his critics, it was the one just gone.

He’s already on a par with Akinfenwa as our best hold-up player. In fact, whisper it, but he might even be ahead of him when you consider the fouls he draws in the process – he’s won nine free-kicks in his four games this season and conceded none, compared to none and 11 (ELEVEN) in Bayo’s case. However much injustice the big man experiences, the contrast is stark.

That starting front line of Onyedinma, Samuel and Smyth was imbued with mobility, and each of them caused their own problems, but Samuel arguably ultimately caused the most. I and many others have been critical of his deficient finishing ability, but maybe that doesn’t actually matter. Whether it’s down to the arrival of a bit more quality to play around him or just natural development, he seems to have found his true vocation. No, he won’t score 10+ a season, but he doesn’t need to. Run defenders ragged, then make way and leave them to deal with the Beast with jellying legs.

Paul Smyth

Only one player on the pitch – MK’s Conor McGrandles – won more ground duels than Smyth (8/12 v 7/12). No one attempted more dribbles than his four; no one succeeded with more dribbles than his three. And he might well have scored had he not been unceremoniously shoved to the turf to win that penalty. The evidence supporting the theory that Paul Smyth = Lionel Messi is adding up.

It was a shame to see him taken off – even if things worked out ok in the end – but he worked enough magic in an hour-and-a-bit to delight the home faithful again. He’s the most exciting player in this squad and could be the key to unlocking some of the more robust defences in the division. When he gets fully into his groove, the goals will flow like Ainsworth’s hair.

Nick Freeman

See the bit about him above, basically. A genuine man of the match contender with his influential 20-minute contribution, he deserves to be more than just a game-changer. He’ll start at Fleetwood on Tuesday.

We (Sort of) Found Our Shooting Boots

This was our best scoring performance relative to expected goals since that 2-0 win at Southend in April, when we registered an xG of 1.4*. Broadly speaking, you can take that to mean that we were more clinical than average. We also attempted the third most shots in League One: 19 (although only five were on target). Only Tranmere (won 5-0 v Bolton) and Oxford (lost 2-1 v Blackpool) ranked higher.

2019-08-17-wycombe-mk-dons
Graphic: Experimental 361 (Ben Mayhew). Used under licence.

DARK BLUE

Trevor the Whistling Kettle

In Argos, these retail between about £10 and £20. Stick it on, leave the room, and it’ll let you know when it’s done. The EFL, though, will give you one for free – the slight downside being it comes to the boil of its own accord about every 30 seconds.

He loves a penalty, does Trevor, with his hat-trick on Saturday rounding off a prolific week of seven spot-kicks awarded – FOUR in the Gillingham – Newport Carabao Cup tie, which went to a shootout for good measure. The first one (ours)? Definite pen. MK’s first? Dive. Their second? Genuinely not sure as I haven’t seen a good angle of it.

As for everything else I blew for, I lost track pretty quickly. There was probably a 50/50 chance of either side winning a free-kick from a foul – in fact, there didn’t even have to be a foul. Oh, and the assistant missed a blatant handball in the second half with the score at 2-2. It’s easy to laugh about the ineptitude now, but plenty more teams and sets of fans are going to be treated to the same.

Defensive Lapses

The defending for MK’s first goal was Alan Hansen-infuriating stuff, no two ways about it. Jordan Bowery had the freedom of not only the six-yard box but most of the area. We were prone to switching off last season, but we’d seemingly put that right so far this time around.

Perhaps we did lack the vociferous leadership qualities of an Adam El-Abd or a Darius Charles. That said, Anthony Stewart – whose scintillating form dropped off – should have been stepping up in that sense given his vast experience compared to Giles Phillips, who followed up his strong debut with a more ordinary league debut. Charles is fit, so he may well come in at Fleetwood, when we’ll have to be absolutely on the ball against one of the strongest sides in the division.

Cheerleaders

The introduction of the Wycombe Blue Swans – which, yes, does sound like the name of a PES team – has sparked a fair bit of debate among Wanderers fans. Some see them as harmless; some see cheerleading as something that belongs in American sports; others see their presence as representative of outdated attitudes towards women. I’m in the latter camp.

Would they be there if the crowd wasn’t so overwhelmingly male? No – and the stadium announcer’s tactlessly crude remarks rather served to reinforce that point. Before their half-time routine, he suggested that they were about to get a lot of old men “excited”, while the post-performance summing up was no less sleazy and creepy: “I know my dad liked it. That’s why he’s sat down now.” Matt Cecil, head of media at the club, agreed that the comments were inappropriate, so I’m sure someone will have a word and that will be nipped in the bud, but they were emblematic of the kind of response I think quite a few feared when the Blue Swans were announced on Thursday. The wolf-whistles from the terrace were disappointing but, sadly, inevitable. It’s 2019; get with it.

While the troupe are clearly very good at what they do, this isn’t the right environment in which for them to showcase it. Football grounds don’t need ‘entertainment’; we come for what’s on the pitch, and the result of that is the determining factor in whether or not we’ve had a good ‘matchday experience’. If we must have something to fill the emptiness of half-time – which most people already quite happily fill by chatting or score-checking – then let kids from local clubs take penalties in some format, as has been the case for as long as I can remember. Oh, and what happened to the kids with the flags? A cheerleader ‘guard of honour’ just feels like another manifestation of gender role enforcement.

Bottom line: cheerleaders do not enhance the ‘matchday experience’ and, while it’s easy to say ‘it’s not that deep’ or whatever, I don’t think their introduction is really conducive to attracting more female fans to Adams Park. We’re a family club, hopefully a progressive club, but this initiative, so to speak, doesn’t quite align with those values, in my opinion.

LIGHT & DARK BLUE

Corners

The good: we took quite a few short ones. They always attract moans and groans, but that kind of reaction is largely unfounded. In the Premier League at least, only about one in 25 corners results in a goal. When José Mourinho first came to England, he expressed his bafflement at crowds’ raucous reaction to winning them, and he’s right. We’ve far from perfected the art of short corners, but it’s something that should continue to be worked on. The likes of Dom Gape and Alex Pattison could profit from them – and particularly from cutbacks to the edge of the box, with neither afraid to have a crack from distance.

The bad: we really took our time with the long ones – and I mean more so than normal. It’s even more frustrating when they’re as wayward as several of Jacobson’s were. He may have scored directly from two corners in 2018/19, but it’s fair to say his delivery was hit and miss. Who else could take them? Josh Parker whipped in a decent one for Samuel’s goal against Reading but won’t be a regular. Freeman perhaps? Gape? I’m not saying get JJ off corner duty, but you want to have at least an alternative.


*The xG numbers I use – taken from Experimental 361’s timeline graphics – should be used as a guide only, as they are not based on as advanced a model as those from other sources. Analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has our xG for this game as low as 1.71, for example – which actually makes our three scored even more impressive. More info here: https://experimental361.com/2018/08/20/updated-match-timelines-for-2018-19/


Photo: Ben Prior-Wandesforde

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close