Crewe Alexandra 2 Wycombe Wanderers 3
Games against Crewe this season have been special. A second 3-2 victory over the Alex, in similarly dramatic fashion, made it three wins in a row for Wycombe in the league as Craig Mackail-Smith poked home a stoppage time winner.
Nathan McGinley gave away an early penalty which Chris Porter converted. Paris Cowan-Hall equalised before Nathan Tyson thought he`d won it for the Blues.
Crewe levelled late on through debutant Harry McKirdy but Mackail-Smith stabbed the ball home after 92 minutes to send the away following into a frenzy and secure the three points.
Gareth Ainsworth made two changes to the side that completed a season double over Colchester last week.
Sam Saunders missed out through injury and Mackail-Smith was dropped to the bench having been ill this week. Marcus Bean and Dom Gape replaced them.
It was a 442 formation for Wycombe with a diamond midfield. Marcus Bean sitting and Matt Bloomfield at the tip of it.
New loanee Randell Williams was on an attacking bench which consisted of Yves Ma-Kalambay and five forwards.
An impeccably observed minute`s silence preceded the game, in memory of former Wanderer and footballing icon Cyrille Regis.
Wanderers actually started brightly. A Gape shot was blocked and Paris Cowan-Hall had a volley that was comfortable for Crewe stopper Ben Garratt.
However, with just five minutes on the clock, Nathan McGinley controlled the ball in the box, took a heavy touch, dived in in an attempt to recover and gave away a penalty.
What was pleasing was two or three teammates went up to console and pick up the confidence of the young centre-back making only his second professional appearance.
Chris Porter stepped up, and despite Scott Brown diving the right way made it 1-0 to the hosts.
Wycombe continued to look relatively threatening though, with Crewe offering little.
Gape volleyed over and Paris Cowan-Hall fired narrowly wide, with Brown doing well to cut out a Callum Ainley cross in between.
The long ball to Akinfenwa wasn`t really working, but Wycombe were mixing things up and playing some nice football too.
Tafari Moore and Cowan-Hall linked well down the right and the latter`s cross found Luke O`Nien who stabbed the ball over the bar.
Alex did have a string of chances just before the half hour, but none were overly threatening. Goalscorer Porter then had to go off with an injury. Jordan Bowery replaced him.
Cowan-Hall had done well again for the visitors moments before and his cross found Gape whose left footed volley was goal-bound but blocked.
The remainder of the half passed by with little action. But despite the half-time deficit Wanderers had probably been the better side with Alex offering virtually nothing and only leading through an individual error.
No changes were made at half-time despite many thinking a return to the tried and trusted 433 would`ve benefited the side after the break.
There was an extra impetus from the word go in the second half from Wycombe. Dan Scarr headed wide, a driving O`Nien run and cross was cut out, and Cowan-Hall shot wide.
With the clock hitting 59 minutes (marked by a much appreciated tannoy announcement) there was a minute`s applause with chants of “one Cyrille Regis”. The home fans joined in the tribute.
Within this minute, Wycombe won a free-kick. And seconds after it finished the cross came in, Akinfenwa headed it down and Cowan-Hall fired past Garratt for a deserved equaliser. It was almost like Cyrille made it happen.
Ainsworth had been ready to introduce Tyson and Mackail-Smith before the goal, and still brought them both on. They replaced Matt Bloomfield and goalscorer Cowan-Hall who might have felt hard done by to come off.
The equaliser saw Crewe improve and both sides were clearly going for the win.
The double substitution saw Wycombe return to their more familiar 433 formation with Bean, Gape and O`Nien as the midfield three.
If the game between the two sides at Adams Park back in September was dramatic, the last ten minutes of this encounter certainly eclipsed that.
With eight minutes left Mackail-Smith headed against the post and Tyson bundled it home from centimetres out to seemingly get his second winner of the season against Crewe.
Crewe were incensed that there was an Akinfenwa handball in the build up. I didn`t see it at the time, but manager David Artell was sent to the stands for his protests.
The vocal away following were now enjoying themselves, but in the midst of their singing, Ryan Wintle shot. Brown only parried when he probably should`ve held, and new signing McKirdy tapped home the rebound as two home players followed up with no Wycombe players doing the same.
The goal came with 88 minutes on the clock, the same time Michael Harriman had made the scoreline the same in the return fixture at Adams Park.
And Crewe tried to do what Wycombe did to them a few months ago. Bowery slid through Zoumana Bakayogo who`s attempt hit the side netting with the help of a deflection or Brown save. If it was Brown, he`d atoned for his error for the goal.
Then, in the second of five minutes stoppage time, a long punt from Brown evaded Akinfenwa. Crewe skipper Michael Raynes attempted to head it back to his keeper but Mackail-Smith gambled, got there first, stretched a leg out and poked it past Garratt to make it 3-2.
The away end went mental. Brown sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate with his teammates. It was chaotic, it was wonderful.
Now it was time to keep cool heads, and this time Wycombe did. They saw out the remainder of the game to claim a valuable and massive three points.
They stay fourth and remain out the top three on goal difference, but this was a game which you look at and think it`s results like this that get you promoted.
Crewe games have certainly been dramatic this season, but they`ve rewarded us with six points.
Wanderers now have a ten day rest due to Coventry being in FA Cup action next Saturday.
Their next game is a trip to Kenilworth Road in ten days time to play runaway leaders Luton, who are likely to be without diving Danny Hylton.
Brown 5 – Probably at fault for the late equaliser, but his celebration for the winner was wonderful.
Moore 6 – Good game, solid replacement for Harriman and Sido.
Scarr 7 – Improving with every game and enjoying being the experienced man in the back two.
McGinley 6 – Criminal for the penalty but a phenomenal challenge at 1-1 in the box.
Jacobson 6 – Standard JJ.
Bean 6 – Broke up play well.
Gape 7 – Showed why he probably should`ve played midfield more recently than September/October. Classy on the ball.
O`Nien 7 – Not his best game but still so useful.
Bloomfield 6 – Pretty quiet.
Cowan-Hall 8* – The game was crying out for us to return to 433 but that felt harsh on Paris who did very well through the middle and was unfortunate to be substituted.
Akinfenwa 6 – Not overly effective but still got the assist for the Paris goal.
Tyson 7 – Seems to love playing Crewe, and was a threat.
Mackail-Smith 7 – One of the best Wycombe signings I can recall. Work rate, talent, and what a beautiful winner.
Kashket 6 – Working his way back into the team nicely.
Blues derail Crewe at the death
Crewe Alexandra 2 Wycombe Wanderers 3