Wanderers fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Boxing Day afternoon.
With Dominic Gape already sidelined through injury, and another midfield lynchpin Curtis Thompson leaving the field with a knock in the first half, Wanderers ultimately fell short against one of the pre-season promotion favourites, with Ben Close and Ronan Curtis handing Pompey the points.
Gareth Ainsworth was forced to do without Adebayo Akinfenwa following the striker’s red card at Oxford five days earlier, with Joe Jacobson captaining the side as Matt Bloomfield – recently crowned Player of the Decade in a fans poll – was rested on the bench.
Jacobson made a crucial intervention to deny Sean Raggett a shot at goal after James Bolton’s long free-kick into the box landed kindly for him on a windy afternoon on the south coast, and then Ryan Williams drilled wide from Ellis Harrison’s knockdown on the edge of the box.
However, Williams was forced off with an injury on just five minutes, prompting Pompey boss Kenny Jackett to bring Marcus Harness off the bench – a year to the day since the winger wreaked havoc against the Blues in a 3-1 win for Burton.
The change didn’t affect the hosts’ early dominance of possession and chances, with Ben Close bending wide after a well-worked short corner, before Nick Freeman got the Blues going at the other end with some excellent footwork in the Portsmouth box which resulted in a corner – from which Jacobson’s delivery was cleared off the line.
Harrison was booked for a bad foul on Joe Jacobson on 12 minutes, before Freeman drilled low at the keeper following a fast counter-attack instigated by Paul Smyth after a Pompey corner was cleared.
Wanderers needed to make their first change on 27 minutes with Curtis Thompson unable to continue after an earlier knock, so Alex Pattison took his place in the midfield, shortly after Anton Walkes had stung the palms of Ryan Allsop with a fierce drive from a difficult angle.
Alex Samuel was just unable to make sufficient contact to divert another Jacobson corner on target, before Pompey winger Ronan Curtis collected a yellow card for simulation, and Rolando Aarons won a corner as his tricky wingplay helped the visitors get on top towards the latter stages of the half.
Smyth saw a shot blocked in six minutes of stoppage time before Anthony Stewart hammered over, Tom Naylor was booked for a foul on Darius Charles, and Harrison’s low chance was kept out by Allsop in the final act of the half.
Pompey began the second period brightly, as they had done in the first, and saw James Bolton head over from Marcus Harness’s delivery before Ben Close lashed over from the edge of the box.
Anthony Stewart received a yellow card for a foul on Walkes, before Alex Samuel collected Aarons’ superb through-ball and forced Craig MacGillivray into a stretching save down to his right.
Aarons was proving to be a real threat, though he was booked for his part in a minor altercation following a foul by Sido Jombati, and the breakthrough came moments later – but not before Ryan Allsop had made two fine saves to deny Ronan Curtis and Ben Close.
It was Curtis’s low shot that deflected kindly into the path of Ellis Harrison, who somehow scuffed his chance against the post from a matter of yards out, but Close was on hand to convert the rebound with three quarters of the game gone.
David Wheeler replaced Rolando Aarons in the Wycombe attack, while Pompey swapped Gareth Evans with Andy Cannon, and within moments the visitors had a real mountain to climb when Portsmouth doubled their lead through Curtis, sidefooting home Harness’ pinpoint cross from the right-hand side of the box.
Scott Kashket was introduced off the bench as Paul Smyth made way with 14 minutes remaining, but the two-goal cushion left Pompey in full control and they never looked like letting it slip, as Joe Jacobson entered the book for pulling back Harness late on.
Jacobson then hit the post with a cross-shot from a free-kick near the corner of the penalty area, but there was no further drama in the three minutes of stoppage time as Wycombe turn their attentions to achieving a return to winning ways when Coventry and Ipswich visit Adams Park for the New Year double header.