Wycombe Wanderers 0, Bradford City 3.
SWITCHING off in the first minute cost Wanderers dear as their winning run came to a shuddering end against Capital One Cup finalists Bradford.
Nathan Doyle struck with the fans still settling into their seats to set City on their way to a comfortable victory, sealed by a quickfire double late on by Will Atkinson and a second Doyle strike from the penalty spot.
Wanderers had more of the chances in the first half despite their early setback, but whatever was said at half time failed to register as they struggled to break down a resolute visiting defence.
While Bradford may well have Wembley on their minds they were winless in the league since Boxing Day, but they more than coped with the little that was thrown at them by Blues after the break as the home side failed to play with their usual zest.
The performance came out of nowhere for Wanderers, who had surged up the table after a run of nine wins from 13 games, and disaster struck for them with just 53 seconds on the clock. Garry Thompson’s burst down the right flank put Blues on the back foot and Wanderers could only put the ball out for a throw, which was flicked on for Doyle to rifle home.
Josh Scowen should have drawn Wanderers level moments later when, arriving at pace, he could only head over from inside the six yard box from Joel Grant’s pinpoint delivery, before Andrew Davies avoided the embarrassment of an own goal when his misdirected header at a corner flew into the midriff of relieved Bantams keeper Matt Duke.
A free kick from Dean Morgan curled narrowly the wrong side of the angle of post and bar before the same player had a shot blocked in an intense spell of Wycombe pressure.
It resulted in a Blues corner, which was headed agonisingly wide by young defender Anthony Stewart.
Kyel Reid tried to relieve the pressure with a twisting run that ended with his shot being deflected behind for a corner. The subsequent flag kick reached Thompson at the far post and Dave Winfield made a crucial block to prevent Blues from slipping even further behind.
Despite a pitch that had been under half a foot of snow 48 hours before kick off Wanderers were passing the ball around well and a crisp, patient build-up involving Scowen and Matt McClure created the space for Morgan but his wild shot was comfortably wide of the target.
Winfield headed wide from a corner before Scowen picked up a tenth booking of the season – and with it a two-game ban – for a foul as Blues went in at half time a goal down.
Chances didn’t come quite so readily after the break but Blues at least forced former Wanderers loanee Duke into a notable save as he turned away Sam Wood’s right footed shot after the winger broke clear from Scowen’s slipped pass.
City were desperately unlucky not to extend their lead when a fierce Thompson volley thumped against the crossbar and fell the right side of the line from a Wycombe perspective, before McClure flicked a header off target at the other end as Wanderers struggled to get going as a cohesive attacking unit.
Boss Gareth Ainsworth looked to change things as McClure was replaced by Bruno Andrade but the move failed to spark the Wanderers attack into life, as a Stuart Lewis long ranger drifted wide without worrying Duke.
Then two late goals wrapped things up for the Yorkshire side as the unmarked Atkinson smashed home from 15 yards after a great cross from the left picked him out, before substitute James Hanson was sent crashing to the ground by a combination of Winfield and Jordan Archer for a penalty that was powered home by Doyle.
And things got worse as substitute Andrade had to limp off injured, to be replaced himself by Jo Kuffour, and a late Duke save to foil Morgan denied Blues the consolation of so much as a goal.
Wanderers: Archer, Harriman, Stewart, Winfield, Dunne, Grant, Lewis, Scowen, Wood, Morgan, McClure (sub Andrade (sub Kuffour)). Substitutes not used: Harrison, Johnson, Ainsworth, Spring, McCoy.