Goalkeeper Nikki Bull took the plaudits this weekend as Wycombe Wanderers held Stockport County to a goalless draw on Saturday afternoon.
Bull pulled off a number of top class saves to earn the Chairboys their first ever clean sheet at Edgeley Park, and ensure an unbeaten start to the league season.
Manager Gary Waddock was quick to make Bull his first signing of the summer when he left League One Brentford, having worked with the stopper at Aldershot in their championship winning Conference campaign in 2008.
The duo have picked up where they left off, with Bull instrumental in Wycombe’s unbeaten start, and he now finds himself in the npower League Two ‘Team of the Week’, along with defender Danny Foster after the Chairboys’ strong defensive display.
Waddock understands the importance of having a reliable goalkeeper, and believes Bull will play a fundamental part in Wycombe’s promotional push, as he said: "He is vital. He is as important as a 20-goal a season striker and he put in a fine performance."
The first half saw Stockport looking to put their 5-0 League Cup drubbing at home to Preston behind them, as they were first to the ball and quick in attack.
Robbie Williams came close to opening the scoring for the home side with a whipped free-kick that Bull managed to tip round the post with a fingertip save.
Wycombe too had their chances and after some neat passing, playmaker Kevin Betsy worked the left flank feeding Lewis Montrose, who drove a deflected effort straight into the keeper’s arms.
The second half saw more pressure from Stockport, whose last league victory came against Wycombe in the 2009/10 season, but the in-form Bull thwarted County on several occasions, including a one-on-one after George Donnelly had muscled through the Wanderers’ defence. And so it was Wycombe who were happiest to come away with a point at the final whistle.
Attentions now turn to the eagerly anticipated visit of Oxford United for the clubs’ first derby meeting in four years.
United have had a mixed start to life back in the Football League picking up a point at Burton Albion on the opening day, before a 6-1 thrashing of Bristol Rovers in the League Cup was followed with a home defeat to Bury last Saturday.
But, as the old cliché suggests, ‘form goes out of the window for a derby’ and this will be no exception. Wanderers will not have an easy ride against the side that were two leagues below them last term, and with both sides looking to play football on the ground this season, it has every potential to be a classic.
When the teams last met at Adams Park in the league back in February 2006, the Blues came away with a 2-1 victory. The same score line favoured Wycombe again in the last competitive match between the sides; this time seeing Wanderers progress to the FA Cup second round in November 2006.
Factors such as these and Wycombe’s strength in depth will see them slight favourites in what will be a tight affair.
The match could also have an extra special addition as it may signal a landmark for captain Gareth Ainsworth, as he looks to make his 500th appearance in professional football, and this derby game is a fitting setting for such an achievement to be recognised.
Both sets of players and fans will be raring to go when the talking stops and the whistle blows at three o’clock on Saturday, and by five o’clock they all hope to be the ones with the victory smile.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.