United were beaten 2-1 by in-form Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon at the Kassam Stadium. Leading at the break through a Danny Hylton penalty, the U's were beaten by two early second-half strikes from Gareth Ainsworth's side who moved top of Sky Bet League Two, with Hylton powering another last-minute penalty over the bar to leave the U's with nothing.
The opening exchanges were even stevens, although Alfie Mawson was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch in the tenth minute after swinging an elbow at Andy Whing after a challenge in midfield. With the biggest crowd of the season, there was a terrific atmosphere and the Yellow Army were almost rewarded for their support on 15 minutes when top-scorer Hylton powered through a weak challenge and tested visiting keeper Matt Ingram with a low shot.
At the other end Steven Craig chipped Wycombe's best effort over the bar on 18 minutes when well placed and Josh Scowen might have hit the target on 25 when left unattended near the penalty spot. However United started to raise the tempo and on 36 minutes were awarded a penalty as Hylton raced Joe Jacobson and was tripped on the right edge of the area. The striker picked himself up and duly deposited the ball beyond Ingram for his 12th goal of the season.
Wycombe, second at start of play, roared back at the U's as the second half began, Aaron Pierre's goal-bound header was somehow smuggled wide by a defender and Whing headed another dangerous cross away on 51. Whing then threw himself heroically in front of two well-struck efforts in the 53rd minute but there is only so many times you can make those blocks without the ball running the opposition's way and the second block found the ever-dangerous Paul Hayes who smashed the ball past the helpless Clarke from close range to make it 1-1.
Ten minutes later and Clarke was again left horribly exposed as Wanderers made it 2-1 with a well-worked second. Sam Wood did the damage down the left with a hanging cross which was perfect for Peter Murphy to power his header beyond Clarke from ten yards and turn the game on its head.
Wycombe were good value for that lead and were perhaps the first side to match United in terms of possession, but Michael Appleton's side stuck to their task and stayed in the game to create a tense final 15 minutes as they pushed for an equaliser. Sub James Roberts added energy against the side he started at but he couldn't beat Ingram with a cross after beating the back line, while the tireless Tyrone Barnett nodded a good chance over. Joe Riley blazed an 83rd-minute free kick over the top and then in the very last minute United had their chance.
Wood pushed O'Dowda as the ball looped to the back post and ref Robinson awarded a second penalty. This time Hylton went for power and the ball found the car park rather than the top corner.
A good game of football, great fight and determination from both sets of players and much to admire. Wycombe just have that vital component that United are lacking at the moment: consistency, but this was a game of fine margins and there is still a long way to go and plenty for both teams to play for.
Fifty/50 winning number 361390 wins 1166
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels
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