Wycombe Wanderers 2-1 Grimsby Town
Second half goals from Adam El Abd and Scott Kashket overturned a half time deficit to crucially defeat the Mariners at Adams Park and cement Wycombe’s place in the top three of League Two with a vital 2-1 home win on Easter Monday.
Gareth Ainsworth made four changes from the side that drew 0-0 at Notts County with Michael Harriman replacing Tarafi Moore at right back and Dom Gape returning to midfield in place of Matt Bloomfield who picked up a broken nose in Nottinghamshire. The more surprising changes came up front as Randell Williams and Scott Kashket earned their first starts of the season, replacing Nathan Tyson and Craig Mackail-Smith.
It was a risk Ainsworth might have been rueing after just 15 minutes as the Mariners took the lead.
After Williams had hit one over the bar, and couldn’t quite turn home a hooked Kashket cross soon after, the opener arrived for Grimsby at the other end totally against the run of play.
It was a counter attack where Harriman, looking ring rusty to say the least at right back, failed to track Martyn Woolford closely enough, the ball was slipped through to the Town midfielder and after Harriman only managed to get a toe on the ball the left winger took advantage, racing forward and slotting the ball through the legs of Scott Brown to give Town a priceless lead after just 15 minutes.
This was just what you didn’t want to give a side that had not won in 19 games – hope, and something to cling on to.
It was an uncharacteristically poor half from Harriman, who was beaten in most aerial challenges and was targeted by Grimsby throughout.
What followed was a siege on the visitors’ goal that Grimsby managed to survive until the interval, leaving the home fans frustrated.
Akinfenwa had a shot deflected for a corner, Williams had a header comfortably saved and another shot beaten away by McKeown, Kashket had a header ruled out for offside as he flicked home an Akinfenwa header, Jombati wasted a free kick with a weak effort and closest of all, an almighty set piece scramble was somehow hooked away by a desperate Grimsby defence.
It was smash and grab but Grimsby held a priceless lead going into the break, with the Chairboys knowing this was a game they needed to turn around and fast.
The second half started fairly quietly before exploding into life after O’Nien and Fox were both yellow carded following a touchline scuffle by referee Chris Sarginson, another official that either fell short of seeing Akinfenwa’s shirt being wrestled away from him throughout the opening period, or chose to ignore it.
Neatly 5,000 Wanderers fans turned up today and were still getting right behind their team, but they must have thought it was one of those days when a Harriman cross was bulleted onto the crossbar and away to safety by the head of Akinfenwa after 57 minutes.
Grimsby then replaced striker Scott Vernon, who had ploughed a lonely furrow, with Jamille Matt. Straight after there was another booking, this time for James Berrett following a nasty late challenge on O`Nien with an hour played.
The resulting free kick was hoisted into the box by Jacobson and after a defender half cleared under pressure from Akinfenwa, captain Adam El Abd anticipated the bounce of the ball and rifled home the rebound for his first Wycombe goal to a huge roar of relief from the home fans.
Wycombe wanted more though and they were immediately back on the front foot with Akinfenwa testing McKeown with a drive from the edge of the box. The pressure was almost relentless and it paid off after 67 minutes as Kashket turned the game around from another set piece.
It is no coincidence that Grimsby have the worst set piece record in the division and after El Abd flicked on a corner Kashket was all alone at the far post to prod home from a couple of yards to another eruption of noise from the Adams Park faithful.
Scenting blood, the Chairboys were again pushing forwards soon after but Williams was adjudged to have dived in the box after a mazy run and was cautioned for simulation by Sarginson.
Following that, Grimsby made a double change, bringing on Gary McSheffrey and JJ Hooper for Berrett and Hall-Johnson. Ainsworth then showed his hand for the first time as Tyson replaced Kashket, with Williams moving to the right wing.
The substitutions seemed to take the sting out of the game, Wycombe dropped a little deeper and should have been made to pay after 74 minutes when McSheffrey flicked on a cross and Rose pulled his shot wide at the far post when he should have at least hit the target.
Wycombe are always a goalscoring danger this season though, and from there on in had the bulk of the chances to see off the game but they couldn’t quite take one.
After 76 minutes Tyson’s pace saw him reach the byline and cross agonisingly across the six yard box with no takers in a blue shirt.
Williams was substituted for Nick Freeman with five minutes left and received a well deserved ovation from the home faithful after an impressive debut.
A slip at the back from Grimsby then gave O’Nien a clear sight of goal but McKeown saved his shot and the goalkeeper did exceptionally well to get up and react quickly to Akinfenwa`s effort on the rebound.
Despite a few nervy set piece moments at the other end, Grimsby could’`t fashion a clear chance and Tyson nearly added a third in stoppage time after a desperate clearance but his shot flashed agonisingly wide across the face of goal.
Wycombe won’t care though – after this crucial and deserved win they are now five points clear of fourth place with a superior goal difference to Exeter who do have one game in hand.
Ratings: Brown (6), Harriman (5), El Abd (8*), Jombati (6), Jacobson (7), O’Nien (7), Gape (8), Bean (6), Williams (8) (Freeman 85′ N/A), Akinfenwa (7), Kashket (7) (Tyson 71′ N/A)