Exeter City 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3
The Chairboys continued their recent revival with a superb second-half performance that was simply too much for the Grecians to handle.
It’s a result that lifts Gary Waddock’s side out of the relegation zone with just eight games to play.
A few weeks ago Wycombe’s chances of survival were somewhere between zero and remote, but a sprinkling of quality loan signings have transformed the Blues from a side on the slide to a team on a mission.
Tonight’s victory gives them a total of 39 points, a remarkable 13 of which they’ve picked up in the 24 days since Gary Doherty, Craig Eastmond and Paul Hayes arrived to steady the sinking ship.
It’s not just the loanees who are doing the business though, there’s been a knock on effect throughout the whole team, with each and every player raising their own game as they finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
For the joyous Wycombe fans crammed into a corner of St James Park this evening, their team’s transformation is like manna from heaven after a long season of scant reward.
Tonight’s game was huge for both sides and as a result the first-half was a tense, scrappy affair that yielded few chances at either end.
The best opportunity fell to Stuart Beavon who was put in the clear by a delicious pass from Hayes, and with all the time in the world, chipped the ball over keeper Lenny Pidgeley but agonisingly wide of the post for a goal kick.
Wycombe had an extra bite to their game after the break, and with Bloomfield, Lewis and Eastmond refusing to allow the Grecians any time on the ball, the tide began to turn firmly in the visitors’ favour.
It’s a long time since Wycombe fielded as potent a strike force as the current combination of Beavon and Hayes, and that extra touch of quality was enough to unlock the Exeter defence and secure all three points.
Hayes scored the opening goal after 58 minutes when he slotted home the rebound after Pidgeley could only parry a fierce drive from Beavon.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 when Beavon found himself one-on-one with Pidgeley and kept his cool to turn the ball home after the keeper had blocked his initial effort.
Exeter had hardly threatened all night but gave themselves a lifeline when James Dunne fired home a free-kick after 66 minutes.
But the wind was removed from their sails only four minutes later when a long throw from Marvin McCoy was nodded into the danger area and Hayes bagged his second of the night with a beautifully weighted header just out of the reach of Pidgeley and into the corner of the net.
Bull made a superb flying save to tip a Daniel Nardiello shot over the bar with seven minutes remaining, but apart from that the only team that looked likely to add to the scoreline was Wycombe.
Ben Strevens came close twice, firstly firing a shot straight at Pidgeley from close range and then straying offside just before tapping in a Chris Hackett cross.
Substitute Hackett made several impressive runs at the Grecians’ defence but with a couple of misplaced passes and a scuffed shot into the grateful arms of Pidgeley, his end product let him down every time.
If the Blues had managed to add to their tally, the scoreline still wouldn’t have flattered them. This was another thoroughly convincing win from a Wycombe side that is unrecognisable from earlier in the season.
It looks like the great escape has a chance after all.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (7), McCoy (8), Doherty (8), Winfield (6) (Johnson 35 (7)), Basey (7), Bloomfield (7), Eastmond (7), Lewis (7), Strevens (7) (Ainsworth 90 (n/a)), Hayes (8) (Hackett 83 (n/a)), Beavon (8)
Super Blues blow the Grecians away
Exeter City 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3