Wycombe Wanderers 2 Morecambe 4
The Chairboys’ unbeaten run came to grinding halt as the Shrimps took full advantage of some woeful defending from the hosts.
4-0 down after only 52 minutes, Wanderers managed a mini-comeback with goals from Nick Freeman and Luke O’Nien, but it was too much to expect another Adams Park miracle, and the visitors held on for three valuable points in their battle to avoid the drop.
Blues’ boss Gareth Ainsworth named an unchanged squad featuring the same starting eleven that won at Cheltenham seven days earlier.
Apparently given last week off as a winter break, Wanderers started as if they were still on holiday, and were 1-0 down after less than three minutes.
A long throw from the left saw keeper Scott Brown remain rooted to his line as Nathan McGinley could only head the ball backwards across goal where Joe Jacobson was unable to prevent Adam McGurk from nodding it home.
Things could have been even worse a moment later when Wanderers were grateful to finally clear the ball after a frantic scramble on the edge of their six yard box.
The hosts grew slowly into the game, and created their first chance after 15 minutes when a fine cross from Tafari Moore found O’Nien who could only head the ball straight at Shrimps’ keeper Barry Roche.
Morecambe on the other hand looked likely to score every time they tested the Wycombe defence, and after 26 minutes they duly doubled their lead.
A long kick by Roche was chested into the path of Kevin Ellison who let the ball bounce once before rifling a thirty yard screamer beyond the outstretched arms of the hapless Brown.
It was a sweetly struck goal from a difficult angle and pantomime villain Ellison didn’t hold back on the celebration, receiving the only yellow card of the game for his trouble.
Five minutes later the visitors should have scored again when Gregg Wylde’s cross found Aaron Wildig who helpfully fluffed his header when it looked easier to score.
It was only a temporary respite for Wycombe, who went 3-0 down after 37 minutes when another unchallenged cross from the left was watched by Brown from the comfort of his goal-line as it sailed past a flat-footed Jacobson and was gratefully nodded home at the back post by Ellison.
In first half stoppage time we were almost tortured by an Ellison hat-trick but this time his free header at the same far post failed to find the target.
The Chairboys started the second half in the same dozy fashion as the first and Morecambe almost scored within seconds as Wylde fired a rasping shot across the face of goal, narrowly missing the far post.
It woke Wycombe up and a spell of good pressure saw a Cowan-Hall shot deflected wide, and from the resulting corner an Akinfenwa header looked goalbound until Roche made a fine save.
Another corner followed, and it looked for all the world as if O’Nien had been flattened in the box, but referee Craig Hicks was having none of it.
Whilst on the subject, yet again we had a team of officials who seemed pathologically incapable of spotting Akinfenwa’s shirt being virtually torn from his back. Nothing new there.
Back to the game, and just as Wanderers were in the ascendency, Morecambe made it 4-0, Wylde strolling between a leaden-footed Jacobson and McGinley to plant a low shot past Brown.
It was the 50th league goal conceded by Wycombe this season.
Ellison still had his eye on a hat trick, and nearly got it with another rasping drive that was tipped over the bar by Brown, who was handily placed on his goal-line.
That marked the end of Morecambe’s threat. It was like a declaration in cricket, we’re 4-0 up, that suits us, now do your worst.
Ainsworth responded with two substitutions just after the hour mark, Freeman and Tyson entering the fray in place of an uncharacteristically subdued Craig Mackail-Smith and young Tafari Moore.
Within minutes, Freeman had pulled one back for Wanderers, making a beeline for the box, jinking past a defender and sending a low shot through a crowd of players and in-off the post.
It was all Wycombe now, with Akinfenwa poking one just past the post, and Tyson denied twice, his first effort headed off the line and his second trickling agonisingly wide after a clash with Roche.
After 84 minutes, the Blues reduced the deficit to two, when Brown’s long clearance broke to O’Nien who rifled it home with his left foot.
With six minutes plus stoppage time and only two goals behind, could Wanderers pull off another comeback? The answer was no, although Akinfenwa had another couple of efforts, blasting one over and seeing the other well saved by Roche.
You can’t give an opponent a four goal lead and expect anything other than defeat. Wanderers will no doubt study the tape and reflect on some horrendous work at the back.
Still third in the table and with everything to play for, the Chairboys have a chance to put things right at home to Coventry City on Tuesday evening.
Line-up & ratings
Brown (4), Moore (5) (Freeman 63), El-Abd (5), McGinley (5), Jacobson (4), Gape (6), O’Nien (7), Bloomfield (5) (Thompson 74), Cowan-Hall (7), Akinfenwa (6), Mackail-Smith (5) (Tyson 64)
Shrimps hit Blues for four
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Morecambe 4