Blues earn themselves another bite at the cherry
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Crewe Alexandra 0
Wycombe climbed back to 3rd in the table after Scott Rendell scored twice during a frantic climax to the first-half that also saw keeper Nikki Bull save a Clayton Donaldson penalty.
Results elsewhere mean the Blues are now guaranteed a place in the play-offs. Automatic promotion is back in their own hands, but they face a tough trip to Bury next week, with the Shakers aiming for the title after beating Chesterfield 3-2 at the b2net to record their sixth victory in a row and move to within two points of the top.
Gary Waddock made one change to the side that drew at Torquay on Friday, reverting back to a 4-4-2 formation with Ben Strevens recalled to the attack at the expense of midfielder Matt Bloomfield.
Wycombe certainly looked a lot livelier than they did at Plainmoor and although Crewe were nowhere near as dangerous as the Gulls, it needed a strong performance under pressure to bounce back into the top three and that's exactly what the team delivered.
Prior to the mayhem that broke out as the first-half drew to a close, Wycombe's best efforts were a shot from Ainsworth that went wide, a back-post header from Strevens that flew over the bar, and a free-kick from Sandell that crept narrowly wide of the post.
Bull kept out a Shaun Miller effort at the other end, and the home side also survived an untidy goalmouth scramble from the ensuing corner.
The Blues looked the better side but had nothing to show for it until three minutes before half-time when Sandell flighted another free kick into the box and Rendell glanced the ball home to an enormous roar of relief from a jitttery home crowd.
Their celebrations were cut short when straight from the kick-off Danny Foster was adjudged to have fouled Miller in the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
The division's top-marksman Clayton Donaldson stepped up to face the division's best keeper Nikki Bull, and the Wycombe man came out on top with a superb save down to his right which elicited an even bigger cheer than the goal that had just preceded it.
The drama wasn't over yet though. In first-half stoppage time Ainsworth darted into the box and went down under a challenge that the referee deemed a foul. It looked equally as dodgy as Crewe's, but Rendell took full advantage and stepped up to calmly slot home his 9th penalty of the season to give the Blues a 2-0 lead moments after they could have been tied at 1-1.
It was the most excitement Adams Park has seen all season.
With the pressure off, Wycombe played some nice football in the second half but created little in the way of clear cut chances, and apart from an overhead kick from Strevens and a wild shot from Ainsworth, they didn't look like scoring until Lewis darted into the box and was thwarted by a Crewe handball.
It was another penalty, and Rendell was faced with a choice of whether to go the same way or switch sides. He opted to go the same way and Crewe keeper Rhys Taylor read his mind and made a fine save.
It was Rendell's tenth penalty of the season and the first one he's missed, but maybe it's a good thing to get it out of the way when it doesn't matter.
A decent performance and a great result could have been topped-off nicely when substitute Matt McClure raced clear, but with the crowd willing the youngster to bag his first professional goal, Taylor put a spanner in the works by anticipating the chip shot and making another fine save.
In summary, it was nice to see a high tempo for the full ninety-minutes, and if dropping out of the top-three on Friday has been a wake-up call, perhaps it might prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (7), Foster (6), Winfield (6), Johnson (7), Sandell (6), Ainsworth (6) (McCoy 63 (5)), Lewis (7), Donnelly (6) (Bloomfield 70 (5)), Betsy (6), Strevens (7), Rendell (7) (McClure n/a)).