With the final international break of 2020 done and dusted, Wycombe return to action having picked up seven points from their last four games. What have you made of their season so far?
Though there were never great expectations this season when competing against financially mightier league opposition, it was still an anxious time for Wycombe fans waiting for their side to get their first point on the board. Except for a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Blackburn in the second week, Wycombe had been increasingly competitive each game before they finally picked up that elusive first point against Watford on 27 October. Of course, there was a collective sigh of relief when they really did look good in that 1-1 draw with the Hertfordshire club front of the Sky cameras. It jump started their best patch of form with back-to-back victories against Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City as they imposed themselves on matches. In the three games Adebayo Akinfenwa has started this season, Wycombe picked up their seven points. That tells you just how vital he is. A disappointing 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest before the international break was hardly ideal, but Gareth Ainsworth’s men have certainly come on leaps and bounds as the season has progressed.
On paper it looked like they were in freefall in the opening month or so, but then they stabilised and started chalking the points up. Do you think their lack of experience at this level meant that was always going to be the case?
Absolutely. There is very little in the way of Championship experience in Wycombe's squad. Only Fred Onyedinma, recent arrival Garath McCleary, backup goalkeeper David Stockdale and summer signing Daryl Horgan have had regular exposure to Championship football in their careers, so making the jump up was always going to be a mammoth task. It's beyond cliché but experience comes with matches and the baptism of fire they have undergone should benefit the players individually and collectively longer term. The international break may well have come at a great time for Wycombe as it has given the players and staff the opportunity to take stock of their performances so far. They can reflect on a time when they have been taught a real lesson in what it takes to play at a higher level, but also gain confidence from picking up seven points in their last four matches with a string of impressive displays.
During that time, they were kept off the base of the Championship by Sheffield Wednesday’s points deduction, which has since been halved on appeal. Will the narrowing of the cushion between them and the Owls increase motivation for the next few months?
Whatever the situation is, this current Wycombe squad appear to have plenty of motivational characters in the dressing room to keep everyone aiming high. But looking at it from the outside, it surely must help the players when they see the table and find Sheffield Wednesday - who Wycombe have already beaten - trying to keep up and 21st-placed Coventry just one point off. Survival looked impossible after the opening seven league matches but now that the points margin is so tight at the bottom, and with Wycombe finally picking up results, that should be more than enough to keep motivation levels up.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an out for this weekend?
Aside from the obvious target man up top, Horgan is one to keep an eye on. He already showed what he is capable of against Brentford in the Carabao Cup first round with a second-half goal 11 minutes into his competitive debut. He has been playing centrally behind Akinfenwa in recent weeks and is a livewire who gets attacks going in any given moment. The 28-year-old's impressive form this season saw him get a recall to the Republic of Ireland squad and he started against England and Wales. He will be hungry to get his first league goal for Wycombe this weekend.
How is Gareth Ainsworth likely to set up his side at Adams Park?
A formation shift from 4-3-3 to more of a 4-2-3-1 has paid off for Wycombe since the Watford game. There was some rotation for Wycombe's last league game against Forest off the back of a congested fixture schedule, but with the international break now over, they will likely revert to using all of their regular starters against Brentford. Though Wycombe are at home, boss Ainsworth and assistant Richard Dobson will be wary of the pacey attacking threat Brentford pose and the hosts will likely sit deep, play direct and narrow and hit on the counter-attack. Expect a physical contest, though, as Wycombe are no strangers to a tussle.
It’s three days shy of 11 years since Wycombe’s last win over the Bees, though they gave a good account of themselves in the Carabao Cup meeting in September. What’s your score prediction for this one?
After a long international break and the Forest defeat firmly in the past, Wycombe will go into this game fresh and confident of a result against the Bees, who look to be stuttering. However, because of Brentford's obvious attacking qualities, it makes for a nicely balanced contest which could well end 1-1.
This weekend we’ll be donating all the iFollow income from the Wycombe game to help pay for Jamie Powell’s vital treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston