Wycombe Wanderers 0, Portsmouth 1.
A SOFT penalty was enough to give Portsmouth victory at Adams Park as Wanderers’ run without a win on their own turf stretched to ten matches.
Ryan Taylor kept his nerve to convert the spot kick early in the second half after Wes Fogden was adjudged to have been fouled in the area.
It looked a harsh decision and the goal looked to be doubly tough on a Wanderers side who had bossed the game until that point.
Before Taylor settled things, Blues’ fellow strugglers had been indebted to their goalkeeper Trevor Carson for pulling off a string of fine saves in the first half.
But after falling behind Wanderers rarely looked as if they were going to create the opening that would allow them back into the match, save for one moment of misfortune as Matt McClure hit the post and could only watch as the ball rolled along the line without being poked home.
They thought they had levelled in the second minute of stoppage time, only for a handball to be spotted in the build-up to Gary Doherty jabbing the ball in.
It was another frustrating night for Wanderers, who must now be wondering what they need to do to win a game having again made most of the positive running.
Persistent rain on top of an already sodden surface made for a slick pitch, and the conditions nearly worked to Matt McClure’s advantage as his low shot skidded off the turf and was shovelled around the post by stretching Pompey keeper Carson.
New signing Reece Styche, making his first appearance at Adams Park, showed a good touch to control Nick Arnold’s pass before making a beeline towards goal as the space opened up in front of him, but his shot when it came was always rising out of harm’s way.
Pompey responded as Fogden’s cross looped up into the air off Leon Johnson but Jake Jervis couldn’t get enough purchase on his header and Matt Ingram was able to clutch the ball, before Andy Barcham cut inside and had his shot blocked by a sliding Doherty challenge.
Saturday’s goalscorer Josh Scowen came close to making it two goals in two games but his header at a corner was turned away by the diving Carson.
McClure was out of luck twice in quick succession, flashing a header wide after the visiting defence struggled to clear their lines before having a near post shot well stopped by Carson.
The Portsmouth goalkeeper was proving a formidable barrier as Blues sought to end their winless run and his next stop surpassed anything he had previously produced as he plunged to his right to superbly block Styche’s shot.
A Stuart Lewis volley from McClure’s nod down sailed wide as Wanderers continued to have the upper hand, with a Jervis free kick into the wall and a long range thrash from Marcos Painter that flew well off target being all that Pompey could produce in response.
Yet against the overall run of the play the visitors went in front shortly after the break in controversial circumstances as Fogden took a tumble under a Doherty challenge and referee Charles Breakspear immediately pointed to the spot despite no appeals from the Portsmouth players.
Ingram, who saved a penalty at Fratton Park earlier in the season, tried the same mind tricks as he pointed to – and subsequently dived towards – his left but Taylor calmly slotted the ball home into the opposite corner.
Fogden then broke the offside trap and hared away down the flank, before Jervis stabbed his cross over the bar at the near post.
Wanderers responded as Carson got down well to clutch Scowen’s daisycutter from the edge of the box before the midfielder inadvertently stopped Johnson’s effort from going into the net after a fine cross by Sam Wood.
The best move of the game saw some fine one touch passing around the edge of the Wanderers area, which culminated in Barcham pulling his effort just the wrong side of the upright.
But Blues should have levelled moments later as another great delivery from Wood was met by McClure, whose header beat Carson but clipped the post – and none of the three Wanderers players in the immediate vicinity were able to nudge it over the line from a matter of inches to claim an equaliser.
Wycombe cranked up the pressure and although Portsmouth had to survive some hairy moments they were able to crowd out the Wanderers attack without being threatened by a shot, on target or otherwise.
That was until stoppage time, when Doherty thought he had levelled things up as he poked in when the ball broke to him, but the referee had spotted an infringement and disallowed it.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Doherty, Johnson, Mustoe, Arnold (sub Bloomfield), Lewis, Scowen, Wood (sub Jeffrey), McClure, Styche. Substitutes not used: Horlock, Hause, Stewart, Kretzschmar, Kuffour.