ITEN Match Preview: Wycombe (H)
Two straight defeats away from home have left Doncaster Rovers staring down the reality of a premature end to the season. Back on home turf this weekend, things don’t get any easier as Gareth Ainsworth brings his promotion-chasing Wycombe Wanderers side to town.
Picking the Brains
Adding depth to the squad and augmenting our options was supposed to soothe the headaches Darren Moore frequently had to deal with in the first half of the season. Instead, the additional bodies have created a migraine of an entirely different sort and it’s one that needs remedying immediately.
Darren again changed the system for last Saturday’s game at Shrewsbury, opting for a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond that morphed into something of a 4-3-3 out of possession. The set-up, removing the emphasis on wide midfielders entirely, left Kieran Sadlier and Jon Taylor on the bench again as Moore attempted to deal with losing his first choice striker Fejiri Okenabirhie to suspension, but Rovers struggled to find their rhythm on a windy afternoon, going down to a 1-0 defeat in the end.
Okenabirhie remains missing this weekend but Moore must surely be considering restoring his two top goalscorers to the starting XI to give his team the best chance of winning the game and keeping these faint Play-Off hopes alive. Either Niall Ennis or Devante Cole could remain up front, although neither did much of anything in front of goal last time out, whilst the more conventional set-up would allow a bit more freedom for either James Coppinger or Jacob Ramsey to exploit areas in the attacking third.
Ramsey was one beneficiary of the diamond shape, putting in a bright display and proving one of Rovers’ best goal threats, but he sems versatile enough to adapt to altering midfield systems. Whatever Darren Moore chooses to do, he must find a way to get the best out of his increased options in the front-lines of the team.
Chairboys Chugging Along
After suffering a severe wobble over the winter period, Wycombe’s form has recovered and the early-season surprise leaders are right back in the thick of the title race, heading into this game just two points off the top. The club’s takeover has been officially confirmed and management duo Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson signed new long-term contracts earlier this week, so the mood will be high in the visiting camp.
The Chairboys have won three of their last four games but are much more accomplished at Adams Park than away from home, with their recent victory at bottom side Bolton their only away victory since before the previous meeting with Rovers back in November. Still, Wycombe are a very organised and spirited outfit who have proven better than most of the division since the start of the season.
They also have a near-fully fit squad to choose from at present, with only long-term absentee Jack Grimmer and the currently banned Scott Kashket unavailable. Ade Akinfenwa remains the talisman of the Wanderers attack but has seen his playing time reduced lately in favour of Alex Samuel, although Gareth Ainsworth is not afraid to play both players together as part of his 4-3-3 set-up.
The return to fitness of Fred Onyedinma should be of chief concern to Rovers, with the dynamic winger netting in each of the last two games, whilst David Wheeler has been allowed to move back into the midfield three as a result of Onyedinma’s comeback. Wycombe have taken to regularly altering their front 3 with as much regularity as Rovers in recent weeks, but with more success generally.
Fred Onyedinma’s likely presence on the right hand side of that front three – in order to accommodate Paul Smyth on the left – could spell danger for Darren Moore. Stand-in left back Cameron John has struggled in the role since coming back in for the injured Reece James, and will have his hands full again on Saturday. There have been calls to give academy graduate Danny Amos a chance, but Moore may not feel that move is worth the risk for this one despite his praise of the Northern Ireland youth international this week.
It goes without saying that Akinfenwa will be a player that Rovers’ defence has to have a stringent game plan for in the event he starts up front. “The Beast” gave Andy Butler nightmares in a game at Adams Park last season and won the injury-time penalty off Donervon Daniels that Wycombe won the reverse fixture with this term. His sheer size and presence may take the efforts of both Joe Wright and Tom Anderson to nullify come the weekend.
This fixture is a bit of a rarity in the EFL owing to the relative histories of both clubs. Wycombe were promoted to the Football League for the first time in 1993, doing the double over Rovers on their way straight up into the third tier. There they stayed until 2004, the same year Dave Penney’s Rovers completed their own back-to-back rise out of the Conference, and so the sides never met again in a league setting until 2016.
This weekend will mark the ninth all-time meeting between the sides, with Rovers only managing one win in that time. That came the last time Wycombe came to the Keepmoat, as the home side ran out 3-0 winners in Grant McCann’s first home game in charge last season. John Marquis, Joe Wright and Mallik Wilks all scored in the second half that day, with Wright’s cool finish his first senior goal.
The Chairboys won thanks to an injury-time penalty from Joe Jacobson at Adams Park back in November, and topped the table at the time, whilst Rovers were down in 13th and had Tom Anderson sent off that day.