Report: Wycombe 1-2 CrawleyAnother goal from Adebayo Akinfenwa wasn't enough to prevent another defeat as the Chairboys went down 2-1 to Crawley Town at Adams Park.
The 'Beast' struck early with a neat back-heel from Max Muller's knock-down following a corner, but Joe McNerney's header and Josh Payne's exquisite free-kick turned the tie on its head.
As the rain came down and the wind swirled around the stadium ahead of kick-off, the team emerged needing to rebuild confidence after indifferent runs of form, each making changes to their sides following defeats in their previous matches. Gareth Ainsworth introduced Sido Jombati, Max Muller, Sam Wood and Matt Bloomfield into his side, changing the shape of the team, which saw them begin on the front foot.
Football took a back seat for sixty seconds in the fifth minute, when all four sides of the ground rose to applaud as the name of Paul McCarthy was sung around the stadium, in memory of the Wycombe legend who had died suddenly the previous week.
Wanderers made the most of their early threat by taking the lead quarter of an hour into the game. After Sam Wood’s fierce first-time drive was tipped over, the midfielder swung in a corner which was nodded down by home debutant Max Muller into the path of Adebayo Akinfenwa, who neatly back-heeled home.
It was the striker’s 14th goal of the season, and eighth of 2017 so far, but the Chairboys had to guard against complacency, having taken an early lead via the same source only to lose 2-1 to Carlisle in their last home game.
Crawley threatened with a loose ball from a corner was fired goalwards but too close to Jamal Blackman, who held well, while Kaby Djalo drilled narrowly wide after another set-piece wasn’t fully cleared.
Back came Wycombe, with Matt Bloomfield heading wide under pressure from a cross, and then Luke O’Nien firing over the top from an Akinfenwa lay-off.
But the equaliser came in controversial circumstances; Jamal Blackman’s clearance cannoned into James Collins and landed behind, only for the referee to make a late decision to award a corner. Wanderers didn’t pick up Joe McNerney from the delivery, and his thundering header flew into the net to make it 1-1 shortly before half-time.
Dean Cox then drilled over the bar from distance as Town looked to build on their goal before the break, but the half-time whistle marked a disappointing end to a half in which the Chairboys had looked the better side but had no lead to show for their efforts.
They continued their momentum into the second period, with the referee required to keep the peace during some more fiery moments, while Will De Havilland’s spectacular volley was parried away by Glenn Morris and Bloomfield headed over from a cross from the left.
There was a strong penalty shout when Cowan-Hall appeared to be tugged to the ground to prevent him reaching a flick-on, but referee Gavin Ward saw nothing wrong and waved away the vociferous appeals.
Then Max Muller fired wide of the near post after finding a pocket of space in the box from a free-kick, before Crawley stemmed the tide with a couple of substitutions, while Gareth Ainsworth made a change of his own, bringing on Sam Saunders for Matt Bloomfield.
Still, chances had dried up, and the next change was to introduce Alex Jakubiak from the bench in place of Cowan-Hall with ten minutes remaining.
Crawley had barely tested Jamal Blackman, but gave the keeper no chance with the goal that gave the visitors the lead with just six minutes remaining. Luke O’Nien was punished for a pull on Lewis Young, and Josh Payne stepped up to curl the ball into the top corner from 25 yards in stunning fashion.
Myles Weston replaced Luke O’Nien with the final throw of the dice, and seven minutes of stoppage time gave the Chairboys hope of salvaging a point at least.
But they never came close enough to threatening to fulfil those hopes as Crawley held firm, leaving the Blues scratching their heads as they continue to look for new ways to end this frustrating and disappointing run of form.