Three goals in four minutes for Pittman. (©PAphotos)
by Mark White
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It has been well documented, by myself included, that pre-season friendlies are little- more than warming up exercises and that results mean very little.
Try telling that now to anyone connected with Wycombe Wanderers after their spirit-raising 5-1 win over Chelsea at the weekend. Okay, so the Chairboys were playing what was described as a ‘Chelsea XI’, but what the hell.
A breeze-free Adams Park saw this, its last pre-season friendly for the 2010-11 season on Thursday evening, before the big kick off next Saturday.
A Chelsea XI were the visitors sporting a host of young talent, and the likes of Scott Sinclair and Franco Di Santo looking to further their potential, after mixed loans at Premier League clubs last term. But it was a host of new recruits who stole the show as Wycombe ramped up their pre-season preparations.
The match started brightly for both sides, with a string of passes easing them into the game nicely. But after a little pressure Chelsea broke the deadlock on 13 minutes, a fine shot from Scott Sinclair pulled out an equally fine save from Wanderers’ ‘keeper Nikki Bull, who was helpless to stop the rebound being turned home by Aliu Djalo to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Further pressure came from the settled young Blues with Jack Cork forcing Bull into another first class save, before Wanderers new boys Scott Rendell and Ben Strevens played a neat one-two on the edge of the Chelsea box on 22 minutes, with the latter striking the post with a fierce effort.
This lifted the Chairboys, and two minutes later, former Peterborough striker Rendell levelled the scores with a tidy finish from eight yards, after the ball fell kindly to him from a defensive challenge.
The half ended as it had been played throughout; with both sides carving out chances, but more was to come from Wanderers in the second half.
After a half full of pace, superior temperament and intelligence it was hard to imagine the second 45 would do anything but fizzle out, with a host of substitutions and formation changes to distort the rhythm.
How wrong assumptions can be. Like greyhounds, Chelsea sprang from the traps, hunting the spherical hare with urgency, forcing Bull into several saves. When he was beaten in the 56th minute, another new recruit, Alan Bennett, was there to keep the Wanderers lead in tact with a goal line clearance.
The much awaited introduction of the returning hero Matty Phillips, back from England Under-19s duty, saw rapturous scenes, but this did not halt Chelsea in the quest for an equalizer, with Di Santo and Sinclair both coming close.
But the minutes this match will be remembered for were fast approaching, when John-Paul Pittman was introduced on 66 minutes. Chelsea were still knocking on the door, but there was no response, until Wycombe rammed the door down themselves to ensure the West Londoners did not bother them again.
A ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ four minutes of magic took place when Pittman scored a stunning hat-trick, firing a warning to his strike partners, as well as delighting the crowd.
There was, however, still time for Nikki Bull to make another fantastic save from Sinclair to cap off his stunning display between the Wanderers posts, and he too must take applause for the thrilling score line.
Manager Gary Waddock remained philosophical, telling BBC Three Counties Radio: "Of course it will be a big confidence boost to the players. But we haven't picked up any points yet. It's all about going into the Morecambe game in confident mood."
Wise words indeed, but try pulling the Wanderers fans from Cloud Nine this weekend, and you will struggle.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.