Wycombe Wanderers 2-3 Portsmouth
PORTSMOUTH survived a frenetic late spell of pressure from Wycombe to claim all three points at Adams Park with Brett Pitman scoring twice in the second half of a pulsating game.
Pitman, who lifted the Checkatrade Trophy last weekend, showed he was focused on making it a promotion and cup double with a cool finish within a minute of the restart and then an excellent free-kick on the hour mark, Jamal Lowe opening the scoring in the 18thminute.
Wycombe, in the midst of a relegation scrap, showed their fighting spirit after the break with Marcus Bean and substitute Scott Kashket on target, but Pompey held on in front of nearly 2,000 away supporters eager to keep the Wembley spirit going just that little bit longer.
The win was hard earned and with Barnsley losing at Burton and Sunderland scoring a late winner at Rochdale, the three points were even more vital.
Manager Kenny Jackett made two changes from the XI who started at Wembley – penalty hero Oli Hawkins in for Omar Bogle and Gareth Evans replacing Ronan Curtis.
A run of three draws and seven defeats in their last ten games has seen Wycombe fall from the fringes of the play-offs into the midst of a relegation battle, and Wembley hero Lowe ensured that Pompey weren’t going to make life any easier for their manager Gareth Ainsworth.
After seeing an early effort from distance fly over the bar Lowe took advantage of the Wycombe defence’s failure to effectively clear Evans’ free kick and then Matt Clarke’s ball back into the box to side foot home for his 15th of the season.
And Lowe could have added a second in first half stoppage time only to be denied by former Pompey keeper Ryan Allsop – the 26-year-old spending a less than memorable month at Fratton Park in 2016 – in first half stoppage time.
While clear-cut chances were in short supply, Portsmouth were in control for much of the first half where the vociferous Pompey fans were happy to extend the Wembley celebrations for another week.
Craig MacGillivray was a spectator for the opening half hour but was called into action twice late on in the opening half – the first a routine push around the post from a Jason McCarthy free-kick, the second a more impressive parry from a Paris Cowan-Hall piledriver.
There was a lengthy pause in proceedings late in the first half as Wycombe’s Matt Bloomfield received treatment and was then forced off with what appeared to be concussion.
Pompey looked like they had put the game to bed within 30 seconds of the restart as Pitman took advantage of a defensive error to score from the edge of the area for his tenth of the season.
Wycombe then produced their best spell of the game culminating in Bean scoring from close range in the 54thminute, despite Pompey players claiming for offside.
As the hosts pushed more and more men forward, they were at risk of a breakaway goal which duly arrived from Pitman on the hour. Evans earned the free-kick on the edge of the box with Pitman expertly curling an effort past the wall and Allsop in the home goal.
Even after going 3-1 down Wycombe were in no mood to accept defeat and hit back again through Kashket, an excellent strike into the top corner.
It was a nervy ending as the home side chased an equaliser but Jackett’s men held firm with MacGillivray commanding in goal as Pompey held on for all three points.
Wycombe Wanderers: Allsop; McCarthy, El-Abd, Stewart, Harriman; Bloomfield (Thompson 43mins), Bean (Akinfenwa 61), Gape; Cowan-Hall (Kashket 74), Samuel, Freeman. Subs (not used): Ma-Kalambay (gk), Jombati, Jacobsen, Owens.
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Evans (Curtis 84mins), Pitman (Walkes 81), Lowe; Hawkins. Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Haunstrup, Morris, Vaughan, Bogle.
Referee: John Busby