Wycombe were left to rue some sloppy defending as a late fightback wasn’t enough to get anything from their trip to Walsall.
Andy Cook headed in unmarked to give the Saddlers a half-time advantage despite Wanderers having the better chances. A tap-in from Isaiah Osbourne made it two before the introduction of Alex Samuel gave the Chairboys a new lease of life. The former Stevenage man forced Luke Leahy to hook into his own net, and after a calamitous own goal made it 3-1, he scored his first league goal for Wycombe following up on Scott Kashket’s saved penalty.
The poor defending was the difference, but six points from the last three games for Wanderers is still very respectable and they can go into a tough run of fixtures with confidence and knowing that they perhaps should’ve got something away against a good side in the shape of Walsall.
Gareth Ainsworth initially dropped Samuel from the starting eleven despite his man-of-the-match performance against Rochdale – he was replaced by Craig Mackail-Smith with the 442 formation in use once again. Former Chairboy Russell Martin made his first start for Dean Keates’ men with Andy Cook, Morgan Ferrier and Connor Ronan some of the players for the Wycombe defence to be wary of.
Wycombe began on the front foot with chances for both sides coming thick and fast. Ferrier was looking threatening on the Saddlers’ left and forced a strong save out of Ryan Allsop, but it was Wanderers creating the better opportunities in the early stages. Paris Cowan-Hall was unlucky with two efforts from range in quick succession before Craig Mackail-Smith really should’ve done better when he was found a few yards out by Adebayo Akinfenwa’s knock-down.
Cowan-Hall then hit the bar as the Chairboys cranked up the pressure, but it was Walsall who took the lead when Andy Cook lost his man from a Connor Ronan free-kick and headed in from point blank range. Wycombe failed to recover from that set-back before the break, perhaps due in part to an injury to one of the assistant referees, which led to a half-time announcement asking for a qualified official inside the Banks’s Stadium.
HALF-TIME: Walsall 1-0 Wycombe Wanderers
The first real opening of the second period saw the Saddlers double their lead when Kane Wilson’s shot was parried back into his path and he crossed for Isaiah Osbourne to tap home. There was a lull in the game after this with Walsall seemingly happy with the scoreline and Wanderers unable to do anything to change it. This didn’t last long though, and ended with the introduction of Alex Samuel and Scott Kashket. A couple of long-range efforts from Bryn Morris went just over before the game was almost sealed by Cook after he went round Allsop but the ‘keeper managed to recover in the nick of time.
The Chairboys got one back almost immediately after that with a long ball from Akinfenwa towards Samuel finding its way in after Luke Leahy tried to clear. The 589 travelling fans had something to warm themselves up, but the lead was extended once again in the 84th minute. George Dobson was allowed to carry the ball way too far, and his cross was cleared onto Dom Gape by Jason McCarthy for the second horrendous own goals in five minutes..
There was still a glimmer of hope for Wycombe when Fred Onyedinma was brought down inside the box. Scott Kashket picked up the ball straight away to deny regular penalty taker Joe Jacobson, and he telegraphed his effort making it easy for Liam Roberts to stop it. However, Alex Samuel got his reward for all his running by being the first to the rebound to make it 3-2.
FULL-TIME: Walsall 3-2 Wycombe Wanderers
For once, it was Wanderers on the wrong end of a high-scoring game, but they will look to make amends for this defeat when high-flying Peterborough come to town next weekend. That is followed by a cup double with Oxford visiting Adams Park in the Checkatrade Trophy before the Chairboys make the short trip to Luton in the FA Cup.