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Lewis ends goal drought but Blues held
Wycombe Wanderers 1, Fleetwood Town 1.
STUART Lewis ended Wanderers’ barren run in front of goal in spectacular fashion but Blues were denied by a late equaliser from Fleetwood.
They were just five minutes shy of going 500 minutes without finding the back of the net before skipper Lewis led by example to send a thumping volley zooming into the net.
It was a vastly improved performance from Wanderers against a side battling for promotion, with the goal proving a massive boost to their confidence as they moved the ball around with a zip that had been missing in recent weeks.
But the same old problem reared its head as they were punished for failing to take the chances that came their way, with Jon Parkin ensuring the run without a win at Adams Park goes on.
Gareth Ainsworth made a brave call before the game as he elected to replace Reece Styche – so impressive in recent games – with an extra midfielder in the form of Max Kretzschmar.
And with no fewer than five strikers on the bench the decision looked even more baffling – but the move worked a treat as the Wycombe midfield dominated, creating chances and rarely allowing Fleetwood a sniff of possession.
A clever turn by Kretzschmar – recalled to the side in the only change to the starting XI from Saturday – saw him spin away from his marker and send in a swerving shot that visiting keeper Chris Maxwell clutched at the second attempt.
Blues did more of the attacking but were caught out by the Fleetwood offside trap on too many occasions, with the Cod Army breaking clear to twice miss the target with headers from Mikael Mandron and Stewart Murdoch.
The visitors started to gain momentum after the bright start from Wanderers as Matt Ingram did well to gather the ball off Parkin from a fierce inswinging free kick, before the giant striker blazed high and wide with an angled shot.
Blues harried the Town defence without managing to break through, and they were shorn of some creativity when Dean Morgan broke down with another injury on the half hour and was replaced by Styche.
A cross-shot from Charlie Taylor bounced off the top of the crossbar and Ingram made a sharp stop at his near post to deny Alex Marrow as Fleetwood responded.
But on the stroke of half time Wanderers went in as they finally ended their goal drought. Sam Wood’s free kick deep to the far post was headed clear by Parkin but only as far as Lewis, lurking on the edge of the area, and he sent a volley screaming into the net as Maxwell was only able to get a hand to it.
The Wanderers skipper set up a great chance to extend the lead minutes after the break as his perfectly weighted pass sent Kretzschmar clear, and his rising shot was expertly clawed over the bar by Maxwell.
Conor McLaughlin blazed way off target and Fleetwood came even closer to an equaliser as they almost seized on a lapse in concentration by the home defence when half time substitute Gareth Evans stole in from a teasing left wing cross and scuffed over from five yards – although, to his relief, he was caught offside anyway.
Styche was starting to cause the visiting defence a number of headaches and he opened up the space for Lewis to have another crack at goal, which this time he sent sailing just the wrong side of the post.
Matt Bloomfield then caught Alan Goodall dithering in possession in midfield before sending an incisive pass down the channel for Kretzschmar to run on, with Maxwell swiftly off his line to make a brave smothering block at the feet of the Blues midfielder.
Then Bloomfield showed neat footwork in a tight corner before his ball into drifted just a fraction too high from a narrow angle.
Town manager Graham Alexander had to make changes to his misfiring attack, with Gary Doherty in particular impressing at the heart of the Blues defence to keep Fleetwood at bay, as Jamille Matt and Antoni Sarcevic entered the fray.
And it was Matt who had a hand in the move that brought the visitors a leveller, winning the second of two headers from a corner that opened up the space for Parkin to jab the ball into the top corner.
In a final change for Wanderers Anthony Stewart was thrown on and he almost put his side back in front with his first touch as a header bounced down into the turf before looping up into the grateful arms of Maxwell.
Right at the end of the four added minutes Matt missed a golden opportunity to secure all three points for the visitors, heading over from six yards from a pinpoint Taylor delivery.
Wanderers: Ingram, Arnold, Johnson, Doherty, Wood, Bloomfield, Lewis, Scowen, Kretzschmar (sub Stewart), Cowan-Hall (sub McClure), Morgan (sub Styche). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Jeffrey, Kuffour, Craig.
Attendance: 2,185 (45 from Fleetwood)