Wycombe Wanderers v Crawley Town
Substitute Josh Payne scored a stunning late free kick as Reds returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 success at Adams Park.
Payne had been on the pitch for 13 minutes when he struck a brilliant right-footed set piece into the top left-hand corner off the underside of the bar in the 84th minute.
Crawley had come from behind to win their second successive away game. Adebayo Akinfenwa had put Wycombe ahead in the 15th minute but Joe McNerney levelled with a header from a corner five minutes before the break.
The second half was a scrappy affair lit up by a moment of quality from Payne which will give Reds plenty of confidence ahead of three home games in a week, starting against Exeter City at the Checkatrade Stadium on Tuesday.
Dermot Drummy had made two changes to the side beaten at home by Morecambe a week earlier. McNerney returned after injury and Andre Blackman came back in at left-back with Jordan Roberts (knee) missing and Lewis Young on the bench.
Neither side came into the contest in good form and that was reflected in a cagey first 15 minutes, although James Collins should have done better in the 12th minute but he glanced a free header from Dean Cox’s right-wing free kick wide of goal.
Glenn Morris tipped Sam Wood’s piledriver over at the other end but Wycombe took the lead from the resultant corner. Wood’s set-piece was knocked down by Max Muller and Akinfenwa back-heeled the loose ball into the bottom corner, his 151st career League goal.
Wycombe nearly scored again in their next attack when Morris and Mark Connolly got into a mix-up trying to deal with a routine ball down the middle and Paris Cowan-Hall lobbed the loose ball over an open goal from just outside the box.
Reds were forced into a change in the 20th minute when Lelan limped off and Young replaced him at right back but they went close to equalising in the 26th minute when home keeper Jamal Blackman blocked a volley from Collins after initially failing to claim Cox’s inswinging corner.
Reds threatened again when Wycombe failed to clear another Cox corner in the 33rd minute and Kaby Djalo’s low drive from just outside the box was a yard wide.
With a third of the contest gone it was clear that neither defence looked especially secure. As he always seems to be against Reds, Akinfenwa’s sheer size was a problem but the big striker showed a lovely touch to lay the ball off to Luke O’Nien who fired well over from the edge of the box.
Reds levelled five minutes before the break as they finally profited from a set piece. Collins chased down Blackman’s clearance and the ball appeared to come off the Crawley player but referee Ward gave a corner which Cox swung in from the left and McNerney got a decisive touch to his inswinger, although there was a suspicion it might have hit a Wycombe defender on its way past the keeper.
Cox was close to putting his side in front when his strike from 25 yards flew just wide as the visitors ended the first half on top.
Crawley had a strong breeze at their back in the second half and Blackman looked none too convincing when he came to punch away Cox’s inswinging free kick. O’Nien was injured in the melee that followed and needed treatment before continuing.
Wycombe went close in the 55th minute when Will De Havilland’s volley, after Reds had partially cleared Wood’s free kick, was met with a save of equal quality by Morris at full stretch to his right.
Connolly was booked for kicking the ball away moments after Josh Yorwerth had replaced Blackman. Payne then came on for Kaby Djalo with 19 minutes to go.
By this stage, the game had become very scrappy with free kicks galore and little pattern to the contest but from one of those free kicks Reds took an 84th-minute lead.
O’Nien was penalised for ending Young’s marauding run 23 yards out and Payne stepped up and curled it right-footed into the top left-hander corner with 6ft 8in goalkeeper Blackman well beaten.
It was the one moment of quality in a scrappy game and enough to earn Reds their second successive away win, duly celebrated with the visiting fans after seven minutes of stoppage time had been successfully negotiated.
Reds: Morris; Lelan (Young 20), Blackman (Yorwerth 68), McNerney, Connolly, Boldewijn, Djalo (Payne 71), Henderson, Cox, Smith, Collins. Unused subs: Mersin, Bawling, Clifford, Murphy.