Wycombe recorded an important away win to kick off 2018 as goals from Matt Bloomfield and Craig Mackail-Smith set them on the way at Forest Green.
The Blues were rampant in a first-half period in which they should have been out of sight, with Rovers being reduced to 10 men after Charlie Cooper was sent off.
But the league’s bottom side rallied and made a fight of it when Jack Fitzwater halved the deficit in style, though the Chairboys did enough to see the game out to return to winning ways.
Gareth Ainsworth made four changes to his side from the one that started in the 2-1 loss to Mansfield two days earlier; two were enforced with Sido Jombati and Paris Cowan-Hall sidelined due to injury, while Ebere Eze and Nathan Tyson dropped to the bench as Will De Havilland, Nick Freeman, Matt Bloomfield and Craig Mackail-Smith came into the team.
Wanderers started brightly, enjoying all of the early territory with Nick Freeman looking particularly lively, and it was he who had the game’s first chance, poking goalwards after the ball broke to him but keeper Bradley Collins gathered it at the second attempt.
Forest Green posed a threat from set pieces and Scott Laird sent a header goalwards from a corner, but Mackail-Smith was well-placed to nod it away from danger. Moments later, Forest Green’s top scorer Christian Doidge cut into the box and picked out the unmarked Dan Wishart, but his first-time shot was well saved by Scott Brown.
Akinfenwa sent a header into the arms of the keeper from a right wing cross on 11 minutes, and Collins was called upon again when Matt Bloomfield fizzed a low shot towards his near post from the edge of the box, tipping it behind for a corner.
From that set piece, the ball reached Bloomfield again on the 18-yard line and his drive was too hot to handle, with Collins parrying it into danger but Mackail-Smith was denied by an offside flag as he turned the rebound home.
In an end-to-end game, Wanderers broke from a Forest Green and Freeman fired into the side netting, and chances kept coming as Akinfenwa missed a golden opportunity, cushioning a volley wide from Freeman’s cross with just the keeper to beat. The ball stayed alive and Freeman cut it back for Sam Saunders, who curled a first-time effort towards the top corner but Collins parried it behind for a corner.
Freeman was at the heart of everything, and his quick feet took him past two defenders into the box before he fizzed a powerful cross at knee-height to Bloomfield, who made a connection but the ball looped onto the top of the crossbar.
It was excruciatingly one-way traffic and just a matter of time until the opening goal arrived – and Matt Bloomfield duly delivered. He was inches away from connecting with Freeman’s low cross but the chance stayed alive and when a cross fell for him eight yards out, he made no mistake in firing home for his first goal of the campaign.
He could have had a second, driving a low shot across the face of goal but seeing it whistle narrowly wide, and Wycombe continued to turn the screw as O’Nien’s venomous cross-shot missed the head of Akinfenwa by inches.
Forest Green’s hopes of a comeback weren’t helped either by a red card shown to boss Mark Cooper’s son Charlie, whose nasty high tackle saw him land his studs in Luke O’Nien’s stomach, leading to the most straightforward of dismissals. Sam Saunders was booked for his part in a confrontation that followed, but it didn’t end there – Mark Cooper himself was sent to the stands for his protests.
It was almost 2-0 immediately after, as Freeman powered goalwards and fired towards the bottom corner after a one-two with Akinfenwa, but Collins tipped it behind.
From the delivery, the ball landed kindly for Mackail-Smith who did make it 2-0, lashing into the roof of the net from close range.
Rovers made an instant substitution, bringing on Keanu Marsh-Brown for Callum Evans, before Saunders whistled a shot into the stand behind the goal before the break.
Mackail-Smith did the same just as the half-time whistle blew, leaving Forest Green seemingly in need of miracles to turn things around.
Wycombe suffered a setback when Dominic Gape pulled up with an injury five minutes into the second period, with Marcus Bean taking his place, while Nathan Tyson came on soon after, replacing Matt Bloomfield.
Bean flashed a volley wide before Will De Havilland picked up a caution, but gradually Forest Green were building momentum and clawed their way back into the game with a sublime finish from Jack Fitzwater on 70 minutes. The substitute found space outside the box and unleashed an unstoppable curling effort into the top corner after Wanderers had struggled to efficiently clear a cross from the left.
Jordan Stevens lashed harmlessly wide before Wycombe made their final change, bringing on Ebere Eze for the final appearance of his loan spell from QPR as Mackail-Smith made way.
But still Forest Green came forward; Reece Brown lashed over the top before Omar Bugiel came off the bench to replace Stevens, while Akinfenwa planted a header wide after O’Nien and Freeman combined well for the latter to cross to the six-yard box.
Eze blasted a free-kick over the bar before another golden chance presented itself as Sam Saunders burst forward with Wycombe 3-on-3 with Forest Green; his shot was turned skywards by Collins and Akinfenwa couldn’t quite convert as it bounced wide for a corner.
Tyson then fizzed in a low shot from 30 yards which was well diverted wide by Collins, before Forest Green broke from a corner and Fitzwater’s shot was just too high from 20 yards as they sought a leveller.
Then Scott Brown did well to hold a low shot from Keanu Marsh-Brown, before Tyson closed down Collins’ clearance but the ball fell safe for a throw.
There were six minutes of added time at the end of the game, which saw nervy moments at both ends, plus a yellow card for Luke O’Nien, but Wycombe held on to ensure they begin 2018 with a win – even if they did it the hard way in that second half.