Wycombe 1 Argyle 1 - ReportWycombe 1
by Rob McNichol
ONE point each, one half each, one game closer.
Argyle and Wycombe shared the points at Adams Park, which each side dominating a half and scoring within it, but neither able to do enough to see the other off. Wycombe had the best of the first period, not allowing Argyle to play their game, and deservedly leading into the break via a Myles Weston goal.
In the second half, it was the reverse, as Argyle roared into life, took the game to Wycombe, and leveled through substitute Nathan Blissett. As the game concluded, it was the Pilgrims doing all the pressing, but just could not quite get the killer goal.
Just as important were actions elsewhere. Leaders Doncaster won, as did third placed Portsmouth, but of the three most prominent of the pelaton, Stevenage lost at Blackpool, while Carlisle and Luton could not be split, drawing 0-0 at Brunton Park. The chasing park now have one game fewer to drag Argyle - and others - back to them.
Adams Park was a fitting venue for Derek Adams' 100th game in charge of Argyle. Not only was its title appearing to celebrate the Argyle manager's surname, but it was also the venue of his predecessor, John Sheridan's, final match. The opposition had provided a couple of feisty encounters, even post play-off drama, too, so the stage was set for something memorable.
Argyle were without Ryan Taylor and Gary Sawyer, both injured in Saturday's 2-0 win at Mansfield Town. Their absence gave long term absentees Gary Miller and Jimmy Spencer to return to the starting line-up. Miller had made a cameo appearance at Mansfield, but had not started a game since being taken off with an ankle injury at Anfield on January 8. Spencer had been seen coming off the bench in the previous six games, but not in the 11 since November 12, at Crewe, following which a training ground mishap which led to a broken ankle.
Matty Kennedy and Antoni Sarcevic also returned, from shorter term injuries, which saw them miss the two and one games respectively. Jake Jervis was also recalled, with Yann Songo'o, Jordan Slew and Ryan Donaldson all taking spots on the bench.
Play-offs aside, Argyle's recent record at Adams Park has been excellent, but the three league wins in the last three season have all seen Argyle go in front and not allow the home side to dictate the game to the pace they prefer. On this occasion, it was Wycombe who started the brightest, and made early pressure count.
Adebayo Akinfenwa, a scorer in his last three games against the Pilgrims, tried to lob Luke McCormick on seven minutes, but pushed his effort wide. Three minutes later, Luke O'Nien got an effort on target from a wide angle that McCormick kicked away well.
The breakthrough soon came, though, with right-back Michael Harriman advancing down his flank and crossing deep to the far post, where Myles Weston was waiting. The Wycombe wide-man controlled his effort well, smashing it under McCormick to give Wanderers the lead. It was his second goal of the season - his first had come at Home Park, on Boxing Day, when he scored Wycombe's final equaliser in a 3-3 draw.
Argyle had been outplayed until the goal, but brought themselves back into it as time progressed. Their first real effort, following a collection of set-pieces that Wycombe dealt with, came when Spencer was the architect of his own chance. His sublime first touch allowed him to play the ball wide to Kennedy, who found Graham Carey. A flick through a gap found Spencer in space, from which his shot on goal was saved by Jamal Blackman. The rebound fell to Jervis, whose follow-up effort was deflected wide.
The Greens - in green on this occasion - had never truly hit their straps, though. As the half closed out, it was Wycombe threatening to get a second, rather than the visitors looking like leveling. Akinfenwa put the ball just wide, and although his strength to hold off two markers was admirable, the 'shot' was really a miscontrol. The fact that it was very close, though, gave Pilgrims cause for discomfort, as did McCormick catching Weston's skewed cross that was heading for the far post.
Within 90 seconds of the break, Argyle had an effort on target. A familiar Kennedy run inside looked to have been halted unfairly, but although the referee did not give a free-kick, the ball did fall to Jervis, who made Blackman work a little.
Playing towards the Green Army, Argyle seemed to perk up. It took Wycombe players making some important headed interventions from corners from Carey and other associated return balls in to hold Argyle off. That said, Wycombe then broke, and Dominic Gape really ought to have made more of the space afforded to him, as Argyle's defence decided to live up to Gape's own name. His header, though, was straight at McCormick.
Argyle were soon at it again, though, with Aaron Pierre's superb header the only thing in the way of Carey's terrific driven cross. Spencer then did terrifically well to wriggle away from a clutch of wild tackles, but could only shoot over from 20 yards when finally escaping the attention.
Spencer, who started the game reasonably and got better and better throughout, sent O'Nien for a wicked dummy, and the former could only haul him back. O'Nien went into the book, while Carey went into the box, flicking in a glorious free-kick that was begging to be turned home.
Adams sent on Nathan Blissett for Sarcevic with 20 minutes to go, and it paid instant dividends. His introduction stirred a slight reshuffle, with Blissett entering onto the left flank, allowing Kennedy to play just off of Spencer. Immediately Kennedy floated into space, exchanged passes, and burst down the left, winning a corner.
Jervis' delivery picked out Blissett, who looped a header over a stranded Blackman. Argyle had their equaliser, and on their second half display it was fully deserved.
Wycombe made a change at the back, presumably enforced because of an injury to Max Muller, who anything but a cheeky chappie as he came off. His replacement, Will de Havilland, nearly repeated the Blissett trick. De Havilland's first touch, having come forward for a free-kick, was a backheel that McCormick quickly fell on top of.
Adams' next gambit was to bring on Songo'o for Kennedy, shoring up the midfield, and giving Carey more license to get forward and pull strings.
Meanwhile, Marcus Bean was pulling his groin. He limped to the sideline, temporarily bringing Wycombe down to ten men. Having made all three substitutions, Wanderers we forced to asked their experienced midfielder to soldier on.
In the end, Argyle just could not conjure a winner, despite another flurry of late set-pieces, which a visibly tiring Wycombe just about got away.
Nine to go. See you on Saturday.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-3-3): 27 Jamal Blackman; 16 Michael Harriman, 21 Max Muller (23 Will de Havilland 76), 6 Aaron Pierre, 3 Joe Jacobson (capt); 8 Marcus Bean, 17 Luke O'Nien, 25 Dominic Gape; 15 Dayle Southwell (12 Paris Cowan-Hall 54), 20 Adebayo Akinfenwa, 19 Myles Weston (29 Sam Saunders 86). Substitutes (not used): 2 Sido Jombati, 11 Sam Wood, 13 Barry Richardson, 26 Alex Jakubiak.
Booked: O'Nien 66, Jacobson 85.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 2 Gary Miller, 31 Jakub Sokolik, 15 Sonny Bradley, 8 Oscar Threlkeld; 7 Antoni Sarcevic (13 Nathan Blissett 71) 24 David Fox, 20 Graham Carey; 14 Jake Jervis, 9 Jimmy Spencer (8 Jordan Slew 89) 16 Matty Kennedy (4 Yann Songo'o 83. Substitutes (not used): 5 Nauris Bulvitis, 11 Ryan Donaldson, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 27 Craig Tanner.
Booked: Sarcevic 37.
Referee: Charles Breakspear.
Attendance: 3,638 (652 away).