Two Quick Goals Finish Off The Rebels

| League
Att: 5162
Wycombe Wanderers
Crossley (9), West (51 pen), Guppy (53)
3 - 0
Slough Town
Colin Fielder
Two minutes in the second half of this Boxing Day derby was all that was needed to finish off Slough in their battle with arch rivals Wycombe Wanderers. It was a virtual act of self destruction which brought the Rebels' demise and their third defeat in four games. Prior to the festive period, Slough were in the top six, chasing a useful end of season position with games in hand.

In a space of three weeks they have slipped alarmingly down the table. The Rebels have been struck by an injury crisis and absenteeism which has been the main cause of their sudden loss of form. It has only served to highlight the glaring weakness of the Rebels' squad when the first choice members are unavailable. But with Slough coming into financial security with their new set up and owners, they should look toward new squad members to improve their chances of success.

All in all, Wycombe were just too good for Slough in the end, but it took a terrible blunder to open up the gap in quality. As over 5,000 packed into Wycombe's superb Adams Park Stadium, Slough were already battling against the odds with key members still out with injuries. Both Slough forwards, Paul McKinnon and Francis Joseph were missing as were midfield member Gary Donnellan and defender Mark Hill. As a result they lacked a cutting edge up front and the ability to hold the ball up and this resulted in their better play going unrewarded into the first half. Wycombe started well on top and with a strong wind at their backs put Slough under all kinds of pressure.

The Wanderers used width to fine measure and looked a threat as they swarmed forward at the start of the game. Forcing a number of corners they swung the ball in and as it caught the wind they swerved in at an alarming angle with Slough defending for their lives.

It took only nine minutes for Wycombe to take advantage and that was from one of these set plays. The corner was swung in and it arched to the far post, almost out of play when Wanderers ace marksman Mark West headed back into the goal-mouth and Matt Crossley was there to head it over the line.

Wycombe were flowing and cohesive and looked like they would increase their lead as they pushed forward. Steve Guppy saw his cross from the right catch the wind and swing in so dramatically that Rebels' keeper Trevor Bunting had to tip it over. Battling to dominate the situation, Slough had some seeding performers. Darren Anderson was immaculate in the centre of defence while on the left Allan Pluckrose turned in the performance of the day with a superb game at full back.

The pacy Simon Hutchinson didn't get a look in against the solid Slough defender. But Slough had trouble going forward as, they found themselves defending. Trying to pick out Steve Thompson as he foraged a lone path forward was left wanting as the ball was so easily held out by the wind as it was knocked forward from deep positions. Slough needed to get a link from midfield but with Eammon O'Connor hardly getting a look in for a long time and Steve Whitby not gaining much support on the ball it wasn't coming. That all changed though when the Rebels began to knock the ball around to feet.

Space began to open up in midfield and O'Connor began to link well with Thompson on the left, Gradually Wycombe were being pushed back and Slough produced their best chance of the first 20 minutes when good work set up Tony Dell whose first touch was good es he controlled but his shot was easily saved.

The Rebels began to go forward with more purpose as the match moved on and Anderson saw his effort from a free kick deflected safely into the hands of Paul Hyde in the Wycombe goal. Neal Stanley then set up a neat one two with Thompson but his shot was saved. It was Slough who were playing all the football as the first half drew to a close but their penetration of the Wanderers defence was not complete enough to create a solid opportunity.

Thompson was roving and a constant threat to Wycombe's defence and the home side created little in the way of opportunities in the final stages of the half.

Tony Knight picked up a booking for a high challenge and Gary Smith followed him into the book after a reckless tackle on O'Connor. In the face of the wind, going in at half time only a goal to the worse was a sign of optimism for Slough but they would have to break down a defence that met with little trouble in the first half.

Wycombe came out firing on all cylinders and as Guppy began to find space, be sent in some delightful and dangerous crosses.

Then disaster struck. From a point in proceedings where Slough could have at least got something from the game, they let themselves down. With 51 minutes gone, Slough found themselves under pressure but won the ball and looked to play themselves out of trouble. They did this until Dell, hovering on the edge of the area received the ball and suddenly played a superb pass into the path of West, who couldn't believe his luck. What had been an intended back pass was so bad it cost Slough the game.

From a dominant defensive position Slough were plunged into trouble. As the ball just bobbled into the box, West nipped in and turned Tony Knight, who came rushing in and could only take West's ankles with him and the referee had no option but to point to the spot, West himself finishing the job.

If that wasn't bad enough, a minute later it was all over. Slough were caught pushing up and Keith Scott found himself in space on the left to outpace the stranded Anderson. His effort was well saved by the diving Bunting but fell straight back to his feet where he crossed again for Guppy to finish with the simplest of touches in front of an open goal.

There were 38 minutes left to play and the Rebels were tottering and many holding their breaths at the prospect of an avalanche. But Slough came back to force a free kick on the edge of the box. Colin Fielder stepped up to take it quickly and sent a fine effort crashing against the bar and out of danger with Hyde well beaten. Slough were having their moments but never had the edge they needed in the Wycombe final third. Thompson did as much as he could but Stanley found himself struggling to keep up with the game.

With the pressure off and time to relax, Wycombe stepped up a gear and turned in a display of scintillating football that was well worth a watch. Their wing play was dynamic. It was fast, accurate and effective and a wonder that the home side didn't add more to their tally.

Slough made a double substitution with Steve Scott replacing Dell and Mark Mallinson replacing Whitby. As the Wanderers surged forward Mallinson found himself beaten by Hutchinson and Scott missed an open goal as a result. Guppy was finding more and more space as Stacey began to tire on the right and he was forced into a fine defensive header to clear the danger.

Slough began to lose it in midfield but there was no arguing over who were the better side and the Rebels were simply being outclassed. Disaster struck as Guppy made a meal of a challenge by Knight with just six minutes remaining. As he rolled on the ground and Knight was somewhat harshly dismissed and Guppy got back up without the physio needed.

Wycombe continued to keep the heat on in the latter stages and could have, and should have, had a hatful. John Deakin was eventually denied by a spectacular save by Bunting from his equally spectacular shot. At the final whistle though, the points were well won and Slough moved into their ninth year without a win against Wycombe.

Disappointed Slough boss Alan Davies said after the game: "I thought that in the first half, Wycombe having got their early goal, and being under pressure from the wind, we did well to go in at half time 1-0 down. I was confident that we could get a result. At the start of the second half we started to push them back but then we gave two bad goals away and there was no coming back."

"We deserved something from the game," he mused. "I thought we shaded it over the 90 minutes and in the first half we put them under so much pressure. We should have been 3-0 up at the break but we just didn't take our chances. Then, one bad bit of defending in the second half cost us the game."

He went on to say: "To be fair we lost 3-0 but it could have been 5-0. You can't give teams like Wycombe time to play and then give away goals like that."

Keeper Trevor Bunting and defender Tony Dell copped the blame for the New Year's Day debacle. The goalie failed to hold a cross which went for a corner — the set piece which led to Wycombe's first goal - and then Dell's back pass ended with Tony Knight conceding a desperate penalty.

"Trevor should really have held onto that ball, we hit two good chances straight at their keeper and then, just as we were pushing them bacwards in the second half we had a crazy couple of minutes and let in two bad goals. We were in no danger. Tony Dell hit a backpass from 25 yards and Tony Knight conceded the penalty. Then we let in another soft one and, to be honest, Wycombe could have had five," he said.

Injuries are still the major cause of the current results and Davies said: "I know I keep saying it but injuries are again a problem. When you look at the players that were out, they are all key players and all of them would be in the team. It also showed up the people who haven't played recently. At the end of the day it is another bad Christmas and it looks worse as both games were local derbies."

But Davies will refuse to panic in the light of the recent lack of points. "We have had a bad situation with injuries but when everyone is back there is no reason not to carry on the way we had been."

News on the injuries front is a possible return for Mark Hill with Paul McKinnon, Garry Donnellan and Francis Joseph a slight chance within the week.


Davies left to ponder on a bonanza that never came
TWO Christmas defeats by Wycombe Wanderers saw the Rebels plunge down the Conference table, leaving them under pressure to make the most of their games in hand.

A storming fifth just before the Christmas pile-up, they are now ninth from bottom although well clear of the relegation battle which seems to involve the bottom seven who are well adrift. The Rebels, thanks to a wonderful FA Cup run, have games in hand but manager Alan Davies was regretting his side's inability to make the most of their chances against Wanderers — especially in the Boxing Day clash at Wexham Park.

"We deserved something from the game," he mused. "I thought we shaded it over the 90 minutes and in the first half we put them under so much pressure. We should have been 3-0 up at the break but we just didn't take our chances. Then, one bad bit of defending in the second half cost us the game."

Wycombe Wanderers Line up

Hyde, Cousins, Stapleton, Crossley, Creaser, Smith (77 Deakin), Hutchinson, Carroll (73 Cooper), West, K. Scott, Guppy.

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