Wycombe Wanderers 0, Plymouth Argyle 1.
WANDERERS undid their recent good work as their unbeaten spell came to an abrupt end against Plymouth Argyle.
A single goal moments into the second half from visiting captain Conor Hourihane was enough to condemn Blues to their first defeat in seven matches.
But what was worrying was the manner of the defeat, as Wanderers produced a poor display more reminiscent of their long stretch without a win.
Gone was the attacking zest and verve that saw a glut of chances created in Saturday’s swashbuckling win over Hartlepool, with Blues rarely providing a threat in front of goal.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth was right to warn his side they’re still not out of the woods, with defeat here coupled with a crucial victory for second from bottom Northampton Town once again shrinking the gap at the foot of the table.
They will need a vast improvement on this display – albeit against a side full of confidence and chasing a play-off place – if they’re to keep climbing away from danger following a turgid encounter.
A quarter of the game had been played before the first half chance as former Wanderers loanee Reuben Reid sent a header from a free kick onto the roof of the net, but the effort never looked likely to result in a goal.
Defences were very much on top, with the visitors having much more of the ball but coming up against an immovable blue brick wall whenever they got within sight of the Wanderers penalty area.
To their credit an Argyle side who had been scoring for fun in recent weeks were at least trying to play their way through Wanderers, as attested by a frustrated shout of ‘pass it’ from manager John Sheridan when a wayward clearance landed on the roof of the main stand.
Full back Durrell Berry blasted wide from the edge of the box in a rare chance, with the most noteworthy moment of the first period being when goalkeeper Matt Ingram sliced a backpass out of play for a corner.
For all their defensive solidity Wycombe never truly threatened to break through the visitors, although Matt McClure will have been disappointed not to have done better than to head the ball firmly at Plymouth keeper Jake Cole from an inviting right wing cross by Marvin McCoy.
Yet they came close to taking the lead in unorthodox circumstances on the stroke of half time as Matt Bloomfield’s shot was blocked into the path of Jesse Kewley-Graham – making his first start of the season – whose effort went behind for a corner, which Cole had to turn onto the bar and over as Sam Wood’s inswinging delivery threatened to drift all the way in.
Within minutes of the restart though the Devon side were in front as Wanderers – not for the first time this season – struggled to cope with dealing with a corner. Reid’s presence did much to open up the space, but skipper Hourihane still had a lot to do as he struck a sweet volley through a crowd of players and into the net to open the scoring.
Blues were shaken into life after falling behind as McClure burst through before hammering wide of the near post – but he injured himself in the process and had to be replaced by Steven Craig.
But the hosts were indebted to their goalkeeper Ingram for not falling even further behind as he flung himself full length to claw away a powerful effort from Reid that appeared destined for the top corner of the net.
Although Nick Arnold sent a header over the top of the crossbar it was the visitors who continued to do more of the attacking as Ingram got strong hands on a Reid shot to foil him again, before Leon Johnson made a great block to deny the same player with a header when the ball was fired back into the box.
Wanderers had to twist if they were to get anything out of the game and they went to three up front as strikers Reece Styche and Jo Kuffour were both brought on by boss Gareth Ainsworth.
But it was a visiting substitute who almost had the final say as Tope Obadeyi powered through the middle to beat the offside trap and turned Wood inside out before curling a shot inches over the bar.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Stewart, Johnson, Wood, Arnold (sub Kuffour), Bloomfield, Kretzschmar, Kewley-Graham, McClure (sub Craig), Morgan (sub Styche). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Pierre, Jeffrey.
Attendance: 3,042 (612 from Plymouth)