Wanderers overcame Northampton Town on penalties to reach the second round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in seven years, as Adam El-Abd and Yves Ma-Kalambay made themselves heroes in the shootout.
Randell Williams broke the deadlock with an expert header from Craig Mackail-Smith’s cross but Sam Hoskins made it 1-1 shortly after Ma-Kalambay had denied Ash Taylor from the spot in normal time.
The keeper then made a crucial save in the shootout, with Craig Mackail-Smith also missing his penalty, but El-Abd made sure from 12 yards to send Wycombe into round two.
Included in his starting XI were Jason McCarthy, making his second debut after rejoining the club on a permanent deal last week, and goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay who replaced Ryan Allsop.
The first chance of the game fell to the Chairboys and their experienced striker Craig Mackail-Smith, who drilled a smart effort towards the bottom corner from 20 yards, only for Lewis Ward to make a smart stop down to his left.
Yves Ma-Kalambay followed suit with a more routine save at the other end from Billy Waters’ similar effort, before the Cobblers were saved by Shay Facey’s goal-line clearance when Mackail-Smith stayed onside to latch onto Nick Freeman’s through-ball and dink it past the keeper, only to be denied in the nick of time.
Jack Bridge’s header from a deep cross required good reactions from Ma-Kalambay to parry it clear before Dominic Gape bent a shot wide following a free-kick outside the box, and Freeman’s low effort was well handled by the keeper.
Joe Jacobson came off the bench on 35 minutes to replace Sido Jombati, who picked up a knock, before the Cobblers survived a scare as Matt Bloomfield delivered a sumptuous cross from the right which landed just behind Freeman, whose attempts to bundle home were thwarted by the keeper with Mackail-Smith also lurking.
Wycombe were getting closer, and it was captain Adam El-Abd who almost broke the deadlock with a powerful header from Jacobson’s left-wing corner, seeing Ward fly to his left to keep it out.
That kept it scoreless at half-time, with Ainsworth handing a home debut to Bryn Morris at the break in place of Matt Bloomfield, and the loanee saw a shot blocked before the deadlock was broken by another loan signing – Randell Williams – on the 50-minute mark.
The youngster was involved in a move started by Nick Freeman winning the ball in his own half, then feeding Williams who in turn played in Mackail-Smith down the wing. Williams continued his run to perfection, meeting a cross with a bullet header and celebrating in style with a double somersault in front of the terrace.
The goal lifted the crowd almost as much as it lifted the team, who now played with a new-found swagger and confidence, moving it around skilfully and constantly creating space for each other to work in.
A spell of pinball in the Town box nearly brought about a second goal, but Mackail-Smith’s shot deflected to safety, before McCarthy headed narrowly wide from Jacobson’s cross after a corner was cleared out to the left-back.
As the visitors learned to stem the tide, Wanderers replaced goalscorer Williams with Scott Kashket for the striker’s first appearance of the season, while the Cobblers swapped Morias for Sam Hoskins.
Nick Freeman shot wide at the end of a bursting run and Michael Harriman’s first-time rocket was blocked as Wycombe looked to put the tie to bed, but Northampton were given a lifeline when Dominic Gape was adjudged to have fouled Jack Bridge in the box, giving Ash Taylor the chance to level from the spot.
However, Yves Ma-Kalambay dived the right way to make a superb save, only to then be beaten a minute later when a shot from the edge of the box bounced kindly into the path of the sub Hoskins, who made no mistake from close range.
Mackail-Smith had a goalbound header cleared off the line before Dean Bowditch fired straight at Ma-Kalambay in the closing stages, but the match was ultimately to be decided via a penalty shootout.
Yves Ma-Kalambay saved from Jordan Turnbull as the shootout entered sudden death and it was Adam El-Abd who netted the decisive spot-kick to secure Wanderers’ progress in the competition for the first time since 2011.
Dean Bowditch - Scores - 0-1
Joe Jacobson - Scores - 1-1
Sam Hoskins - Hits the post - 1-1
Bryn Morris - Scores - 2-1
Billy Waters - Scores - 2-2
Jason McCarthy - Scores - 2-3
Sam Foley - Scores - 3-3
Craig Mackail-Smith - Over the bar - 3-3
Ash Taylor - Scores - 3-4
Scott Kashket - Scores - 4-4
Jack Bridge - Scores 4-5
Curtis Thompson - Scores - 5-5
Shay Facey - Scores - 5-6
Dom Gape - Scores 6-6
Jordan Turnbull - Saved by Ma-Kalambay - 6-6
Adam El-Abd - Scores - 7-6
Attendance: 1,999 (427 from Northampton)