AFC Bournemouth will be looking to reignite their promotion push when they meet Championship strugglers Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
The Cherries saw their momentum checked as their seven-match winning run in the league was ended by fellow high-fliers Brentford who triumphed 1-0 at Vitality Stadium.
Despite the defeat, Jonathan Woodgate’s team secured a play-off place when Reading failed to take maximum points after being held 2-2 by Swansea on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Wycombe’s 2-1 reverse at Cardiff last Saturday left them needing a miracle to avoid an immediate return to League One.
If the Chairboys are to survive they must win their remaining games against the Cherries and Middlesbrough and hope Derby lose both theirs – and turn around a goal difference deficit of 13.
Wycombe, promoted to the second tier for the first time after winning the League One play-offs, reached the halfway point of the season with just three wins.
But before going down to the Bluebirds, Gareth Ainsworth’s team had won four and drawn two of their previous eight games to keep alive their survival hopes.
When the teams met at Vitality Stadium in December, Junior Stanislas bagged the only goal in the second half, his winner coming four minutes after Alex Pattison had been sent off for the visitors.
WYCOMBE WANDERERS IN PROFILE
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth (appointed November 2012)
Club captain: Matt Bloomfield
Last game: Cardiff City 2-1 Wycombe (Championship)
Leading league goalscorer 2020/21: Uche Ikpeazu and Joe Jacobsen (five)
League position: 24th
Past six league results: WWLDWL
afcb.co.uk: How would you describe Wycombe’s first season in the second tier?
JR: Wanderers’ inaugural season has been a great experience and it is such a shame that the fans haven’t been at Adams Park to enjoy it.
After a terrible start where they lost their first seven games and scored just twice, they have improved hugely and have shown that they can certainly compete at this level.
The Swansea game at the Liberty Stadium proved that and, if they were to go down this season, Ainsworth’s men can hold their heads high.
afcb.co.uk: If the season started now, do you think it would be a different story for the Chairboys?
JR: More than likely.
Wycombe have battled well over the past couple of months and deservedly won games when, six months ago, in some matches, they looked out of their depth.
The 5-0 loss at Blackburn in September stands out as a game which saw many question Wanderers’ quality.
But since then, they have beaten teams who were playing Premier League football only a few years ago.
If the season did start now, I could see them finishing in the bottom half, but safe from relegation.
afcb.co.uk: Ryan Allsop (pictured below) was a popular figure among Cherries supporters – how has he fared this season?
JR: Rocky has improved a lot since last season. He had a few shaky games during the promotion-winning season and, this year, he has helped Wycombe secure points, most notably against Birmingham in a 0-0 draw at Adams Park in February.
However, he picked up an injury a couple of weeks later and David Stockdale has just been as good.
It’s a good selection headache for Ainsworth, as even though Allsop is back from injury, Stockdale hasn’t put a foot wrong since coming into the side.
afcb.co.uk: Who is your Wycombe player of the season?
JR: I will go for Josh Knight.
He’s a centre-back on loan from Leicester City and he has been brilliant.
He’s a leader, he’s strong, vocal and his performances, despite Wycombe’s league position, have been very good.
He was sent-off in the 3-1 loss against Luton on April 10th and has missed the past three matches, so he should be back for the weekend. He can also play in midfield.
afcb.co.uk: Who is Wycombe’s one to watch?
JR: Wycombe’s attacking players have caused the most danger for whoever they have played, with, in my opinion, Fred Onyedinma (pictured below) being the main man.
He, alongside Garath McCleary and Uche Ikpeazu has hustled and bustled defenders since the turn of the year but if I had to choose, Onyedinma because he just runs at the opposition.
afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?
JR: Adebayo Akinfenwa, Nnamdi Ofoborh and Dom Gape all missed the game against Cardiff through injury. Ofoborh is on loan from AFC Bournemouth so will be ineligible.
Josh Knight is expected to return to the squad following his red card against Luton.
The boss has pretty much gone with the same 11 (bar a few injuries) since Easter, so I think the line-up against Bournemouth will be similar to when they faced Cardiff last week.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
JR: It’s going to be a tricky one to call, but I am going for a 2-2 draw.
You can follow James on Twitter – @James_BFP
Officials: Geoff Eltringham (referee), Robert Merchant (assistant), Craig Taylor (assistant), Andy Woolmer (fourth official).