The first home game is generally a time where expectations, ambitions and all our hopes and dreams for a successful season evaporate, as the opposition snatch a shithousing 1-0 win. The ref ignores blatant penalty appeals and we all go home cursing why we ever fell in love with this damn game.
That our opponents for the afternoon were the undoubted kings of this type of performance made it all the more foreboding for me that one of those afternoons was forthcoming.
But Saturday was different!
From the get go, the vibe was great. The queues snaked out of the club shop as parents sweated away to buy their children new kits (I waited until after the game as mine didn’t know any better!). The gleaming new paint job in and around the stadium glistened in the baking sun and the brand spanking new Fanzone, with queues for the bar too long for even my thirsty palette, seemed to put everyone in a good mood.
The general optimism around the place felt like a calming wind, but just about on the right side of the fine line between confidence and arrogance that we would prevail (and also score, no-less!) for the first time in the less heralded battle of the Wanderers.
The performance matched that undoubted air of eager anticipation. We were assured, unflustered, clinical. Energetic, purposeful and with a passion that says to me that we really mean business this season. That we’re here to win promotion. No excuses.
There were probably four main contenders for the Man of the Match award in my mind.
The enterprising, driven and ultra-fit Aaron Morley, looking every inch the complete midfielder. He took his second strike of the season with the calmness of a seasoned veteran in front of goal and caused mayhem in Wycombe’s backline with his intelligent pressing and probing passing.
The swashbuckling Conor Bradley, just turned nineteen and brimming with vigour and confidence. His run and square ball to Kyle Dempsey to open the scoring brilliant in its simplicity. His block on the line from Lewis Wing, diverting the ball onto the post, was just as vital as his constant supporting and overlapping runs that pinned this streetwise Chairboys team back.
The Cumbrian wasp, Dempsey was impish in his movements, runs timed brilliantly from deep time and time again, one of which yielded another goal and could’ve led to two more. His pre-season appearance at Longridge whetted my appetite but this proved to me he could be the missing piece of our midfield jigsaw. Now to keep him fit!!
But my man of the match goes to a man who might just have found his best position after all, after much conjecture on how we get the best out of him. It mattered not, for instance, that someone who the majority of our fans would deem our main goal-getter in Dion Charles was missing with a slight thigh strain. We had Dapo.
This was Afolayan at his buccaneering best. Constantly offering for the ball, shielding it superbly when received, dropping deep to link play, but not to the detriment of the team. To my mind anyway, he was Wycombe‘s tormentor-in-chief. The through ball for Morley’s all-important second goal just before half-time was imaginative, decisive delivered with aplomb. It was Dapo personified.
He was ably assisted in his endeavours upfront by the purposeful and athletic Amadou Bakayoko, whose insatiable work rate and pinpoint pass for Dempsey’s second did not go unnoticed by the now-joyous crowd when he exited for Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to a great ovation.
But Dapo is the man. The x-factor that can set us apart in this league, when he is on his game like this.
He’s our star man and he’s f****** dynamite.