Exeter City 0, Wycombe Wanderers 1.
MAX Kretzschmar made it winning goals in back-to-back games for Wanderers with a jaw dropping strike to see off Exeter.
Fresh from netting the penalty that beat leaders Chesterfield on Saturday, the young midfielder scored what will unquestionably be Wanderers’ goal of the season as he lobbed home a cracker from fully 40 yards out.
After a long spell out it was a big call for Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth to bring him back into the fold, but he has fully justified his opportunity by securing six crucial points.
After weeks where supporters were starting to wonder where their side’s next win was going to come from, the League Two points column is looking more palatable for Wycombe.
This second victory in four days came in spite of Blues appearing to have lost a bit of momentum before kick off as they were forced into making no fewer than four changes.
Injury robbed Ainsworth of skipper Stuart Lewis and the man most likely to replace him, Gary Doherty, while Matt McClure was ill on the journey down to Devon. Paris Cowan-Hall and Reece Styche were partnered together in a new-look attack, with Anthony Jeffrey relegated to the bench.
The early signs weren’t promising as a weak header from Sam Parkin floated disappointingly over the bar from a great cross from Liam Sercombe after a move instigated by a fine pass from David Wheeler.
The pair combined to good effect again as City got some joy down the right flank early on as Wheeler played another intelligent ball into the area inside Sam Wood, but this time Sercombe got his angles horribly wrong and screwed his shot woefully off target.
Wanderers had looked lively in a couple of forays forward of their own, with the recalled Reece Styche nipping ahead of his marker but being unable to get enough on his shot to trouble rookie goalkeeper Christy Pym.
The soon-to-be Gibraltar international came even closer to opening the scoring as referee Michael Bull played a good advantage after a trip in the centre circle. Spotting Pym wondering off his line Styche attempted a chip from fully 50 yards, which dropped inches wide of the post to spare the Exeter goalkeeper’s blushes.
In an open game Matt Grimes seized on a misplaced pass before sending a low shot whistling towards goal, with Matt Ingram making an impressive low save to keep it out.
Play swung back in the visitor’s favour as Styche scampered clear down the left before crossing low for strike partner Cowan-Hall, whose fizzing drive was superbly turned away by the stretching Pym.
But there was nothing the home keeper could do as he was beaten in spectacular style moments later as a square ball was played to Kretzschmar’s feet, and with one swing of the boot the midfielder had nonchalantly lobbed the ball over Pym from fully 40 yards to put Wanderers into the lead.
Sercombe almost brought them level in similarly skilful fashion as he drilled a 20 yard free-kick past the wall but the wrong side of the post, before Grimes nodded over as Wanderers struggled to clear their lines.
If Pym felt embarrassed about his concession of the first goal he would have been doubly so had his next involvement with Kretzschmar resulted in a goal. The youngster came charging out of his area but missed the ball completely and presented it to Kretzschmar, and only some desperate last ditch defending from the hosts eventually managed to stop Cowan-Hall or Nick Arnold from firing in a telling effort.
Blues were deservedly in front at the break but Exeter missed a golden opportunity to level in first half stoppage time, as Scot Bennett somehow headed Craig Woodman’s corner over the bar from three yards.
There was no let-up from a high intensity game after the break as Josh Scowen’s shot from the edge of the box clattered to safety off a defender, before Wheeler was stopped by a combination of Ingram and Wood as he was sent bursting clear from a raking crossfield ball out of defence from Woodman.
That proved Wheeler’s last act as he was substituted ten minutes into the second half, to the bemusement of the home fans. Striker John O’Flynn replaced him, with Grecians boss Paul Tisdale electing to replace Parkin with youngster Tom Nichols at the same time as he reshuffled his forward line.
It had not been a happy evening for Parkin against one of his former sides but in truth he had been left starved of support from his side’s midfield and all too often the solid Wanderers defence were able to cope with his presence all too easily.
A Styche shot deflected off Matt Bloomfield and into the path of Arnold, but he was unable to keep his shot down and scooped it over the bar.
Exeter upped the ante as Blues had to survive a succession of corners as Richards had an effort deflected wide and Ingram earned his corn to produce an outstanding double save to keep out Bennett and an offside Sercombe.
With the pressure mounting Wanderers needed the safety net of a second goal and substitute Steven Craig should have notched it, heading a perfect Kretzschmar centre wide of the target from six yards out.
The Scotsman came even closer to a goal as the gaffe-prone Pym dropped Arnold’s cross against him, with Jordan Moore-Taylor somehow managing to scramble back and hook the ball right off the goalline.
The hosts were continuing to do more of the attacking but that played into Wanderers’ hands as they were able to pick them off on the break, with Scowen sliding Kretzschmar beyond the last man with a perfectly weighted pass. Kretzschmar couldn’t take the gift though, rolling the ball the wrong side of the post as he failed to add to his tally.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Stewart, Johnson, Wood, Arnold, Scowen, Bloomfield, Kretzschmar, Cowan-Hall (sub Jeffrey), Styche (sub Craig). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Kuffour, Kewley-Graham, Morgan.
Attendance: 2,540 (102 from Wycombe)