Fred Onyedinma’s poacher’s effort earned bottom club Wycombe an unlikely 1-0 victory with 10 men against promotion-chasing Reading.
This was just the Chairboys’ fifth win of the season and moves them eight points away from safety in the Championship, following a match that featured a red card for Ryan Tafazolli and missed penalties for both sides.
Lucas Joao first failed from the spot for the Royals, who are still six points off the automatic promotion places, while Uche Ikpeazu’s fluff from 12 yards late on ultimately proved not to be costly for the hosts.
Belying their lowly position, Wycombe came out firing with Onyedinma having the first strike in anger when his effort on the turn from outside the box flew wide.
It took Reading 18 minutes for forge their first opportunity as Ovie Ejaria played a fine pass to send Andy Rinomhota through, but Wycombe goalkeeper David Stockdale came out to make a very good block.
The hosts then had a good chance from a free-kick but Jordan Obita’s effort lacked any power and was easily fielded by Rafael Cabral in the Reading goal.
Stockdale, who was making his first home start for the Chairboys, then excelled himself for a second time in the 33rd minute as he did superbly to tip a powerful, rising drive from Ejaria over the bar.
The 35-year-old’s heroics kept the game goalless at half-time and his team-mates took full advantage by taking the lead four minutes into the second half.
A sliced overhead kick by Josh Knight was kept alive by Anthony Stewart’s header at the back post and Onyedinma stooped to nod in from close range, with Rafael hesitant.
Reading huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser and came agonisingly close to finding one when Josh Laurent placed an effort just wide after being played in by Joao.
The Royals then had an even better chance to level after being awarded a penalty as Tafazolli, who was the last man, bundled over Rinomhota in the area and was promptly sent off.
However, Joao reprieved the now depleted hosts by sending his spot-kick against the top of the bar.
Not surprisingly, the Royals were now pressing hard and they were cursing their luck yet again when Tom Holmes’ header from Michael Olise’s corner was nodded off the line by David Wheeler.
Wycombe then blew a big chance to seal the points with five minutes left when Ikpeazu was bundled over in the box by Tom McIntyre, but the striker’s weak penalty was comfortably saved by Rafael.
Undeterred, Gareth Ainsworth’s side held on against the odds to keep their survival hopes just about alive.
What the managers said…
Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth: “Of course, you think it’s going to be tough now, playing with 10 men against a Championship side – a top-five Championship side, never mind anything else. It was important that I kept my head straight in thinking about what I wanted to do. We went to a five at the back so I could keep the three in midfield because I felt that was where they were very strong.
“That just left us with one up top on his own and I thought Uche (Ikpeazu) was fantastic. It was a real team effort – I’ve got (Adebayo) Akinfenwa, who’s not even in the squad and he’s shouting louder than anyone around and that, for me, is Wycombe. That’s what we are, we are together and whatever happens we’ll be coming out swinging together every single game. I can’t wait for Sunday (against Norwich) now.”
Reading’s Veljko Paunovic: “I think we had some good situations and a lot of opportunities, other than the penalty, but I think we have to also acknowledge our opponents for stopping us from scoring goals. On the other side, we also have to acknowledge we have to work at being sharp with our finishing.
“Football is very emotional – we had guys crying in the changing room after the game because of the disappointment. We don’t want to let them do that because we have to bounce back in the next game. We have 14 opportunities in front of us and the next one is the next game, very soon.”