9:41pm Monday 4th February 2013
By Andy Carswell
Gillingham 0, Wycombe Wanderers 1.
SUPERSUB Matt McClure came off the bench as Wanderers extended their unbeaten run with an excellent win at high flying Gillingham.
The new dad didn’t let his confidence drop after a glaring miss just a minute before he struck the decisive blow, with a goal that keeps alive the belief Blues can mount a play-off charge.
It looked to be a frustrating evening for Wanderers as a string of superb saves from Gills keeper Stuart Nelson – who was named man of the match – looked likely to deny them an eighth win in 12 matches.
Blues had had to survive an early battering before going on to dominate the second half and securing a deserved victory.
Everything in the build-up to the game – Gills looking to go back to the top, Blues on a good run of form and both teams having a record of scoring early on – suggested goals would be a certainty but it took time for any real chances to be created. Dave Winfield stole in ahead of a defender at an early throw in but could only direct the ball into home keeper Nelson’s midriff.
At the other end Anthony Stewart made an excellent block to thwart Cody McDonald as his experienced strike partner Deon Burton picked him out with a teasing low pass.
Myles Weston was the first to fire a shot in anger as he cut in off the left before his scuffed right footed effort bobbled through to Jordan Archer, with full back Matt Fish similarly lacking the power to trouble the Wanderers keeper from 15 yards.
Burton then called Archer into action as he spun his marker from a throw in before the Blues keeper did well to cling on to the veteran striker’s awkwardly bouncing effort.
The high flying home side started to apply serious pressure with Stewart producing another great clearance as Leon Legge’s flick-on looked to cause problems, with the big defender then being denied by a fine Archer save from the resulting corner.
Little was seen from Wanderers as an attacking force and from one of their more promising forays forward the Gills broke quickly through McDonald’s run down the left, but the striker shot into the side netting from a narrow angle after failing to completely shake off the attentions of the covering Stewart.
But Blues almost took the lead against the run of play as Nelson made a sublime flying one handed save to keep out Sam Wood’s swerving 30 yard thunderbolt.
That was the shot in the arm Wanderers needed and Nelson had to be alert to beat Dean Morgan to a defence splitting pass after the Blues striker sprung the offside trap.
The Kent club’s keeper was starting to earn his corn as Wanderers broke incisively when Andy Frampton was caught in possession. Joel Grant ran half the length of the pitch as Gillingham retreated with Blues having a four on two advantage, and only another excellent low Nelson foiled the flying Wanderers winger as the visitors finished the half on something of a high.
Wycombe skipper Dave Winfield had to go in where it hurts to deny Burton with a dramatic goal line clearance at the culmination of an almighty goalmouth scramble at the beginning of the second half to preserve a clean sheet.
But Wycombe were still creating good opportunities and former Gillingham striker Jo Kuffour came close to scoring against his former employers as Nelson made another good save to thwart him after the striker was played in by Wood. From the corner that followed Winfield was involved in another clearance off the line as Burton blocked his header.
Back in more familiar surroundings Burton blazed over the bar when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box, before the hard working Josh Scowen had a shot blocked by a combination of former Wanderer Steven Gregory and skipper Adam Barrett.
Then Wanderers should have gone in front as the ball dropped to Kuffour from a free kick but the ex Gill hammered the ball straight at Nelson from point blank range as the ball somehow stayed out.
Gills boss Martin Allen made all three substitutions in a bid to swing things in his side’s favour and one of the new men, burly striker Danny Kedwell, was denied by another fine block from the impressive Stewart.
From there Wanderers launched a swift counter attack and Morgan burst past Legge to go through one on one with Nelson, but the home keeper stood tall and added to his collection of impressive saves with another block.
Blues boss Gareth Ainsworth made a substitution of his own as top scorer McClure replaced Kuffour, and he too missed a gilt edged chance with his first touch. Grant picked full back Joe Martin’s pocket before laying it on a plate for McClure, but his shot from six yards struck Barrett and spun out of play.
It looked like Wycombe’s luck was out as a sublime pass from Stuart Lewis sent McClure, who had checked his run brilliantly, past the last man and through on goal but he slipped the ball agonisingly inches the wrong side of the post.
A minute later he made amends for it. Again it was a Lewis pass that sent him free but a block from a defender appeared to have stopped him in his tracks.
But the striker kept his head, killed the ball with a great touch and spun past three defenders before lashing home to seal another win.
Wanderers: Archer, Harriman, Stewart, Winfield, Dunne, Grant, Lewis, Scowen, Wood, Kuffour (sub McClure), Morgan. Substitutes not used: Harrison, Hause, McCoy, Spring, Andrade, Ainsworth.
Attendance: 4,758 (87 from Wycombe)
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