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Blues ease through with Trophy win
Exeter City 0, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
MATT McClure and Anthony Stewart marked their returns to the starting line-up with goals as Wanderers progressed to the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Wycombe dominated throughout against a dreadful Exeter side but had to wait until late on when Stewart powered home a header to ease the nerves and ensure their passage to the second round.
McClure had fired Blues into a first half lead with a typically composed finish as Wanderers finally made the most of their dominance, having failed to take the numerous chances that came their way.
A much-changed team chased and harried for everything against a disinterested and dispirited Exeter team who looked a couple of yards off the pace in all departments.
The first Wanderers chance came in the opening minute as Nick Arnold curled wide from the edge of the box, and Wanderers appeared to be adopting a shoot on site policy early on as the recalled Stuart Lewis blazed off target from 25 yards.
It proved to be the shape of things to come as the Grecians looked toothless in attack and the reshuffled Wanderers defence were able to cope with the few crosses thrown at them without too many problems. From one ball into the box Kortney Hause headed clear and Jo Kuffour set off on a bulldozing run down the right flank.
Sam Wood and Max Kretzschmar, making his first-ever start for the club, then combined to set up an opening for Billy Knott, which the Sunderland loanee volleyed off target.
McClure – one of five men brought into the team after Saturday’s win over Southend – looped a header over from a Kretzschmar free kick and Marvin McCoy blazed wide as Wanderers created several chances without forcing keeper Artur Krysiak into making a serious save.
The Pole was finally woken up as McClure looked to catch him out with a fiercely struck effort from out wide after collecting a McCoy throw, with Krysiak relieved to bat it away to safety.
And it was McClure who finally made the pressure tell as he fired Wanderers in front on the half hour. Former Blue Tommy Doherty was caught dithering with the ball in midfield and had his pocket picked by Knott, who slid the ball through for the lurking McClure.
As soon as the Northern Ireland U21 collected the pass only one outcome ever looked likely and he made no mistake, confidently slotting the ball past Krysiak to give Wycombe the lead.
Exeter’s lack of tempo at times gave the game the feel of a pre season friendly and David Wheeler summed the first half up for them as he completely missed the ball attempting a shot on what felt like the first time the Devon club entered the visitors’ penalty area.
Yet they almost drew level undeservedly as star man Alan Gow’s dipping 25 yard shot drew an excellent fingertip save from the underworked Matt Ingram, who made another great stop from the corner that followed as Wheeler, lurking at the far post, guided a header towards the bottom corner.
The Devon side improved after the break but such was their ineptitude in the first half that was a case of damning them with faint praise, as their most creative attacking outlet Liam Sercombe sliced a shot over the bar early in the second half.
Several slide rule passes to play in Gow failed to come off, as the impressive Wood got back every time to block the striker off and win the ball back.
And Blues could have extended their lead as a driving Lewis run sent the Exeter defence backpedalling before Knott tried his luck with an angled drive, which took a deviation for a corner as it narrowly missed the target.
Sam Parkin flicked a header over the bar for Exeter in a rare opening for either side, but Wycombe were able to keep the home attack at arm’s length without having to break sweat.
The Grecians made all three substitutions in a bid to get back into the game but the closest they came to getting an equaliser was when Ingram comfortably parried away Sercombe’s free kick that curled round the wall.
And Blues wrapped things up with time running out as the home side failed to clear their lines from a corner and Wood slung the ball back into the box for Stewart to climb highest above the defence and power a header over Krysiak and into the net.
Substitutes Matt Bloomfield and Steven Craig almost combined in injury time as the midfielder robbed Matt Grimes and motored forward, with the Scotsman being just unable to tuck home the cross/shot.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy (sub Fletcher), Stewart, Hause, Wood, Arnold (sub Craig), Knott, Lewis, Kretzschmar (sub Bloomfield), Kuffour, McClure. Substitutes not used: Harrison, Morgan.
Attendance: 1,654 (57 from Wycombe)
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