Wycombe Wanderers 0-1 Stoke City: Potters steal narrow victory as crowds return
Young Potters Nathan Collins and Tashan Oakley-Boothe celebrate their sides tight victory in High Wycombe.  (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Nick Powell scored a second half header to help Stoke City win all three points against Wycombe Wanderers in front of 1,000 spectators at Adams Park.

In a physical and scrappy game it was Michael O'Neill's side who found a way to score the only goal of the game, as crowds were finally allowed to return to watch live football.

Gareth Ainsworth's team continued to threaten the visitors with a robust direct style of play, but were unable to fashion a clear chance to find an equaliser.

The victory means The Potters move to within a point of the SkyBet Championship play-offs, while The Chairboys are now three points from safety in the relegation zone.

Story of the game

Despite there being only 1,000 fans packed into Adams Park, the Wycombe faithful greeted the sides with a lot of noise on their arrival to the pitch, as The Chairboys played their first ever Championship match in front of supporters.

After a quiet opening period to the game it was the home side who fashioned the first chance of the game, Alex Samuel rose highest from a corner and glanced a header which struck the far post and bounced clear.

Little under five minutes later it was the turn of the away side to threaten from a set piece. Sam Clucas whipped in a corner which was meant by Jacob Brown in the Wycombe penalty area, the ball looked to be heading in before Daryl Horgan cleared off the line to deny The Potters a certain goal.

The game’s exciting opening continued in the 15th minute when Stoke almost gifted the home side the opening goal.

Nathan Collins played a risky back pass which put young goalkeeper Josef Bursik in a footrace with Samuel. A coming together ensued between the two from which Wycombe claimed a penalty, only for referee Darren Bond to book Samuel for simulation.

After an eventful 15 minutes the game settled down into a stalemate between the two sides, O’Neill’s men dominated the ball more and more as the half went on, but the teams were level at the break.

Joran Cousins was lucky to escape a red card ten minutes after the restart when the Stoke midfielder scythed down Fred Onyedinma, it was a messy looking challenge and Cousins was fortunate to escape with only a booking.

Wycombe favoured a direct style of play and continuously angled long dangerous balls into the visitor’s penalty area, in the 52nd minute Ainsworth deployed ‘The Beast’, the imposing 38-year-old journeyman striker Adebayo Akinfenwa, in an attempt give Wycombe a greater physical presence in the Stoke penalty area.

Stoke came within a whisker of the opening goal in the 67th minute when substitute James McClean whipped a ball across goal, Potters playmaker Nick Powell was free six yards from goal but failed to connect with the cross.

The two would combine again five minutes later when the breakthrough came in the 72nd minute, as the away side took the lead with a flowing move from their own half.

Tyrese Campbell started the move when he spun his man expertly on the right wing, the Potters top scorer carried the ball into the Wycombe half and fed McClean on the left, McClean delivered a floated cross to an unmarked Powell at the far post who powered his free header down and past the helpless Ryan Allsop in the Wycombe goal.

Campbell almost grabbed a second for his side after the 20-year-old intercepted a misplaced pass in the Wycombe half, he drove at the home defence with pace and forced his way into the penalty area, however his drilled shot was smartly saved by Allsop to keep the Chairboys in the game.

The home side continued to pepper the Stoke back line with long direct passes, with Akinfenwa in particular causing problems with his size and physical stature.

Wycombe almost grabbed the equaliser in the 90th minute from a corner. The deep cross was met by Akinfenwa, who’s cushioned header found Anthony Stewart 12 yards from goal,  however the defender lashed his half-volley high over the bar.

Despite a nervy and chaotic finish to the game Stoke held on for a narrow victory, one which helped to push them to within a point of the play-offs and kept Wycombe in the relegation zone, three points from safety.

Takeaways

Stoke can mix it up

In a match which saw the ball spend long periods of time in the air, The Potters winning goal was an incisive and well worked counter attack. 

Stoke used to be infamous for being a direct and physical side, known for long passing and Rory Delap's long throws. In this game they faced a Wycombe side who employed similar tactics, but withstood the barrage and scored from a clever passing move.

Wycombe struggle to create

The Chairboys only managed to fashion one clear cut chance in the match, in the opening five minutes from a set piece. Despite a committed and hard working performance Ainsworth's side never really looked likely to win the match.

They can however take heart from their decent run of form of late and will hope to bounce back quickly to prevent the gap to safety from increasing.

Man of the match: Danny Batth (Stoke)

Despite Powell being the match winner for The Potters, Stoke centre-half Danny Batth impressed at the heart of a defence which was called upon to defend in the air constantly throughout the game.

Batth and his defensive partner James Chester coped well with the physical presence of Akinfenwa and kept the Wycombe front line quiet throughout the match.

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