Match Preview: Wycombe Wanders vs Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough face Wycombe Wanderers this evening in a match which holds a lot of resemblance to Boro’s previous 2-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday. Middlesbrough will be hoping that they learned from their performance last time out so that they can get a result this time.
Season So Far:
Wycombe Wanderers are undeniably the worst team in the league so far mustering just 15 points from 22 league matches, giving them a points per game of 0.7. The majority of these points have come in draws with 6 of their 22 games so far this season ending in stalemate with just 3 games ending in a Wycombe win.
The Chairboys struggles so far this season have been further exacerbated by their goal difference of -17, which is 6 goals worse than the second worst goal difference in the league, -11 for Nottingham Forest. The most glaring issue in the teams goal difference is their defensive record having conceded a total of 32 goals, as they have conceded 1.5 goals per game on average. This indicates that Wycombe have been struggling defensively and may provide the opportunity for Middlesbrough’s attackers to score a few goals. Meanwhile Wycombe has struggled to find the net going to the other way as well scoring 0.68 goals per game which is a stark comparison to the 1.2 goals per game scored by Middlesbrough so far this season.
Upon a quick glance at the table, it may appear that Wycombe’s predicament is in a better position than it actually is as 23rd placed Rotherham are only 1 point ahead of Wycombe, however they have 2 games in hand on the Chairboys, with which they may be able to steal a couple of points gap on their rivals.
While being at the bottom of the table isn’t a promising situation there is still a lot of football to be played as we enter January and some semblance of freedom isn’t too far away, Nottingham Forest, who are in the first place above the relegation zone currently have a four point lead over Wycombe, However such an advantage can be quickly eaten up in the Championship.
Wycombe find themselves in similar form to Sheffield Wednesday did coming into their match against Middlesbrough. The relegation candidates have managed to earn a win and a draw in their last 5 games earning them 4 points over the stint of games. Their win in this group of games is particularly interesting, having managed to overturn Cardiff City 2-1 displaying the fact that Wycombe are capable of springing a surprise and so Middlesbrough need to be on their game in order to prevent such an event particularly after their loss against Sheffield Wednesday.
The Wanderers current points per match of 0.8 is beneath Middlesbroughs 1.8 points per match and so Middlesbrough are the in form team coming into this match, which would be expected considering the difference in quality between the two sides.
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
The Wycombe manager had a long and successful playing career making over 600 career appearances in midfield for a wide variety of clubs ranging from Northwich Victoria to Preston North End. The former midfielder was also relatively prolific in front of goal managing to score 110 goals during his career. The now 47 year old has played for 16 clubs during his career, breaking 100 appearances at two clubs Wycombe Wanderers and Queens Park Ranger.
His managerial career has been the antithesis of his journeyman footballing career though taking over as caretaker manager on two occasions for QPR (2008 and 2009) during his stay from 2003-2010. He then spent 2 years at Wycombe Wanderers before picking up the player-manager mantle and then later manager role.
Gareth Ainsworth has spent 8 years managing Wycombe Wanderers and has lead them into one of the most successful periods in the clubs history. In 2013/14 he kept Wycombe in the football league with a final-day victory, before taking the club to the play-off final with the best football league points tally the club had ever had. Ainsworth continued steadily moving the club forward getting promotion to League 1 in 2017/18 through automatic promotion. Survival was the task at hand next for Ainsworth and he succeeded in finishing 17th before once again pushing the club forward to an impressive promotion to the Championship. This was a first ever for Wycombe who had yet to have graced the Championship fields in its 133 year history a feat that was completed despite the COVID issues towards the end of last season.
This ultimately impressive record displays how Ainsworth is a managerial talent to keep an eye on going forward and with him at the helm Wycombe may well steer away from relegation. Alternatively this may be a step too far as the rapidity of their multiple promotions over the last few seasons catches up with them. In the eyes of Wycombe fans, they will be hoping that it is the former. Either way this has been a very impressive stint for Wycombe and deserves credit regardless of the outcome at the end of the season.
Top Goalscorer: Scott Kashket (4)
Wycombe’s 15 goals so far this season have been spread across 8 players. From these 8 players Scott Kashket has scored the most with 4 over 1344 minutes as he manages to score a goal every 3.7 games on average, proving to be close to Assombalonga who also scores 3.2 games.
While Adebayo Akinfenwa has yet to find the net this season he offers a very physical challenge to Middlesbrough’s defence and his disruption to the back line may open up opportunities for other players.
Most Assists: Joe Jacobson (4)
Joe Jacobson is potentially the most influential Wycombe player so far this season with easily the most assists in the team and also contributing 2 goals to his team from the surprising role of left back, Middlesbrough will have to keep an eye on the Welshman in they wish to overturn the Chairboys.
Most Yellow cards: Joe Jacobson (5)
Despite his influence going forward Jacobson has had a minor discipline issue so far this season picking up 5 yellow cards, which may prove to be weakness to his game that Middlesbrough may aim to exploit during the match. This also becomes a point of concern for Boro as Watmore may have been picked to rival the 34 year old, however Warnock may think otherwise in an attempt to protect the English winger.
Most Red Cards: Alex Pattison/Darius Charles (1)
Wycombe have been given 2 red cards so far this season to Alex Pattison and Darius Charles, which is a reasonable number of red cards to have mustered so far this season. While those who did get the red cards have made some of the fewest appearances in the team so far this season meaning that it will be unlikely that Middlesbrough will be facing either of these players when they come up against the Wanderers.
Interestingly, one of those who earned a red card, Alex Pattison, was once a Middlesbrough youth player. He never made a first team appearance for the club but he may well relish the opportunity to play against his boyhood club to show them what they have missed after letting him go.
Referee: Jared Gavan Gillett
Jared Gillett is an Australian referee who emigrated in 2019, making his EFL debut in April 2019.
The former Australian A-league referee made the SG2 referee’s list in the 2019/2020 season shortly after his arrival in the country with his refereeing experience from Australia. During his time refereeing down under between 2010 and 2019 Gillet became a high profile official and refereed 5 Grand Finals and the 2018 FFA Cup Final indicating that he was a respected and reputable referee before he came to the UK.
This season Gillett has refereed 14 games in which he gave out 44 yellow cards, around 3 per game and 2 red cards, 0.1 per game. He has also refereed a League 1 game this season indicating that he is considered a lower Championship level referee at this point in his career, though this may be due to his still recent change to English football.