Wycombe Wanderers were denied a deserved three points (at least through the blue-tinted spectacles worn by this reporter) by a stunning save from Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Jake Cole.
The game was into the third of five minutes of injury time when winger Joel Grant’s shot was heading towards the top corner only for Cole to somehow tip the ball over the crossbar. It was the second superb save from the glovesman who earlier in the half had denied defender Gary Doherty from point-blank range.
It ensured that both sides would share the spoils after an exciting and encouraging performance from the Blues ended in a 1-1 draw at Adams Park. Striker Matt McClure had headed the hosts in front on 12 minutes before striker Guy Madjo’s header levelled things up five minutes into the second half.
The draw leaves the Wanderers still second bottom of the League Two table but they can take plenty of encouragement from arguably their best performance of the season, especially at home. Caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth made three changes to the side which was comfortably beaten at Dagenham and Redbridge as he picked himself alongside Grant and McClure. Matt Spring, Dean Morgan and Olly Taylor all dropped to the bench.
Wycombe made a positive start with all eleven players clearly motivated from the first whistle. The visitors greatest threat came from right-winger Alex MacDonald and he created an early chance which was wasted. McClure started brightly and he fired wide before notching his first goal at Adams Park. He got in front of Cole to head Ainsworth’s delightful right-wing cross into the left-hand corner of the net.
The goal gave the Blues renewed confidence with McClure looking a completely different player. The same could be said of midfielder Stuart Lewis, who again looked the player he was in the promotion winning side of two years ago. Lost causes were regularly being chased and there was plenty of skill on show too.
Plymouth still posed the occasional threat with defender Leon Johnson getting his head in the way of MacDonald’s powerful drive before midfielder Ross Jenkins fired a 25-yard strike over the bar. They did however fail to trouble loan goalkeeper Jordan Archer in the first half.
The Wanderers missed a great chance to double their lead on 36 minutes when striker Jo Kuffour’s shot caused Cole some trouble and Grant was unable to force the ball home. It was only cleared as far as Lewis, whose powerful shot was parried back to him by Cole and he sent his second effort inches past the post.
Half-time came at just the right time for the home side as they were conceding possession too readily, and they failed to heed the lesson after the break. Kuffour was unable to turn left-back Charles Dunne’s shot goalwards and then McClure went close to making it 2-0 when Cole failed to hold Dunne’s low drive but fired inches wide from six yards.
It would prove to be a pivotal miss as within three minutes the visitors levelled. Possession was conceded cheaply on the edge of the box and McDonald crossed for a completely unmarked Madjo to send a perfectly placed header beyond the despairing dive of Archer and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Plymouth now had their tails up and MacDonald bent a shot just wide minutes later before they had Cole to thank for keeping them on level terms. Midfielder Josh Scowen’s in-swinging left-wing corner was headed goalwards by Doherty but Cole saved from point-blank range.
The second half grew rather scrappy and the crowd soon became frustrated as the home side’s play became scrappy and the visitors controlled possession. Both Ainsworth and McClure were exhausted by the time they were replaced and Kuffour was unable to get enough power in his shot before he was replaced by Junior Morias.
With the game into time added-on, the Blues launched a counter attack with substitute Dean Morgan hitting a low shot from the left which was blocked but fell for Grant, some eight yards from goal, and he hit a powerful shot which Cole somehow got a strong right hand to and tipped over the bar for a corner.
It was a miraculous save and it was almost a match-winning save as sixty seconds later midfielder Conor Hourihane hit a sweet 25-yard strike which beat Archer but crashed against the underside of the crossbar, the goalkeeper picking himself up to hold onto substitute Rhys Griffith’s header from the rebound.
The final whistle blew to the sound of applause from the 3,161 crowd who appreciated a much improved performance and one which brought plenty of hope, if not three points. They will hopefully come against Torquay United at Adams Park this weekend.
Ratings: Archer 6, Foster 6, Dunne 5, Johnson 6, Doherty 7, Scowen 6, Lewis 7, Ainsworth 8* (Spring N/A), Grant 7, Kuffour 5 (Morais N/A), McClure 7 (Morgan N/A).