Wycombe v Cheltenham Preview: the importance of Plan B

The Morrell of the story… ctfc.com

20 places separated Wycombe Wanderers and Cheltenham Town at the start of last month but it is arguably the visitors who head to Adams Park in better form.

Wycombe’s promotion push has halted slightly for various reasons, not all of which within their control. They have gone three games without a win and in each of them officiating went against them at key moments.

They had a goal dubiously disallowed at home Exeter, they had a questionable penalty awarded against them at Carlisle. Last time out, their claims for Swindon’s goal to be ruled out for a foul fell on deaf ears, although their performance in that 1-0 defeat lacked the imagination to be worthy of a point.

Added to that, they have a lengthy injury list. Full-backs Sido Jombati and Michael Harriman have been key to their strong defensive record over the last three years and are both out, along with centre-back Anthony Stewart plus strikers Nathan Tyson and Josh Umerah. The latter averages a goal every 154 minutes – and that’s before we mention long-term absentee Scott Kashket, who grabbed 16 goals in all forms last year.

Another problem is within their control: the absence of a Plan B. It is plainly evident that their Plan A is to hit Adebayo Akinfenwa early with long balls from deep. The main advantage that style of play normally has though is it’s unpredictability and the element of surprise. AFC Wimbledon used Bayo sparingly in their promotion season, with other strikers taking prominence, before he made a crucial impact from the bench in the three play-off games. Gareth Ainsworth’s side use Akinfenwa from start to finish in every match, which can be effective, but when the veteran begins to tire, they sometimes run out of ideas.

In recent weeks, Cheltenham have shown the ability to mix up their game whilst playing to the strengths of their in-form target man. After a year to adjust to League Two, Danny Wright is beginning to translate his excellent form in the 15/16 National League title season into the fourth tier.

The Robins also have midfielders who can create in different ways. Bristol City loanee Joe Morrell can play inch-perfect passes through small gaps while Carl Winchester, another who has worked with Lee Johnson, possesses bags of energy.

The latter moved to midfield against Lincoln last week after another City loanee, Taylor Moore, filled in at right-back, following centre-back Will Boyle’s return to fitness. Boyle and Jamie Grimes stood strong against a powerful Imps attack, which shows that Cheltenham have adaptability. They have enough power and bravery to win the individual battles without the ball, but they also have enough creativity and mobility to cause problems with it.

Against the depleted Chairboys, Gary Johnson’s visitors might have the tools to record a sixth win in nine.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-2