The second time we’ve faced Wycombe Wanderers this season and the second time we’ve been outplayed. On Saturday the game was pretty much over after 9 minutes and the Chairboys cantered comfortably to a 4-1 win.
Here are five things we learned from the Wycombe Wanderers game in the FA Cup…
Why Change The Team So Much?
Firstly I’d like to say how much I disagree with the mantra of ‘it’s only the cup, we can concentrate on the league now‘. Some great memories have come in this competition, not least when we led against both Manchester United and Arsenal at Deepdale in recent years. Scott Laird’s goal, Aiden McGeady’s pirouette and Callum Robinson’s finish are iconic moments for me.
In the season of the Manchester United game, we went on to get promoted. If anything the FA Cup run reignited our season after a slump. We’ve now fallen at the first hurdle in the FA Cup in five out of the last six seasons and our only win in the competition during that time actually came against Wycombe three years ago.
In the mid 00’s we reached the fifth round in three consecutive seasons around the time we were also consistently flirting with the play-offs. A cup run breeds confidence, it mixes things up and gives you a chance to test yourself against the bigger teams.
Of course, it’s not the same without fans if we were to draw a big team but I still think Alex Neil should have put out a stronger team. It would have been nice to progress. But he made a lot of changes, so much so that Andrew Hughes was the surprise captain for the day.
We played with a diamond that didn’t work and an awful defence that we hopefully never have to see again.
Defensive Doubts Confirmed
Where to start? They were all over the place.
Quite simply Joe Rafferty isn’t good enough. If Darnell Fisher is off at the end of the season which looks to be the case as things stand at the moment, then a right-back should be on the shopping list for January.
Jordan Storey is miles away from the form he showed in his first season here and Josh Earl has impressed in his recent league games but that was one of his worst performances to date. He was rightly taken off at half time for me, but he needs to kick on now because the left-back slot is up for grabs.
I know Connor Ripley isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite ‘keeper due to his abject showings in the past but I don’t think he was too bad really on Saturday, despite conceding 4 goals. However, he obviously doesn’t fill the defence with confidence. They looked nervous throughout.
Disappointing to see.
Worth Giving Matt Hudson a Go?
Given that Neil did choose to change things around you would have thought it would have provided an opportunity for Matthew Hudson to play. He hasn’t seen a minute of action since his debut against Leeds United over 5 years ago when he was just 17.
After Declan Rudd’s injury, you would presume Daniel Iversen will be the number 1 in the league. In turn, it looks as though Ripley’s time at the club will be coming to an end sooner rather than later and so, with all that in mind, why not give Hudson a go?
He couldn’t have done much worse and he must wonder if he’ll ever get a chance again with us.
Life Without the Big 4/5 Looks Bleak
Who knows how many we will be left with at the end of the month but the starting eleven on Saturday contained none of the ‘big 5’ if you include Darnell Fisher in that.
It could be something we have to get used to but it wasn’t a particularly pleasant glimpse into the possible future. A lack of leaders and in general a standard of player that is not good enough for the upper reaches of the Championship, which is where we’re competing at.
By the same token, it was a huge missed opportunity from those who can come in to replace them currently at North End. Storey, Earl, Rafferty, Bayliss and Stockley all had a chance to say to Alex Neil with their performances, ‘I am worthy of a regular starting place’ or, ‘I can be the replacement for X’, but it was a poor showing by the aforementioned players and it just shows that our transfer activity needs to continue.
The lack of leaders is probably what most worried me. It never looked like we’d get back into that tie and Neil obviously felt the same as he decided to bring senior players Alan Browne and Paul Huntington on at half time.
Fair Play To Wycombe
I gave them credit after the league game and they deserve it yet again.
This is a team with the lowest budget in the Championship and it is only the third time in their history that they’ve reached the 4th round of the FA Cup.
They have players who never give up, fight for every ball and perform above expectations. Hats off to Gareth Ainsworth, he gets the best out of the tools he’s given. Wycombe fans should be very proud of their team. North End could learn a lot from them in my opinion.
Finally, the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast is available to stream now. The lads discuss the Wycombe debacle, the potential incomings and outgoings, there’s a Ben Whiteman update as well as a few other bits and bobs. Give it a listen below.