Preview: Wycombe v Fleetwood

The Basics

As it stands: Wycombe 30-1587 (2nd, 53 pts, GD 4) | Fleetwood 28-1297 (9th, 45 pts, GD 9)
Form: Wycombe WLWLW | Fleetwood DDDWW
Last time out: Wycombe 3-1 Bristol Rovers | AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Fleetwood
Head-to-head:

P Wycombe W Fleetwood W D Ave. GpG
7 3 1 3 1.42

Previous meeting: Fleetwood 1-1 Wycombe

Setting the Scene

And here was me thinking things were supposed to calm down over Christmas. In what could be whatever number game since then as far as I’m concerned, we face a tough test against fellow promotion hopefuls – in the final action under the Adams Park lights of 2019/20. The Cod Army have fished out back-to-back victories after a six-match winless streak including five draws, keeping them firmly in the hunt for a play-off finish. While their season has been one of inconsistency – they’ve not won more than two games consecutively – and some frustration, they have great quality within their ranks.

Saturday’s win over Bristol Rovers reinforced the all-important, all-powerful team spirit and unity which has defined our own season. We’ll have to sharpen up for this one against higher calibre opposition, but there’s every reason to believe we will – such was the feel-good factor which returned thanks to a fan-delighting result in spite of a sometimes unnerving display. This fixture isn’t renowned for goals – every league meeting has ended 1-0 either way or 1-1 – but we’re overdue an Adams Park thriller, and what better way to warm the cockles on another digit-numbing night in the valley?

Opposition Overview

Last season: 11th in League One
Manager: Joey Barton (appointed June 2018)
Top scorer: Paddy Madden (ST) – 14
Most assists: Lewie Coyle (RB), Wes Burns (RM/RW) – 5
Style of play: Possession-based, plenty of width, conservative with tackling*

*As was the case with the game at Sunderland, this is a meeting of the two teams who attempt the fewest tackles per game in League One (Wycombe 15.7, Fleetwood 17.2)

A (Slightly) Deeper Look

Wycombe v Fleetwood Basic Comparison of Styles

There’s little to suggest that our latest meeting will be any more open than the previous seven. We’re in as mixed form as the visitors and, while we’ve lost much of our defensive steel, Fleetwood are hardly on fire in front of goal – drawing a blank in four of their last eight outings. They have protected their own reasonably resolutely, though, keeping three clean sheets – all in 0-0 draws – and conceding twice on just one occasion during that span. Every clash of higher-flying sides this late in the season can fairly fall under the ‘must win’ umbrella, and there’s a balance to be struck between adventure and caution. Fresh from only their third away win since the opening day, though, Joey Barton’s men will surely be determined to back it up here.

That said, the Cod Army’s performance at Kingsmeadow on Saturday was not a vintage one. The prolific Paddy Madden came off the bench to save their blushes late on, bagging the winner with one of just three shots on target – and eight overall – after they’d earlier gone behind to the struggling Dons. Averaging 13.2 attempts a game, they’re the ninth most frequent shooters in the league, but they’ve failed to muster more than ten in each of their previous three matches. That could be put down to a recent change from 4-3-3 – firstly to 4-3-1-2 then to an ostensibly bus-parking 5-4-1 with skipper Ched Evans as the lone striker. I say ostensibly as full/wing-backs Lewie Coyle – who’s finally moved permanently from Leeds after no fewer than three straight loan spells spanning two-and-a-half seasons – and Danny Andrew do overlap and get forward well, just not necessarily to the same extent as pure wing-backs. Needlesd to say, that leads to greater numbers in the middle third, as you’d expect from a team who like to control possession.

That midfield congestion could work out well or not so well for us. On the one hand, we’re more content than any team in the league to bypass our opponents with long balls; on the other, we’ve been given the runaround by keep-ball merchants Oxford, Coventry and Peterborough. Then again, all three were at the top of their game when we faced them – and we went down to ten men against the former and latter – which can’t be said for Fleetwood right now. We could do worse than to try and counteract it by implementing the 4-2-3-1 which allowed us to reduce Bristol Rovers’s threat late in proceedings. Depending on the extent of Matt Bloomfield’s presumed knock and Curtis Thompson’s apparent lingering niggle, that could mean starts for Nick Freeman as the 10 and Nnamdi Ofoborh in the left-sided holding position. Adebayo Akinfenwa is playing through a pretty badly beaten up knee, so we might well see another start for Alex Samuel, who is capable of playing as the lone striker provided David Wheeler and Paul Smyth – and at some point, we hope, Fred Onyedinma – push up to adequately support and feed off him.

There is always the possibility that Barton decides to go with Evans and Madden in attack – especially with Darius Charles almost certain to sit this one out – which would force us to focus even more on stopping the supply from wide areas. Those two have bagged 22 goals between them this season, Madden netting at a rate of better than once every other shot on target. Wes Burns is arguably the main threat in a non-scoring sense – both in terms of chance creation and ball-carrying ability – and will be looking to bounce back after enduring a bit of a torrid time at Wimbledon at the weekend, but Joe Jacobson must be confident of handling him after putting on a masterclass in combativity on Saturday. Equally, it could be a good night for that wand of a left foot; just four teams in League One have let in more goals from set-pieces than Fleetwood (11). Speaking of set-pieces, though, centre-back Harry Souttar is likely to make a nuisance of himself. At 6’6”, the Australian international – on loan from Stoke – makes for an obvious target and has six goals to his name in 2019/20 for club and country.

Possible Line-ups

WYCOMBE

Wycombe XI v Fleetwood

 

FLEETWOOD*

Fleetwood XI v Wycombe

*who, judging by their last game, will probably unecessarily wear their away kit. Why, lads, why?

In the Middle: Kevin Johnson

Games in 2019/20 Yellows Reds Penalties Last refereed Wycombe Last refereed Fleetwood
25 83 6 5 Wycombe 1-4 Coventry (L1, 29/12/19) Shrewsbury 0-3 Fleetwood (L1, 28/09/19)

Header image by Dan Clark
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