The curtain rose on a new season at Adams Park with a fine victory for Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, beating Morecambe 2-0.
Wanderers’ fans have reason for glee as they started the campaign where pre-season left-off, with a rousing victory full of pace and flair. Progress was also made, with a clean sheet to further boost their confidence ahead of the coming season.
Victory was not a formality as newly relegated Wycombe faced a Morecambe side, wounded after a humiliating play-off semi-final defeat last term, looking to put the demons behind them in this thrilling opener.
The Chairboys have earned great plaudits ahead of the season, and were one of the few Football League teams to meet said expectation in the opening fixture. They dominated possession, particularly in the first half, creating several chances thanks to great work from Kevin Betsy in midfield.
Debutant Scott Rendell headed a glorious chance wide before making amends later in the half, from the spot, with a calmly taken penalty after Matt Bloomfield was fouled by Chris Shuker.
The domination continued with a chip free-kick from captain Ainsworth going narrowly over, with the keeper beat, and a 20-yard effort from Ben Strevens coming back off the crossbar.
The second half was a more even affair, with Morecambe more than holding their own against the buoyant Wanderers, with efforts from Shuker and Phil Jevons lifting the travelling fans.
But it was the pre-season hero, John-Paul Pittman, who shone in his reluctant role of ‘super-sub’, with a superb finish from 25-yards after a great solo run, to seal the 2-0 victory and give Waddock a selection headache for midweek.
"There's more to come," Waddock declared. "We've already seen how well the team can play and we've already seen that there's room for improvement, but they're a willing bunch of players and there's a lot of quality in the group.”
Wanderers hoped to capitalise on the early momentum of the season as they faced a tough first round tie at home to Championship new-boys Millwall on Tuesday night. The Lions came to Adams Park on the back of an unexpected, but impressive 3-0 victory against Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
A League One fixture last term, but after finishing at opposite ends of the table, the league Wycombe and Millwall shared was now a noticeable divide.
A battling Wycombe side fell to a 2-1 reverse, after a goal in extra-time from sub Alan Dunne saw Millwall into the pot for the second round. Goals from Neil Harris and Ben Strevens saw the sides level at full time, but the extra 30 minutes was too much for Wycombe as Millwall found the winning goal.
Wanderers fans should not be downhearted; it was a valiant display with five changes from the side who beat Morecambe, including a starting place for the aforementioned Pittman, and one that encouraged manager Gary Waddock: "I think we ran them close…We wanted to be in the hat, of course we did, and we can say that on our second half and extra time performance.”
The additional revenue that a cup-run brings, and the exciting prospect of entertaining a Premier League side would have been welcomed with open arms by the Wycombe faithful, eager to see their side pit their wits against the big boys.
But with promotion back to League One the main aim, Wanderers can now focus on Saturday’s trip to Stockport and ensure the winning mentality returns.
The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.