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Plymouth Argyle 2
Wycombe Wanderers 3
Saturday 9th May 2015
Football League Two - Play-off Semi-Final 1st Leg
Wanderers will take a goal lead into the Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg at Adams Park on Thursday 14th May but it could have been more having led Plymouth 3-0 with just five minutes remaining of the Saturday evening tie at Home Park.
Strikes from Paul Hayes, Aaron Holloway and Steve Craig had put Gareth Ainsworth's side into dreamland by the 52nd minute and an herioc defensive performance in front of rookie 'keeper Alex Lynch looked to have shut out any serious threats from the home strikeforce. However, a 25 yard wonder strike from substitute Zak Ansah gave Lynch little chance as the home side scored with the first shot on target of the evening. And their was more frustration for the travelling faithful, who had outsung the home fans for most of the evening, when fellow substitute Jason Banton's low strike from the left of the box on 89 minutes found its way past Alfie Mawson and a rooted Lynch in the Wycombe goal to make the final score Plymouth 2 Wycombe 3.
Despite the late strikes, the Wycombe performance was expectional against a Plymouth side bouyed by recent form and the expectant backing of a 13,000 plus home support. Meanwhile, Wanderers had to deal with the absence of 'keeper Matt Ingram for the first time since March 2013 but encouraged by the return of both Joe Jacobson and Sam Saunders into the starting line-up.
Argyle started with confidence, with Bobby Reid looking particularly dangerous - his floated cross to the far post in the opening minutes seeing Curtis Nelson head wide. But Wycombe settled and it was Jacobson's delivery from a right wing corner on 10 minutes that led to the opener. Mawson connected with his head and saw Luke McCormack save in the Argyle goal but Hayes reacted fastest with a clever flick to convert from well inside the six yard box. It was 2-0 on 22 minutes when another Jacobson delivery, this time a free-kick from just inside the Argyle half, was floated into the box where Craig laid the ball back with part chest and part arm for Holloway to thunder a right footed shot into the bottom right corner of the home net. Protests followed from the home side but the goal stood.
Lynch rushed from goal to dive and collect from Reuben Reid just after the half-hour mark but the the youngster had been well protected by his defence and hadn't a save to make. The home side were losing their composure and an aggressive challenge by Curtis Nelson on Hayes left the Wycombe player needing treatment. He returned with a head bandage but was replaced at the break by Matt Bloomfield. Few could have imagined such a start to the tie and the scoreline got better for Wanderers seven minutes into the second period when Craig latched onto a quickly taken free-kick by Saunders down the right channel to strike first time into the back of the net to the delight of the 800 or so Wycombe fans behind that goal. Wycombe continued to control matters and could even have taken a 4-0 lead when Jacobson's inswinging corner from the right on 61 minutes just needed a touch. Several home 'fans' had already departed when Ansah smashed home and with the home volume finally turned up, Banton's late goal now makes the return leg at Adams Park a real nerve jangler for all those connected with both clubs.
Full-time - Plymouth 2 Wycombe 3
Post match reaction:
Commenting directly after the game to the Sky cameras, Gareth Ainsworth said, "The boys and me would have took 1-0 this morning and that’s what it is. It’s a 1-0 victory to us and we’re a goal up going into the second leg. Amazing that at one stage we could have been 3-0 up, and we were. I thought we handled Plymouth well, we kept them to a minimum and we protected our rookie ‘keeper. They’ve hit a worldie goal and, fair play, they’ve got to have that. The second goal I think we could avoid but we’ve had a lucky goal there too, so maybe it’s not a bad result. Fifteen thousand fans here making all sorts of noise, it’s fantastic for the Plymouth boys to hear, but we had 800 die hards here. They never stopped singing and right at the end they were buzzing, just as I am, to take a one goal lead into the second leg. It’s all to play for and I’m really pleased with how we played."
The Wycombe Manager hid any disappointment on conceeding the two late goals but added: "There are a few things we could have done better, but we lost three players up front and it disrupted us. We're a small squad so it's tough, and we have to make do with players out of position sometimes. That makes it even more of a good performance, so we go again on Thursday and if we get a clean sheet then we all know the reward. I'm sure Plymouth will throw everything at us and we'll have to stand up to it, but if we play like that again, we'll get the ultimate prize."
Commenting on the injury situation, Ainsworth said: "We’re a small squad. I can’t get any more players, we can’t afford any more players and it’s tough. We have to make do with players out of position and hopefully people are looking at that and know that we haven’t got the resources other people have got and hopefully it makes the result even better. We’ll go to Thursday and we’ll go again. If we get a clean sheet on Thursday we know the reward after that. I’m sure Plymouth are going to chuck everything at us as I would if we were 1-0 down. It’s going to be an interesting game, hopefully not as much of a rollercoaster as tonight, but I’m sure they’ll come with fight and we’ll have to stand up to that again. Hayesy’s got a nasty gash – I thought that was a terrible challenge on him. There’s also Steven Craig, Aaron Holloway, Sam Saunders, JJ [Joe Jacobson] and Nico, they’re all complaining a little bit. We need to recover. We’ve got them in for a warm down tomorrow and we’ll be making sure that everything is fine for Thursday, fitness-wise, if they do what they did tonight that will be enough."
Video Links - Match highlights and Interviews:
Sky Sports - Match Highlights
Sky Sports - Garerth Ainsworth Interview
Sky Sports - John Sheridan Interview
YouTube - Official Highlights
YouTube - Complete Sky Live Coverage
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