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Wycombe Wanderers 2
Exeter City 1
Tuesday 14th April 2015
Football League Two
Wanderers' midweek hoodoo came to a dramatic end at Adams Park when an 102nd minute penalty by Paul Hayes brought all three points to Gareth Ainsworth's heroic and battle scarred side following a 2-1 win over Exeter City.
With Sam Wood covering for the injured Joe Jacobson at full-back, Ainsworth also brought in Steven Craig to the starting line-up in favour of Fred Onyedinma. Wycombe looked the better side in the first-half and could have been ahead within 40 seconds when Nico Yannaris swept the ball across from the right, only for Hayes to smash wide of the target. The Grecians had been thumped 4-0 the previous weekend by Shrewsbury and Manager Paul Tisdale threw youngster Christy Pym in between the sticks. The 19 year was picking the ball out of the net on 7 minutes when Sam Saunders powered through from midfield, playing a one-two with Hayes, before connecting beautifully with his left foot to send the ball home from 18 yards.
It was just the start Wycombe needed as they tried to overcome a record of not winning in a midweek game for more than three years. But Wanderers' resilliance began to be tested on 18 minutes when Aaron Holloway was forced off with the first injury of the evening. His replacement, Matt McClure, looked keen to impress following his altercation at Tranmere, but his night turned sour when he went down signally a leg injury and was replaced by Onyedinma having been on the pitch as substitute for just 10 minutes.
It was no surprise that the enforced changes threw Wycombe off their stride but the visitors rarely threatened in the opening 45 minutes - a half-hearted claim for a penalty when Alex Nicholls collapsed after being brushed by Matt Ingram one of their rare forrays in front of the Wycombe goal. The second-half proved a different affair. Exeter changed their formation - going with a front three and with minutes Nicholls had seen a goalbound effort blocked by Yennaris. There were more groans from the Wycombe following on 56 minutes when Alfie Mawson, carrying an injury from Saturday's game, went down asking for treatment. Mawson eventually carried on but Wycombe were now holding on and eventually conceeded an equaliser on 76 minutes when Lee Holmes' slightly deflected cross from deep on the left saw Liam Sercombe head home from six yards.
It looked to be a tragedy for Wycombe who also had one ear on 4th placed Bury's 1-0 lead at Shrewsbury. A draw would have left the Shakers in a position to overtake Gareth Ainsworth's side but the closing stages of the game were as tense as you get, with both sides striving for the victory to keep their season's ambitions alive. 90 minutes were on the clock when an amazing intervening tackle from Yennaris curtailed another Exeter attack down the left side of the Wycombe box. The Brentford loanee seemed to fall awkwardly and again an immediate signal was made to the Wycombe bench for treatment. With six minutes of stoppage time indicated, Yennaris required close to five minutes of treatment before struggling off the pitch. With play resumed again, Yennaris could only watch as Ingram stuck out an arm to make an unbelievable block from Wheeler's header. Then moments later at the other end, Saunders was set-up in a one-on-one with the Exeter 'keeper only to lob the ball over Pym but also agonisingly a fraction high of the Valley End crossbar.
Yennaris returned to the pitch to bravely carry on and it was a credit to Wanderers that they were still pushing for goal as the game approached the 100th minute. A free-kick from the Wycombe right by Wood was swung into the Exeter box but ended up being headed away by Aaron Pierre to the opposite corner. The Wycombe defender chased the loose ball but was then inexplicably pushed over by Christian Ribeiro. The referee pointed to the spot and the Wycombe following went crazy in amazement. It was left for Hayes to step up and as a moment's silence fell over Adams Park, he sent Pym the wrong way to spark jubilant scenes in the home support. There was not even time for the game to be restarted before the referee blew the final whistle. Next stop, Wimbledon away on Saturday (18th April).
Full-time - Wycombe 2 Exeter 1
Post match reaction:
Commenting after the game, Gareth Ainsworth said, "What a way to bury the jinx of Tuesday nights at home. It’s just a proud moment for all the boys because they have dug so deep tonight. We’ve lost so many players in the game, we had so much adversity against us in the game and we’re at our best when we’re against it. I’m speechless at some of the stuff. The silence in the stadium just before Paul Hayes took the penalty is something I’ve never seen at Wycombe Wanderers before and that was an eerie moment. To have his nerve and, as a captain would do, step up and slot that home for the points is fantastic." He added: "It seemed like everything was going against us in the first half as well as with Alfie Mawson and Nico Yennaris [in the second]. There are lads out there that are strapped together and held together by bandages at the end. It was really, really important that we dug deep and got the win. The medical team have got a bit of a job on now. We’ll pick the best team we can and hopefully we can go to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday and get the points again."
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