Fleetwood Town 1-4 Wycombe Wanderers: Joey Barton's men have it all to do in play-off semi-final after horror first leg
A horror first half, which saw Joey Barton’s men concede three and have a man sent off, put a huge dent in Fleetwood’s Championship dreams.
The Chairboys, who added a fourth in the second half, now head into Monday night’s return leg with a huge advantage.
Fleetwood eventually ended the game with nine men when Paddy Madden was shown a late red card, joining Lewie Coyle in heading for an early bath.
With it being 115 days since the two sides last did battle in League One, you could forgive them for being a little rusty - but that wasn’t to be the case at all.
In fact, three goals were scored inside the opening seven minutes, the opposite of what we’ve normally come to expect from cagey play-off encounters.
The away side were the first to draw blood, Nnamdi Ofoborh rifling home a well-struck effort after Matt Bloomfield’s cross ricocheted into the midfielder’s path 20 yards from goal.
Fleetwood, unbeaten in 12 prior to lockdown, wasted no time levelling matters, although it came with a large helping hand from the officials.
Referee Tony Harrington awarded Joey Barton’s men a fairly soft-looking penalty, with help from the linesman, after Lewis Gibson went down in the box under pressure from goalkeeper Ryan Allsop.
Ched Evans stepped up calmly to send former Seasider Allsop the wrong way.
The breathless action continued, the Chairboys restoring their lead in the most peculiar of circumstances.
Goalscoring left-back Joe Jacobson has something of a habit of scoring from set pieces but on this occasion he managed to catch out Alex Cairns direct from a corner, the Fleetwood keeper only managing to get a punch to his delivery - seeing it fly straight into the roof of the net.
Jacobson, scoring for the 11th time this season, threatened once again on 11 minutes, curling a 25-yard free-kick narrowly over Cairns’ crossbar.
Gareth Ainsworth’s men continued to look threatening in attack, Fred Onyedinma seeing a low effort deflect narrowly wide of Cairns’ near post.
After a brief lull, the game threatened to boil over towards the end of the half when Lewie Coyle was shown a straight red after giving away a needless penalty.
The defender was punished for flying over the ball and into Jacobson, leaving the Wycombe man in a heap on the floor.
Thankfully for Fleetwood Cairns was there to redeem himself, saving Jacobson’s effort superbly before coming to the rescue once again on the rebound.
A nightmare opening half for Fleetwood ended on a sour note when David Wheeler added a third for Wycombe in stoppage time, the winger volleying home after the hosts had failed to clear their lines.
With a two-goal lead and a man advantage, there was no need for Wycombe to go chasing the game.
Instead, Ainsworth’s men were happy to play patiently, happy to let Fleetwood become increasingly desperate.
The night went from bad to worse for Fleetwood, and Cairns in particular, when another mistake from the goalkeeper resulted in Wycombe’s fourth.
The shot stopper flapped at Allsop’s long punt into the Fleetwood box, subsequently colliding with Harry Souttar which handed Alex Samuel the simple task of steering home into the back of an empty net.
A fifth almost followed, Bloomfield and Samuel combining well to set Onyedinma free, only for the Wycombe man to see his low shot saved by Cairns.
Try as they might, Fleetwood were unable to find a way back into the game despite the best efforts of substitute Paddy Madden, who saw his low drilled effort well blocked.
Wes Burns, on his 150th appearance for the club, then flashed one just over despite there being better options in the Wycombe box.
More drama was to follow when Madden, the club’s top scorer who was surprisingly left on the bench, went sprawling in the Wycombe box under a challenge from Dion Charles.
But instead of awarding a penalty, the referee penalised the striker for a dive and flashed a yellow card in his direction.
A second yellow followed seconds later following Madden’s remonstrations with the referee.
With no side ever coming back from a three-goal first-leg deficit, Fleetwood’s men have a huge mountain to climb in Monday’s second leg.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Coyle, Connolly (Dempsey), Souttar, Gibson, Whelan, Coutts (Madden), Morris (Andrew), McKay (Saunders), Burns, Evans
Subs not used: Gilks, Hill, Southam-Hales, Biggins, Sowerby
Wycombe: Allsop, Jacobson, Gape, Stewart, Wheeler (Freeman), Bloomfield (Pattison), Grimmer, Charles, Onyedinma (Akinfenwa), Samuel (Kashket), Ofoborh (Thompson)
Subs not used: Stockdale, Phillips, Smyth, Parker