Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 Exeter City
Wycombe Wanderers moved up to 15th place in the League Two table with a hard fought 1-0 win over Exeter City at Adams Park this afternoon.
A far cry from their early season struggles, the Chairboys have now won their last three matches at Adams Park in a marked change of form.
Gareth Ainsworth kept an unchanged side from the team that battered Crewe 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Today’s performance and result may not have been as convincing as Tuesday, but it’s three more points and it takes Wanderers to just three points from the play-offs, and more importantly, further away from danger.
Much like Crewe, Exeter came to play football on the floor and the result was plenty of ground football with few clear cut chances, until Ainsworth used the joker up his sleeve, Adebayo Akinfenwa, went route one, and got the rewards for it.
Shooting towards the terrace in the first half, Wycombe enjoyed the majority of the territory without seriously testing Grecians goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik.
The pre-match rain had been replaced by bright sunshine, and the Chairboys immediately focused on overloading the right wing, testing former Wycombe left back Craig Woodman in the air with right winger Garry Thompson looking to link up with the front pair of Hayes and Cowan-Hall.
The first shout of danger came after twelve minutes from an Exeter corner, but Watkins’ dangerous header was cleared from under his own crossbar by Danny Rowe.
Wycombe then looked to notch from a corner of their own, and after Jacobson’s first delivery was flicked wide of his own net by Reuben Reid, the resulting corner was knocked back into the danger area by Stewart to Hayes who sent a reaction header over the bar. Stewart then sent another header over from a Wood corner minutes later.
There was plenty of controlled, competent possession football from Wycombe, but a slight lack of penetration as Jamal Blackman almost played a sweeper role in the opening period.
Exeter chances were also few and far between, with Reid seeing one long range effort pouched by Blackman, before being caught offside in a half of very few chances.
The only remaining chance of the opening forty-five came on 43 minutes when Wood, rarely utilised in the opening half, did well to keep the ball in play on the bye-line to find Cowan-Hall who then cut inside and fired his shot wildly high and wide of the goal.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with only a bizarre decision from the linesman to flag Paul Hayes offside from a throw-in raising any eyebrows in the Adams Park stands.
The rain then began to fall, and Wycombe slowly started to turn the screw.
A series of crosses flashed across the box but without the finishing touch, as dangerous deliveries from Gape, Wood and Cowan-Hall all sailed across goal, but with no-one gambling the scoreline remained goalless.
Akinfenwa then entered the field just after the hour mark in place of Hayes, with Ainsworth clearly trying out a Plan B with the previous possession based football lacking a cutting edge.
Immediately Wood found substitute Akinfenwa with a cross that was headed just wide by the striker.
As if to remind us they were still there, Watkins broke down the right for Exeter and was hauled down by Jacobson who was booked for his trouble. Reid then scampered down the right channel and crossed low but Blackman got there ahead of Holmes, before Watkins tried the same route but his dangerous fizzed cross was well defended by Harriman with Holmes in close attendance.
Cowan-Hall was replaced by Kashket with ten minutes to go before Anthony Stewart showed superb skill to win the ball ahead of Watkins, round the forward and stride forward before playing an inch perfect cross-field ball to Wood.
The direct approach paid off as Wanderers finally opened the scoring with 85 minutes on the clock.
It was a goal out of nothing for Akinfenwa, who chested a long ball from Pierre, turned and shot into the corner via a deflection to a huge roar from the Adams Park crowd.
As Bloomfield replaced Wood to eat up some time, Wycombe saw the game out professionally with Gape and Akinfenwa wasting plenty of time in the corner, and Kashket perhaps unfortunate not to win a penalty when he was hauled to the ground.
Things are looking up for Wycombe, with a more balanced look to the side. Jacobson’s timely return on the left, the genuine width provided by Wood and Thompson plus the combined pace and guile of Cowan-Hall and Hayes up front has given the side much more shape. Promisingly, in Kashket and Akinfenwa the bench now also has game-changing options for Ainsworth to consider.
The challenge now is to keep the results and performances as consistent as possible over the coming weeks.
Ratings: Blackman (7), Harriman (7), Stewart (8*), Pierre (7), Jacobson (7), Rowe (7), Gape (7), Thompson (7), Wood (7) (Bloomfield 90′ N/A), Cowan-Hall (7) (Kashket 79′, 6), Hayes (7) (Akinfenwa 62′, 7)
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Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 Exeter City