Portsmouth 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers
The Chairboys faint hopes of sneaking into the play-offs were finally extinguished this afternoon after a 2-1 defeat on the South Coast.
After an excellent first third, and a very reasonable middle third to the season, it has been a disastrous final third for Gareth Ainsworth’s side.
At the end of February Wanderers found themselves above Bristol Rovers after beating the Pirates at Adams Park, and they entered April above Wimbledon before they played the Dons at home. While Rovers are now seeking automatic promotion and Wimbledon have all but sealed a play-off spot, Wycombe find themselves completely out of contention.
A mixture of a small squad and tired legs have contributed to the awful sequence of one win in nine matches that has done the damage, but despite all that it was a more spirited display today than of late.
Gareth Ainsworth made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Yeovil Town at Adams Park in midweek, recalling Danny Rowe to central midfield in place of Stephen McGinn and introducing Gozie Ugwu from the start as Garry Thompson dropped to the bench.
The change in personnel meant a switch to a 4-3-3 formation with Ugwu the central striker, Paul Hayes on the left and Jerell Sellars on the right of a three pronged attack.
The match followed a clear pattern with Wycombe the better side for the first and last 25 minutes but Pompey totally dominant in the 40 minutes in between.
For the opening third, Wycombe bodies charged around everywhere, forcing errors from Portsmouth players and pushing their opposition backwards. Rowe’s presence in midfield was making all the difference as some rare vision and composure allowed the visitors to maintain possession.
Unfortunately a cutting edge still remained elusive, the Chairboys best early efforts being a shot over the bar from Michael Harriman and a deflected effort from Hayes that looped into the hands of Pompey goalkeeper Paul Jones. Portsmouth`s first opening saw Roberts cut the ball back across the face of goal and behind everyone to safety.
Slowly but surely Portsmouth began to gather a head of steam leading to Wycombe surrendering both territory and with it the momentum. Ryan Allsop beat away a shot from Jim McNulty straight to Danny Hollands but the midfielder scuffed his effort straight into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Roberts and McNulty both curled wastefully over from presentable positions before Sellars had a rare opening at the other end but shot narrowly wide from distance.
Marcus Bean miscued a shot hopelessly wide after neat build up play from Hayes and Harriman before Pompey got the goal that their increasing pressure deserved after 35 minutes. Kai Naismith had just missed a sitter but after McNulty skipped past Jombati far too easily on the left he advanced into the box and squared across the six yard box for Roberts to slide home the opener.
Pompey scented blood now with Roberts popping all over the place, and the hosts could easily have doubled their lead before half time with any number of dangerous crosses flashing across the face of goal. Naismith lashed a shot against the base of the post and Wycombe were glad to hear the half time whistle from Dean Whitestone.
The second half began with Wycombe lining up in a 4-4-2 with Hayes pushed up front alongside Ugwu in a front two, not before time with Wanderers captain completely wasted on the left wing in the opening period.
An aggressive foul from Stewart earned the Wycombe centre half a caution, before the visitors first shot on target, a cross from Jombati and a flicked header from Ugwu which was pushed to safety by Jones.
After 58 minutes Pompey should have doubled their lead when a slip from Stewart let in Roberts but his attempted chip was woefully short of power and straight into the grateful arms of Allsop. Paul Cook then introduced both Connor Chaplin and Luke Freeman in place of McNulty and Ben Davies and it was Chaplin that doubled Portsmouth`s lead shortly after.
It was a goal out of nothing as Hayes surrendered possession, a long ball found Chaplin down the left and the striker skipped clear before sliding a left footed effort across Allsop and into the far corner.
Thompson immediately replaced Hayes and just when it looked like game over, Wanderers managed to find a response just minutes later.
A free kick was awarded right on the edge of the box for a foul on Sellars, the referee blowing before Pierre slammed home the loose ball.
But have no fear, Sido’s here, and the makeshift Portuguese left back curled a beauty into the top left hand corner to halve the deficit.
The goal rattled Portsmouth, and an equaliser was oh so close as a Sido header found his fellow full back McCarthy, who leathered a shot from the edge of the box that was desperately hacked off the line by a Pompey defender.
Moments later Rowe saw a curling effort parried away by Jones with Thompson’s play down the right wing now causing all sorts of problems.
On the break for Portsmouth, winger Roberts remained a threat but saw his powerful drive beaten away by Allsop before Chaplin struck one wide of the post. Thompson then saw a half volley parried to safety by Jones as the chances continued to come, and Evans wasted another chance on the break for the South Coast outfit.
Bean was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch and only receive yellow for a high and late challenge on Doyle before Max Kretzschmar and Rowan Liburd replaced Harriman and Sellars.
There was one final chance as a McCarthy shot was blocked on the line by scrambling defenders, but like the season, Wanderers had run out of steam come the reckoning.
Ratings: Allsop (7), McCarthy (7), Pierre (7), Stewart (5), Jombati (6), Harriman (6), Rowe (8*), Bean (6), Hayes (5), Sellars (6), Ugwu (6)
Season over despite battling Wanderers display
Portsmouth 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers