Wycombe Wanderers 1-2 Luton Town
The Adams Park hoodoo against the Hatters continued as Wanderers somehow contrived to lose 2-1 at home to Luton Town this afternoon as the visitors struck twice late on.
Gareth Ainsworth made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 at Mansfield Town in midweek, with Adam El Abd, Matt Bloomfield and Adebayo Akinfenwa returning in place of Dan Scarr, Eberechi Eze and Josh Umerah.
It was a shame to see the loanees dropped to the bench, particular Scarr and Eze after their outstanding performances in midweek, as Ainsworth elected to go with a pragmatic line up.
The opening period was nonetheless one that saw the Chairboys play by far the better and more effective football and they fully deserved their interval lead, earned courtesy of a typical Adebayo Akinfenwa goal.
The first shot in anger went well over from Marcus Bean after 4 minutes and the first goalkeeping of action of any note came from former Wycombe loanee Marek Stech who had to parry a decent effort on the volley from Luke O’Nien on seven minutes.
The pressure continued and a familiar move materialised soon after with Wycombe playing some good stuff, a typically accurate Jacobson cross headed inches over by Akinfenwa.
After 25 minutes Luton thought they had the lead from a set piece but James Collins was adjudged to have been offside as he headed in Alan Sheehan’s free kick from the right.
Wycombe were straight up the other end, and Mackail-Smith`s tenacity saw him break into the box but his pull back went agonisingly under Akinfenwa’s foot with the goal at his mercy. There was a similarly agonising moment at the other end as Collins burst past Stewart but his cut back didn’t quite connect with Hylton and Brown gratefully clutched the loose ball.
Referee James Linnington meanwhile was having an excellent game, and correctly booked Andrew Shinnie for dissent after continued complaints following a Collins foul on El Abd.
After 34 minutes the hosts were forced into a substitute as Dom Gape couldn’t shake off a knock. It was a shame as the midfielder had started well but Sam Saunders replaced him, meaning Bloomfield dropped back into the middle with Saunders at the tip of the midfield diamond.
It didn’t put the Chairboys off their stride though, and after a fantastic Harriman cross on 40 minutes, Akinfenwa buried his header into the bottom corner to give Stech no chance.
The injured Alan McCormack was immediately substituted for Scott Cuthbert as Luton looked to react but it could easily have been two before the break, only a last ditch challenge denying Bloomfield in the six yard box. Collins was also booked on the stroke of half time for persistent fouling, backing into El Abd and not for the first time.
The second half began at a furious pace with Luton pressure followed by Mackail-Smith winning a corner. A clever corner routine saw Mackail Smith freed on the by-line, and after his shot was blocked, Saunders was denied by another defensive block as the ball flew out for another corner.
Luton were soon back up the other end though and on 52 minutes they had a penalty, correctly awarded when Jacobson tugged back Hylton, who as usual needed no invitation to hit the deck.
Brown came to the rescue though with a superb diving save to his right to deny the striker, who was instantly subjected to jibes from the home fans. It would be Hylton to have the last laugh but you wouldn’t have known it at this stage.
Mackail-Smith was full of tireless running and only an excellent last ditch lunging tackle from Sheehan denied the striker a clear chance minutes later.
Shinnie was replaced by Cornick for the visitors and the Hatters must have thought they were level with twenty minutes remaining as the impressive Ruddock-Mpanzu let fly with a blistering volley but again Brown was there to fingertip the effort over.
By this point Akinfenwa had become the second Wycombe player to pick up a knock and he was replaced by Nathan Tyson who struggled to make an impact despite the game becoming so stretched in the latter stages.
Bean was booked for a cynical foul on Hylton as Luton really started to pile forward and even put defender Cuthbert up front. Saunders curled a free kick narrowly wide after 84 minutes and Elliot Lee replaced defender George Rea as Nathan Jones made his final throw of the dice.
It was all caution to the wind and it paid off for the Hatters after 89 minutes when Bloomfield, who had looked knackered for some time, couldn’t keep up with the driving Luton midfield, Hylton whipped in a dangerous cross and Cuthbert was there to prod home unmarked. Poor game management and poor defending.
Scarr was waiting to enter the pitch for Wanderers but didn’t get the opportunity, which made the equaliser even harder to take. You couldn’t help but feel he might have been introduced earlier.
Scarr was sat back down and instead Cowan-Hall was thrown on for the impressive Mackail-Smith, and the substitute nearly won it but could only fire wide in a crowded box from a Wycombe corner. It was a gamble and although it might have paid off, it ultimately proved very costly.
The Cuthbert equaliser was barely deserved as Wycombe had worked their socks off today, but in a cruel twist the hosts ended up empty handed when from the last attack, a 98th minute back post header from Collins somehow found its way across goal and in, with Bean unable to clear on the line.
It was a gutting end to the game but this was by no means a poor performance from the Blues.
Ratings: Brown (7), Harriman (8*), Stewart (7), El Abd (6), Jacobson (6), Bean (7), Bloomfield (6), Gape (6) (Saunders 34′ 7), O’Nien (7), Mackail Smith (7) (Cowan-Hall 89′ N/A), Akinfenwa (7) (Tyson 67′ 5)
Unfortunate Wycombe lose in heartbreaking fashion
Wycombe Wanderers 1-2 Luton Town