Wycombe Wanderers 1, Southend United 2.
WANDERERS were beaten for the third match in a row as they failed to hold on to a lead given to them by Dean Morgan’s early strike.
Confident and clinical in the first half, Wanderers looked on course for a routine win against a sluggish Southend side until an equalising goal finally sparked the Shrimpers into life.
Britt Assombalonga snatched the late winner that had looked unlikely early on as Wanderers put their visitors on the back foot.
It was something of a smash and grab raid by the Essex boys as Wanderers had deservedly led for much of the game before being pegged back.
Having climbed the table Blues now seem to be hitting something of a stumbling block as they lost their third match in succession despite a good performance.
Before their early goal Morgan, restored to the starting line-up after being rested last week, had already fired a warning shot when he latched onto a lofted past before dragging his effort from a narrow angle wide of the post with keeper Paul Smith scrambling.
And he made no mistake when Matt McClure held off his man following Sam Wood’s clever pass and laid the ball into Morgan’s path, with the striker rifling home his eighth goal of the season with a crisp finish for an early Wanderers lead.
Southend rallied and had the ball in the net when Barry Corr headed home a harshly-awarded free kick but a linesman’s flag came to Wanderers’ rescue as the effort was ruled out for offside.
It was a rare moment of panic for Blues fans though as their side bossed the game. A fine passing move involving Wood and Stuart Lewis resulted in Matt Spring, making his first start since New Year’s Day, having a fierce effort blocked by Ryan Leonard and Charles Dunne headed at Smith from Joel Grant’s inch perfect cross.
The Shrimpers clearly had Wembley on their minds after booking a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final slot in midweek and allowed Wanderers to dictate the play, with Dave Winfield going close to extending his side’s lead three times at corners as the visitors struggled to defend set pieces.
Watford loanee Assombalonga – who had earlier been denied a penalty – weaved his way down the right flank before cutting inside but having done all the hard work he made a total hash of his shot, which bobbled through to Jordan Archer.
Things got worse for Southend as their captain Chris Barker was taken off injured, to be replaced by former Wanderers loanee Anthony Straker.
Within minutes of his introduction the full back had switched off and had his pocket picked by Grant, but the winger failed to produce another wonderstrike to add to his collection as he scuffed wide at the end of a jinking 25 yard run.
Grant laid on an early second half chance for Morgan, with his fierce effort being blocked by Ryan Cresswell, and the striker saw another shot from the edge of the box balloon out of play.
Somewhat out of the blue the Shrimpers levelled. Cresswell’s thumping header from a Kevan Hurst corner looked to be going in but Corr made sure the ball crossed the line as he stabbed home from close range.
That shocked Wanderers into action again and McClure’s first time shot hit Luke Prosser in the face and was cleared, before Anthony Stewart couldn’t quite get on the of Spring’s free kick at the far post.
The goal also had a galvanising effect on Southend though and Straker’s thundering shot from long distance crashed against the crossbar and went over before Archer was forced into his first serious save of the game as he blocked Corr’s effort with his foot.
It was a good save, as was the one he produced moments later to deny the same player with a header as the visitors started to turn the screw.
Yet they had a massive let off as Grant and Morgan combined to carve open the Shrimpers’ defence but from a great position Wood hammered a golden opportunity wide of the post with just Smith to beat.
McClure had a header cleared off the line by Sean Clohessy before Southend broke quickly and took the lead. Hurst’s cushioned flick sent Assombalonga past his man before the youngster confidently fired home.
Wycombe’s top scorer McClure almost brought the scores level again a minute later as he acrobatically hooked a miscued shot goalwards but a stunning Smith save low down to his right foiled him.
Wanderers: Archer, Harriman, Stewart, Winfield, Dunne, Grant (sub Andrade), Lewis, Spring, Wood, Morgan (sub Kuffour), McClure. Substitutes not used: Harrison, Ainsworth, Oli, McCoy, Hause.