07 August 2021

Gareth Ainsworth expects more big moments from matchwinner Garath McCleary

07 August 2021

Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth believes Garath McCleary has a vital role to play this season, after the attacker’s two goals inspired his side to a 2-1 victory over Accrington.

McCleary is playing in the third tier for the first time in 13 years, after a stint there in his early days in Nottingham Forest’s first team, and he wasted no time in displaying his enduring quality at Adams Park.

The 34-year-old struck twice in the first 15 minutes of what was the Chairboys’ first game back in Sky Bet League One, following last season’s relegation from the Championship.

Ainsworth said: “He’s just been outstanding from the moment he walked in.

“We have a big respect for each other and I asked him to deliver – I said ‘I know you’ve played at higher levels, but you can be a leader, you can be a talisman for us.

“I thought he played with Horgs [Daryl Horgan] and [Sam] Vokes really well. (They were) fantastic goals to take and he was just unlucky not to get his hat-trick – but I’m sure it will come soon.

“He was tired [when he came off]. I know that feeling – I played well into my 30s as well – and he was relieved, but I think he’s a real leader for this squad.

“I have to tell him sometimes how much respect he gets from the other players because of the level he’s played at.”

McCleary first struck in the ninth minute by stroking Horgan’s cutback into the bottom corner, after a defensive mistake had allowed the Irishman in behind.

The Jamaica international’s second was an absolute beauty, as he fired a 25-yard effort in off the underside of the bar to quickly double the hosts’ lead.

Adebayo Akinfenwa was denied by a good save by Accrington goalkeeper James Trafford before Matt Butcher’s deflected strike gave Stanley hope with four minutes left.

In what was a belated response from the visitors, Dion Charles fired over as the hosts held on for the win.

Accrington boss John Coleman said: “Two absolutely pathetic goals in the space of seven minutes have cost us the game.

“The first time Wycombe had entered our final third, after eight minutes, they scored.

“I think, on the balance of play, we’ve gone into half-time 2-0 down when we’ve been the better team, but they did look a threat and we didn’t defend anywhere near like we should have done.

“We got the goal too little, too late and we ran out of time.

“You know what you’re going to get out of Wycombe – they know how to kill the game and, like any other team, they do, so fair play to them. But that game could have been so different.”

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