Light & Dark Blue Wednesday: Fleetwood 1-1 Wycombe

Is there any rain left in the clouds above the Fylde? I’m glad I wasn’t up there – and because I was sat on my arse at home instead, I’ve had time to get this turned around quickly. I’ll come up with a better name for the midweek edition at some point, maybe…

LIGHT BLUE

The Chairboys Central Man of the Match: David Dave* Wheeler

From match-winner on Saturday to MOTM last night, Dave Wheeler might be my new favourite player (ok, I’m fickle). A dynamic, combative presence on the left wing, he continued to live up to the hype surrounding his signing. It wasn’t necessarily what you’d call an all-action performance, but it came close.

A constant menace who unnerves opponents in possession, Wheeler attempted and won more tackles (6 and 5 respectively) than anyone else on the pitch. His tenacity helped him win 8/9 ground duels, the best proportion in the game bar Darius Charles and Fleetwood’s Ashley Eastham (who only won 1/1 and 2/2 respectively anyway). His success rate in aerial duels? 4/6, following on from 5/7 against MK. Maybe the trick to dealing with him is to keep the ball underground?

It would have been nice to see Dave cut inside and have a go more often – he was kept fairly quiet in that respect, only registering one shot and one key pass – but he impressed more than enough in other ways. Besides, we’ve already seen a stunning example of his end product, so we shouldn’t have any worries there. How on earth you get him, Smyth and Fred Onyedinma in the same side, I don’t know – but then that’s not my problem.

*On commentary, the venerable Matt Cecil said it’s Dave – so it’s Dave.

Darius Charles: An Inspiration to Us All

We’ve become used to seeing this Wycombe team get back up off the canvas and fight their way back against all odds, but that analogy hardly does Darius Charles justice. He was out of the ring, never to throw another punch. His is a comeback of a special kind.

A surgeon told him he’d never play again, but he wasn’t having that, so he went to Gareth Ainsworth and pleaded for another chance. Last night, in his first appearance in almost ten months, he repaid the gaffer’s commendable faith with a defensive performance to rival the Anthony Stewart ones we’ve been drooling over. I can’t describe it better than Gareth: “imperious”.

The fact that Charles didn’t attempt a tackle* says an awful lot. Get yourself in the right place at the right time and you won’t need to; Paolo Maldini was famed for it. His only real positional lapse was being on the wrong side of the striker when the cross that led to the equaliser came in – but this isn’t the time to be picking holes in his display.

A natural leader, he marshalled the back line brilliantly for the most part, guiding stand-in right-back Giles Phillips throughout, and mucked in on the unglamorous stuff, making five clearances – although, sadly, I think what looked like a particularly spectacular bit of goal-line heroism was actually a missed sitter from the hosts’ Peter Clarke.

Whether Charles is only going to be able to play every couple of games, or whether it’s a logic-crushing Ledley King situation remains to be seen. We could certainly do with him playing week in, week out. For now, though, that doesn’t really matter; seeing him back on a football pitch was as uplifting as I’d imagined. Hats off.

*In fairness, Anthony Stewart alongside him only made one.

This Squad

We made four changes for our hardest game of 2019/20 so far – Charles, Nick Freeman, Wheeler and Adebayo Akinfenwa in, Jack Grimmer, Matt Bloomfield, Paul Smyth and Alex Samuel out – and for much of the second half, we controlled things and were probably better than in our best spells against MK Dons. We were starved of possession by a side who are hotly tipped – rightly so – for a play-off finish, and we were lucky on a couple of occasions, but we came oh so close to riding it out.

What’s the point? Well, we don’t need a strongest 11; we have a strong enough squad to make a variety of strongest 11s. Josh Parker came off the bench very late on for his (second) Wycombe league debut, while we’re yet to use Scott Kashket in the competition. Oh, and we’ve still got Sido Jombati and Curtis Thompson to come back.

Last season, Ainsworth was very limited in how situationally adaptive he could be with his team, and how much he could rotate out of a need to preserve fitness and avoid injuries. That’s all changed. Short of in goal – where Cameron Yates remains unproven – and at right-back – Phillips and Sido can both play there, but it would be nice to have another out-and-out option – we’ve got someone who can effectively serve as a like-for-like replacement.

Thank you Gaz. Thank you Dobbo. Thank you Rob. Thank you everyone else who’s helped assemble this squad in some way. We like it a lot.

The Beast

37 and doing the business for a top six League One side, Bayo’s still got it. His first goal of the campaign means he’s now just five off the big 50 for the Blues. If he keeps up his current rate of a goal around every three appearances, he ought to reach his half century by the end of the year. By the way, out of the current squad, his goals per game ratio of 0.316 puts him behind only Fred and Smyth (both 0.33). In terms of goals per 90, he ranks fourth.

The Commentary Dream Team: Phil Catchpole and Matt Cecil

To all you mad bastards who made the long trek north, I salute you – but you missed out on one thing: this pair on the airwaves. Two chaps who bleed light and dark blue, they always manage to stay on top of proceedings while going off on tangents and whipping out the anecdotes – and it’s always great entertainment. Top stuff!

While I’m at it, check out Phil’s delightful new podcast, Ringing The Blues 👇


DARK BLUE

The Equaliser

While Ryan Allsop ultimately gifted the ball to Madden to tap in (more on that below), we might have prevented Fleetwood’s top scorer from even getting the chance in the first place. Phillips perhaps could have stopped the cross coming in; Charles, as mentioned, was on the wrong side of Madden; Joe Jacobson was playing Madden onside. It wasn’t as much of a defensive disasterclass as for Jordan Bowery’s goal at the weekend, but there are things to be worked on. Of course, Madden could have connected cleanly and buried it first time, but he didn’t. We win or we learn.

Allsop’s Error (and the Reaction to It)

There seem to be two overriding stances on this:

  1. Because Rocky has been on form, criticism isn’t justified.
  2. This costly error wipes out his encouraging early showings (that just doesn’t make any sense).

The reality is neither. Our number 1 has had a great start to the season and kept that up on the whole last night, but he was at fault for their goal along with his defence. Yes, I called it a howler last night; that was excessive, but it was an error. I suppose it was inevitable that he’d make another one sooner or later.

The conditions were atrocious and no doubt played a part, but we have seen him make mistakes like that in the dry. He should have dealt better with a ball that was headed straight at him, regardless of how slippery it must have been. Had it been a powerful header, fair enough, but it wasn’t. He ought to have collected it.

By the way, you can criticise without being puerile about it. Calling him Alldrop or Allslop doesn’t strengthen your point. Those are just a couple of lowlights from the replies to the tweets below. Twitter is awful and I wish I didn’t have to use it, but I do and this kind of tiresome ‘banter’ becomes inescapable. Posting the same photo of David Stockdale twice isn’t going to magically summon him like some kind of portly, shot-stopping genie, you know.

Anyway… Since the last month or two of last season, I’ve felt that we need to bring a ‘keeper in – at least to challenge Allsop. That could work in his favour and help him maintain the solid performance levels we’ve generally seen in these opening weeks. However, as I’ve been saying for much of the summer, I think even a loanee is unlikely. We’ll have to see.

Samuel the Scapegoat

Alex Samuel’s sole shot was an Opta-defined big chance: “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter.” It lay on the edge of that definition, though: it wasn’t really a one-on-one – there were covering defenders – and the pressure was moderate not low. He showed good intelligence to take the ball wide – at least one of the three defenders would have caught him had he gone central – and from there it was always going to be trickier, especially for a forward who we know isn’t a natural finisher. Stop slating him just because you’re trying to find someone to blame. He’s found his niche and he’s a vital cog in the machine.

Samuel 2
Am I Jamie Carragher or Gary Neville yet?
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