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Max strikes to break down Rovers rearguard
Bristol Rovers 0, Wycombe Wanderers 1.
MAX Kretzschmar came off the bench to end ten man Bristol Rovers’ stubborn resistance with a late winner.
The Gas had to play for over an hour a man light after striker David Clarkson inexplicably elbowed Josh Scowen in the face.
Blues looked like they were never going to grab that elusive goal to claim a third straight win in all competitions against sides from the West Country as the home side packed their defence and kept the Chairboys at arm’s length.
But it was thanks to manager Gareth Ainsworth’s tinkering that Wanderers were able to end their dogged determination as Kretzschmar fired home after another substitute, Jon-Paul Pittman, had seen his shot saved.
The young midfielder’s third goal of the season took Wanderers back into the play-off picture – and just three points from the summit – as he struck ten minutes from time to secure a hard-earned victory.
Wanderers had the better of the game even before Clarkson’s indiscretion and what proved to be the home side’s only clear opportunity came in the second minute. Matt Ingram made an excellent flying save from Seanan Clucas’s header after Ryan Brunt – who ran Wanderers ragged in last season’s game at the Memorial Stadium – span past Nick Arnold to put in a precise cross.
Ellis Harrison ballooned a shot from a narrow angle wildly off target before Blues broke and won a corner, from which Rovers keeper Steve Mildenhall misjudged a Kortney Hause header and in the end was relieved to tip it over the bar.
Charles Dunne, back in the side after suspension, ghosted down the wing before sending in a cross that former Rovers striker Jo Kuffour acrobatically volleyed over the crossbar as the game began to open up after a cagey start.
The full back got forward again as the ball was played from right to left in an incisive passing move, with Dunne’s powerful shot taking out debutant Will Packwood after hitting him square in the face.
Then out of nowhere Clarkson suffered a rush of blood to the head and swung his elbow into the side of Scowen’s head while challenging for the ball. Referee Darren Sheldrake missed the incident but after being called across by linesman Tim Wood the official elected to show the Scot a red card.
The sending off had a galvanising effect on the home fans and dangerman Brunt sent a long range effort zipping just the wrong side of the upright.
But gaps opened up for Wanderers to exploit and Billy Knott was twice off target as he shanked over the top when Scowen’s half cleared free kick dropped to him, before he fired wide after Paris Cowan-Hall chested the ball into his path
Chances continued to come their way as Hause headed over from a corner and Dunne was also off target with a rising left footed drive after his previous attempt with the right foot had been blocked.
Rovers started to defend deeply and in numbers and made it to half time without being breached, and at times at the beginning of the second half they seemed to be fielding a back six as Wanderers struggled to break through.
Captain Stuart Lewis fired the first shot of the second period but from 20 yards he scuffed wide, before Knott shot tamely at Mildenhall.
Blues boss Ainsworth made a change in attack with Matt McClure replacing Kuffour as Wanderers looked for a new way to break through the massed ranks of the home side’s defence.
With Rovers dropping deeper and deeper it proved increasingly difficult for Wanderers to break through into the home side’s penalty area and any shots they did manage were from distance, with Scowen the next man to fire off target as his 25 yarder found the roof of the stand.
Another substitute Pittman almost made the breakthrough with his first touch as McClure’s blocked shot dropped to his feet, but Mildenhall was swiftly off his line to make a fine block.
Dunne spun and shot into Mildenhall’s gloves at a corner before Wanderers finally broke down the ten men. Scowen fed Pittman and the striker was denied by an excellent low stop from Mildenhall, but the keeper was powerless to prevent Kretzschmar from gleefully slamming the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Wanderers: Ingram, Arnold, Stewart, Hause, Dunne, Bloomfield (sub Kretzschmar), Lewis, Knott, Scowen, Cowan-Hall (sub Pittman), Kuffour (sub McClure). Substitutes not used: Horlock, McCoy, Spring, Doherty.
Attendance: 5,783 (345 from Wycombe)
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