Wycombe 2 Argyle 1 - Report
Hayes 8, Mawson 35
by Rob McNichol
Bob says 'Every little thing gonna be alright.' Doris says 'Whatever will be, will be.'
Both noble mantras, but ultimately Wycombe can cling to the latter and tailor the words as they prepare for a trip to Wembley. We will take the positives of the former, and some of the better aspects of a season that promised much, but our season is over.
Taking a one-goal lead into this second leg of the Sky Bet League 2 play-off semi final, Wycombe were able to take the tie by the scruff of the neck and drag their team to the final with two goals, scored by Paul Hayes and Alfie Mawson, in a first half that they dominated, leaving Argyle just too far in their wake.
The Pilgrims, roared on by another magnificent away following, showed heart in the second half to take the game to Wanderers, but Ryan Brunt's sole strike was not enough. Argyle went down 2-1 on the night, and 5-3 on aggregate.
Argyle boss John Sheridan made just one change to the starting line-up, bringing back Dominic Blizzard in place of Gethin Jones in the centre of the Pilgrims' midfield. Wycombe made one change, too, with Hogan Ephraim coming in to take the place of the injured Steven Craig, whose right arm and right foot had played such a part in the Blues' victory on Saturday.
The noise as the preliminaries ended and get began was deafening, and mostly emanated from the 2000+ of the Green Army, but it was Wycombe who made a bright start, forcing two corners inside the opening minute. Neither came to anything, but it was a promising opening gambit from the home side eager to quell the noise from the boisterous visitors.
On eight minutes, though, a goal came for the home team, and it was from a familiar source. In both games at Home Park this season Paul Hayes was able to sniff out a chance from a corner that had not been cleared, and he tripled the dose here.
Sam Saunders' natty inswinging corner was punched out from under his crossbar by Luke McCormick, but Argyle failed to deal with the dropping ball, and Hayes hooked home to score yet again against the side he had a brief loan spell with in 2014-15. Total yardage of said goals: about seven.
This gave Wycombe a 4-2 aggregate lead, and they nearly added to their advantage instantly, as Aaron Holloway got beyond the Argyle backline. His shot, when through, was well saved by McCormick, and as Hayes followed up, the Pilgrims recovered in sufficient numbers to halt the latest home surge.
The opening half an hour was, frankly, a blue tide. Wycombe dominated proceedings, and nearly scored again when Ephraim's flicked cross was headed just wide by Nico Yennaris. McCormick made another great save from Saunders when he was put through by Ephraim, and this was looking like a matter of time before Wycombe were out of sight.
And then they were. From the corner forced by McCormick's latest stop, Joe Jacobson's delivery was superb, and Alfie Mawson was the strongest at the near post. His header got by McCormick, and Wycombe had their sixth goal against Argyle in the season - all had come from set-pieces.
At half-time, Sheridan took his three most attacking players from his bench and threw them on. Carl McHugh, Blizzard and Reuben Reid were all withdrawn, with Zak Ansah, Jason Banton and Ryan Brunt introduced.
After five minutes, Brunt was in the action, pulling a ball just wide after a cross from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis. Ansah soon tried his luck, curling wide from 20 yards. Banton completed the trifecta of subs having an effort on goal, and although his dipping hit from the left wing onto the crossbar may well have been more cross than shot, it was tremendously unfortunate to stay out.
A brief Wycombe flurry just after the hour mark was their first offensive spell of the second period, and it was short lived, as Argyle were now attacking in waves. A superb Bobby Reid cross only just was diverted away from a poised Zak Ansah, before Reid himself let rip from range and forced a good save from Alex Lynch.
Banton was next up, striking from an angle on the left but straight into Lynch's hands.
Then came the lifeline - admittedly with a drop of fortune. Ansah looked offside when racing beyond the Wycombe defence, but he composed himself well, and squared for Brunt, whose canny flicked finish went beyond Lynch.
Brunt was having his best half an hour of his Argyle tenure - maybe his career - and Wycombe were unable to shackle him. A flick on started an attack then eventually fell back to him, and he took aim. His shot was deflected, but fell to Ansah, who forced an excellent save by Lynch, whose inexperience was being heavily tested.
With ten minutes remaining, Hayes kept Argyle honest, with an effort from 15 yards that curled wide, and Wycombe were doing their level best to break up the game and remove any momentum the Pilgrims had.
In truth, they were managing it, but with three minutes remaining Argyle nearly set the stage for the most almighty of endings. Brunt pulled wide after Argyle returned a half-cleared corner, then Bobby Reid tried to take the on the world - and nearly managed it. In the end, he dragged a shot wide having run at least forty yards with the ball.
There were other flashes towards the end, including an Alessandra bouncing cross that Lynch acrobatically turned over, but it was not enough.
Thank you for your company throughout the season, and best of luck to Wycombe in the final.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-3-3): 21 Alex Lynch; 8 Marcus Bean, 26 Alfie Mawson, 6 Aaron Pierre, 3 Joe Jacobson; 11 Sam Wood, 7 Sam Saunders, 4 Nico Yennaris; 9 Paul Hayes (capt, 19 Matt McClure 85), 25 Aaron Holloway, 31 Hogan Ephraim (23 Fred Onyedinma 86). Substitutes (not used): 10 Matt Bloomfield, 15 Peter Murphy, 16 Tommy Fletcher, 20 Charlie Horlock (gk), 22 Max Kretzschmar.
Argyle (3-5-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 5 Curtis Nelson (capt), 16 Carl McHugh (28 Ryan Brunt half-time), 29 Peter Hartley; 2 Kelvin Mellor, 19 Anthony O'Connor, 17 Bobby Reid, 11 Dominic Blizzard (8 Jason Banton half-time), 13 Tareiq Holmes-Dennis; 7 Lewis Alessandra, 9 Reuben Reid (27 Zak Ansah half-time). Substitutes (not used): 1 James Bittner (gk), 3 Ben Purrington, 14 Tyler Harvey, 20 Gethin Jones.
Booked: O'Connor 31, Mellor 79, Hartley 90
Referee: Nigel Miller.
Attendance: 7,750 (2,028 away).