Plymouth Argyle 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1
Putting the disappointment of Wednesday’s heavy defeat at Cheltenham behind them, Wycombe finished 2012 on a high with a hard fought victory at Home Park.
The win takes the Blues up to 17th in the table, ten points above the relegation zone.
Matt McClure slotted home the crucial goal after 11 minutes and the score remained the same thanks to some stoic defending from Wycombe and wayward finishing from the hosts.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth made three changes to the side that lost at Whaddon Road, with Spring, Stewart and McClure replacing Scowen, Dunne and Oli.
With several key players still missing through injury or suspension, it looked like another difficult afternoon was on the cards when Plymouth poured forward at will for the opening ten minutes.
An early mix up in the Wycombe defence almost proved costly but Marvin McCoy was on hand to make a last ditch clearance.
The Pilgrims’ number 7, Paris Cowan-Hall looked a handful down the right and when he fired a rasping drive over the bar after 6 minutes it was quickly followed by another effort from Onismor Bhasera and moments later a fierce drive against the post from Nick Chadwick.
Under severe pressure, the Blues found the perfect respite when Stuart Lewis dispossessed Luke Young and threaded the ball through for McClure who calmly tucked it into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
The goal took the wind out of the Pilgrims’ sails and although they continued to enjoy the majority of the possession, there was a new-found wariness to their play.
Eventually the pressure built up again and Archer saved a low drive from Young before Cowan-Hall dribbled into the danger zone and fired another shot over the bar.
Maxime Blanchard then headed a corner over the bar and Robbie Williams had two long range efforts that were both high and wide.
Wycombe’s only other first-half effort of note came in stoppage time when Bruno Andrade broke down the left, cut inside and fired a shot across the face of the Pilgrims’ goal.
The Blues started the second half brightly when Spring’s corner kick rattled the foot of the post and both McClure and Andrade had rare attempts on goal but failed to hit the target.
Plymouth soon regained the upper hand and Cowan-Hall’s angled shot hit the top of the crossbar before Chadwick put a simple header wide of the target.
Stewart Lewis fired a dipping shot wide of the post in a rare Wycombe attack, but most of the action was taking place in the other half where Archer easily smothered one long-range shot and touched another around the post.
Plymouth were happy to shoot from distance throughout the match, but rarely did they trouble the Wycombe keeper who had a relatively easy afternoon despite the hosts dominating possession.
McClure pulled up with a leg injury after 70 minutes and was replaced by Ade Azeez who enjoyed a lively cameo and very nearly scored his first ever league goal.
Andrade was quiet today, but went on a mazy run after 80 minutes before laying the ball off to Azeez who confidently stroked it home only to be denied by the offside flag.
As full time approached, Jo Kuffour also broke clear but could only shoot wide from a narrow angle.
With the Plymouth fans noisily complaining about time-wasting, the officials, who had added four minutes at the end of the first half, added a further six minutes at the end of the game, but they could have added another hour and Argyle probably still wouldn’t have scored.
Wycombe’s dire injury situation has led to youngsters being blooded before their time, but every cloud has a silver lining, and today it was the performance of young Kortney Hause who was superb at the heart of the Wycombe defence.
This quickly became a battle to protect a lead in hostile territory. It wasn’t pretty, but they did it, and 203 travelling fans were very grateful at the end.
Happy New Year folks.
Line-up & ratings
Archer (7), McCoy (7), Stewart (7), Hause (8)*, Wood (8), Ainsworth (6) (Morias 85 (n/a)), Spring (6), Lewis (7), Andrade (6), Kuffour (6), McClure (7) (Azeez 70 (6)),
Battling Blues end 2012 on a high
Plymouth Argyle 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1