League Two: Stevenage 0 Wycombe 0
PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 11 December 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Stevenage had to settle for a share of the spoils after a stalemate with Wycombe on a cold December afternoon.
Boro boss Darren Sarll started with Alex Samuel and Matt Godden up front, with the impressive 18-year-old Mark McKee again in the side.
And the hosts were looking to build on their encouraging FA Cup form after trouncing Swindon 5-2 last weekend to earn a home tie against Reading in the third round. Despite the deserved plaudits Sarll’s men needed to start picking up wins again in the league.
With one win in eight more of a disappointment than a fear – certainly after their hugely promising start to the season which saw them placed as high as second – the slide is more about showing the world they are far better than their mid-table position indicates.
On a raw winter’s afternoon in North Herts the home side started well with a looping Godden header from a Luke Wilkinson cross flying narrowly over Chairboys goalkeeper Scott Brown on seven minutes.
There were signs of good link-up play from Samuel and Godden with the home side putting pressure on the visitors goal.
The early stages were also punctuated by challenges which could at best be described as agricultural, leading to free kicks being awarded to Boro as they pushed Wycombe’s backline deeper.
It was also good to see experience in the form of Chris Whelpdale alongside the ever-dependable captain Ronnie Henry guide the talented teenager McKee through a harsh climate, not only in terms of dropping temperatures but also against an abrasive side led by another rising young English coach Gareth Ainsworth.
On 25 minutes the lively Samuel powered past former Brighton defender Adam El-Abd to cross and the ball drop to Godden whose blocked shot fell to Tom Pett who fired a shot just over the bar.
Around the half-hour mark Henry went down in a clash of heads, as blood poured from the wound on his forehead, but it was an insight into his character as he simply asked for a bandage and a clean top free from blood before returning, and of course relishing, the heart of the battle.
No wonder he is fast-approaching 500 league appearances. If only all footballers were as uncomplainingly brave as he.
Wycombe provided an aerial threat at times, led by the truly leviathan Adebayo Akinfenwa as a header from Luke O’Nien was safely gathered by Joe Fryer following a Joe Jacobson corner.
Nick Freeman then fluffed a chance after a driving run from old warhorse Craig Mackail-Smith was halted by Fryer as Wycombe gained momentum.
With seconds to go until the break hero Henry cleared off the line from a free kick taken by Wycombe’s Brown more than 50 yards out which evaded Fryer.
It was a close shave for Boro but as referee Scott Duncan blew for 0-0 at half time you could certainly praise the endeavour of this hard-fought match - if not the quality.
The second period started in much the same vein with muscular challenges all over the pitch that led to Jacobsen joining Pett, from the first half, in referee Duncan’s notebook after heavy contact with Samuel.
On 53 minutes Whelpdale’s header flew the wrong side of the post after a corner from Martin.
A passage of play around the hour mark summed up the difference in styles. The Boro backline, under pressure simply passed their way out of trouble. The ball was moved forward until Wycombe’s solid number five Anthony Stewart came into contact with it. And promptly hoofed it up the park to no-one in particular.
As they said when Tony Pulis was sacked ‘if God had meant football to be played on the ground why did he invent the sky?’
There followed a scrappy spell peppered with bad-tempered clashes which did little to improve the quality of fare on offer during a disappointing second half – in which Wycombe could have won the game at the death when they hit the post through Akinfenwa on 82 minutes.
But as the game a drew to a close as goalless stalemate there was much to admire – certainly in terms of the full-blooded commitment from both sides. Not least from the brave Henry who gave his all, as did every player on both sides as the afternoon descended into a bitterly cold evening.
It was just unfortunate such passion didn’t translate into goals as both sides could be as happy and frustrated as each other at taking a point from the Lamex.
Stevenage: Fryer, Henry, Kinng, Wilkinson, Martin, Whelpdale, Smith, McKee, Pett (Conlon 80), Godden, Samuel (Newton 61). Unused subs: Franks, Beautyman, Day, Slater, Wilmot.