Report: Hartlepool 0-2 WycombeWycombe strengthened their promotion push with an impressive 2-0 win at in-form Hartlepool, as a goal in each half saw them claim all three points.
Adebayo Akinfenwa struck home the opener in the first period and the Blues rarely looked like letting that lead slip, going on to secure the win with Paris Cowan-Hall's late strike before he was then shown a red card after collecting two bookings.
Gareth Ainsworth made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Plymouth in midweek; one was enforced, with Sam Saunders replacing the injured Marcus Bean, while the other was tactical as Will De Havilland came in for Max Muller in defence.
Hartlepool came into the game on the back of an impressive sequence of three wins in four matches, edging them away from relegation danger with new boss Dave Jones making his mark since being appointed to the post.
The visitors began brightly and Myles Weston sidefooted the ball into danger from Michael Harriman’s cross before Joe Jacobson won possession high up the pitch and his delivery bounced off a defender before landing safely in the keeper’s gloves.
Wanderers kept up the pressure, capitalising on a sluggish start from their opponents who struggled to retain the ball, and Dayle Southwell looped a header narrowly wide after Jacobson’s long throw reached him on the penalty spot.
Pools’ first chance came when Lewis Alessandra received the ball back from a short corner and fired goalwards from 20 yards but saw his shot blocked in a crowd of bodies, and then the same player span away from Michael Harriman on halfway before drilling high and wide from distance.
Sam Saunders hit a speculative shot over the bar with the keeper off his line, and then curled a free-kick wide from 25 yards following a foul on Southwell.
But the opening goal came on 24 minutes and it was the almost inevitable source of Adebayo Akinfenwa who broke the deadlock, keeping his composure to latch on to Southwell’s clever pass and poke it past Joe Fryer, giving the keeper no chance.
However, he took a knock in the process which seemed to impact on his mobility as the game progressed, and there was a further blow when Aaron Pierre was forced off with an injury, prompting Gareth Ainsworth to bring Max Muller off the bench and into the team.
As Wanderers adapted to the change, Pools improved, with Thomas shooting over and then delivering a low cross which was cut out crucially at the near post by Will De Havilland.
Brad Walker hit an effort from distance which flew a yard wide just before the interval, but Gareth Ainsworth will have been happy at his side’s display if not the injuries sustained by Pierre and Akinfenwa.
There were no changes at the interval, but Pools began the second period well with Brad Walker looping a free-kick over the bar before Lewis Alessandra drilled wide of the far post after a good spell of pressure around the box.
Then action swung to the other end and Myles Weston forced a save from the keeper with a downward header from Michael Harriman’s well-aimed cross, while Adebayo Akinfenwa was brought off as a result of his earlier injury, with Paris Cowan-Hall taking his place in attack.
The substitute was involved straightaway, collecting Max Muller’s pass on the right and whipping in a cross which was cleared only as far as Luke O’Nien, whose crisp first-time volley on his weaker left foot only missed the target by inches.
On 65 minutes, Dayle Southwell came close with a fierce strike from 20 yards which was tipped over the bar by Fryer, but Pools had a great chance to level when Lewis Alessandra capitalised on a poor clearance but couldn’t pick out a team-mate as they bore down on goal with a man extra in their attack.
Fryer was called upon again to keep out a stunning effort from Dominic Gape, who drove the ball towards the top corner from 30 yards only to see the keeper fly away to his left to tip it over.
Hartlepool’s first change was to bring Louis Rooney into the action and he was almost celebrating an equaliser for his side when Scott Harrison directed a corner at goal, with Jamal Blackman watching it all the way to tip it behind.
The hosts’ threat grew as Wycombe looked to keep them at bay by continuing to press high up the pitch to good effect, and soon after the introduction of Garry Thompson for Dayle Southwell, Paris Cowan-Hall sent an overhead kick onto the roof of the net with an instinctive effort following Joe Jacobson’s free-kick.
But the second goal did come, and it was Paris Cowan-Hall who capped the victory with a superbly-worked goal as the clock ticked towards 90. Dominic Gape collected a clearance high up the pitch and the ball was moved out to the substitute winger, who sped away from his marker and lashed an effort across the face of goal to give the keeper no chance.
However, his afternoon was to end prematurely as he was shown a second yellow card moments later for an off-the-ball scuffle with Scott Harrison, who was also booked.
There was to be no further incident as Wanderers celebrated an excellent win which edges them closer to the play-offs ahead of the visit of Notts County to Adams Park next weekend.