Fleetwood Town 0, Wycombe Wanderers 1.
BRUNO Andrade’s moment of class was all Wanderers needed as they pulled off an impressive win at high-flying Fleetwood.
The QPR loanee’s early goal, as he cut in off the wing before curling home, was enough to separate the sides as Blues won for the third time in a row under caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth.
A heroic defensive effort gave Wanderers their first clean sheet since April and brought an end to their four match losing streak away from home in League Two.
Last time Wycombe visited Highbury they were on the wrong end of a cup upset on one of the darkest days of last season – this time they look like they are building something big under their caretaker manager.
The Wanderers of old may have gone into this game thinking a point would be a great result, or an impressive losing display in the face of adversity would be acceptable.
That way of thinking clearly doesn’t sit well with Ainsworth, as his team battled and scrapped for every ball and stopped Fleetwood getting anywhere near their goal, with Andrade’s early goal sealing things in a classic away display.
It wasn’t pretty at times but this wasn’t a smash and grab raid by any means as Blues created more of the chances that were created, and prompted more questions as to whether Ainsworth has done enough to be handed the keys to the manager’s office on a full time basis.
What proved the decider came after just eight minutes. Stuart Lewis slipped the ball wide to Andrade, who teased full-back Alan Goodall before cutting in and unleashing a left footed shot that curled into the bottom corner past an unsighted Scott Davies.
Blues had struggled to get going in an untidy opening from both sides but the move leading to the goal was the first time they got the ball down the way Ainsworth wants them to, and they opened the Cod Army up to devastating effect.
Town may be flying high in the table but they couldn’t get within range of the visiting goal, as a desperate shot from well out by skipper Jamie McGuire that flew straight to Nikki Bull summed up their frustration.
Wanderers pressed them all over the field and stopped a side who had lost just once in ten games from playing.
Captain Gary Doherty led by example by throwing himself in the way of Damien Johnson’s cross to stop McGuire and David Ball from reaching it.
Fleetwood finally managed an opening as Goodall intercepted Josh Scowen’s pass before releasing Junior Brown, with the defender’s shot being deflected away off the hard-working Lewis.
Without Lewis’s intervention Brown’s shot may have been on target, but his next effort was skewed horribly wide and high of the target during a rare lapse in concentration from the Wanderers defence, as they left him unmarked on the corner of the box.
Dean Morgan then turned Mawene inside out but having worked his way past the defender he fired wide.
It was Andrade, who had replaced Ainsworth in the starting eleven since joining from QPR, who looked Blues’ most dangerous attacking threat and he picked out a sublime pass to free Kuffour and only an excellent reflex stop from Davies prevented him from opening his goalscoring account for Wanderers.
Now came the pretty football from Blues as Morgan fended off the attentions of Rob Edwards before turning and releasing Kuffour, whose cross-shot was inches away from being converted at the far post by a stretching Grant.
Wanderers’ defensive efforts led to Fleetwood hooking off their captain McGuire at half time, with battering ram centre forward Jon Parkin being sent on to try and unsettle the visiting backline.
But Blues had the first chance of the second half as Grant skipped away from Shaun Beeley before crossing for Morgan, whose first shot hit striker partner Kuffour before the rebound was blocked by a last ditch Mawene challenge.
The Cod Army made another change as Jamie Milligan replaced former international Johnson in midfield but again failed to lead to a swing in fortune as a flying Brown header was firmly off target.
Good work from Beeley then freed Ball in the penalty area but another last ditch block foiled him as his shot was deflected wide of the mark.
Chances were starting to become increasingly scarce as Kuffour was once more denied in front of goal by a sharp stop from Davies, before Milligan was unlucky as a spectacular free kick curled narrowly wide of the target from distance.
Morgan then took advantage of a slip to feed Andrade, who raced into the area before twice being denied by Davies as the keeper made an impressive double save from the winger to keep his side in the game.
The home keeper was starting to earn his corn as he denied Morgan with his feet as the Blues striker latched onto a lofted ball out of defence.
Fleetwood threw on another striker as the game entered the last quarter of an hour as former Colchester striker Steven Gillespie replaced Nicholson.
He almost made an instant impact as his first touch controlled a defensive header and his second despatched a lobbed shot towards goal that a beaten Bull was relieved to see cannon back into play off the top of the crossbar.
Even though Town now had four forwards on the pitch they couldn’t break Blues down as the visiting defenders threw themselves at everything to prevent an equaliser. The closest they came to levelling saw them foiled by a fine Bull save as he denied Milligan with his feet.
At times the defending was desperate but Morgan had another chance to put the tie to bed as he was denied by Davies, who was voted Fleetwood man of the match.
Wanderers held on for the win – and who knows, Ainsworth may now have held on to the manager’s job full time.
Wanderers: Bull, Foster, Doherty, Johnson, Dunne, Andrade, Lewis, Scowen, Grant (sub Spring), Kuffour, Morgan. Substitutes not used: Winfield, Ainsworth, Ingham, Stewart, Morias, Taylor.