Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 Wycombe Wanderers (agg 1-2): Chairboys reach Wembley despite defeat

Gareth Ainsworth celebrates
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth ran down the touchline to celebrate on the final whistle

Wycombe Wanderers earned themselves a trip to Wembley despite losing at MK Dons in the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final.

Troy Parrott’s header gave the home side an ideal start as they looked to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit.

Chairboys keeper David Stockdale denied Scott Twine and Theo Corbeanu as the Dons continued to pour forward.

Joe Jacobson’s brilliant tackle denied Parrott a second and Wycombe hung on to progress to the final 2-1 on aggregate.

They will face Sunderland or Sheffield Wednesday – who play their second leg on Monday – in the final on 21 May.

The Dons, who finished third in the table to Wycombe’s sixth, have now reached the play-offs on five occasions and failed to progress to the final in any of them.

And they will wonder how they came to lose the tie after producing 29 goal attempts, with goalkeeper Jamie Cumming a virtual spectator at the other end for much of the game.

Dons boss Liam Manning made two changes, one of them enforced, with Corbeanu and Hiram Boateng replacing David Kasumu and Josh McEachran, who was sent off in the first leg at Adams Park.

Both were prominent in a first half they totally dominated after Harry Darling’s first-minute header clipped the top of the bar, with Corbeanu looking to take on left-back Jacobson at every opportunity.

Stockdale pushed away a near-post effort by the 19-year-old Canadian winger before Josh Scowen gave away two free-kicks just outside the Wycombe box, both of which 20-goal Scott Twine struck just wide.

The Dons were not to be denied, though, and went in front when Boateng’s angled ball picked out Parrott, who looped a header over the keeper and into the net.

Troy Parrott scores for MK Dons
Parrott’s goal was his 11th of the season for MK Dons since joining them on loan from Tottenham

Stockdale made a great save to push over another Twine dead-ball special before the home side’s only anxious moment of the first half, when Garath McCleary’s shot struck the hand of Dean Lewington – but the referee waved away penalty appeals.

Corbeanu was denied a second by the keeper’s feet and Parrott whizzed a dangerous ball across the face of goal as the Dons ended the half as impressively as they began it.

There was no change in momentum at the start of the second as Jacobson took the ball off Parrott’s boot as he shaped to shoot and Corbeanu cut in from the right to force another flying save from Stockdale.

Sam Vokes found himself in a one-on-one with Cumming at the other end, but was crowded out by the Dons keeper and the game continued to flow remorselessly towards the Wycombe goal.

Sub Connor Wickham headed wide from Kaine Kesler Hayden’s cross but the Chairboys defence, superbly marshalled by Anthony Stewart, kept their shape, refused to panic and threw bodies in the way when necessary.

And when Stockdale beat away a Parrott shot in the final minute of added time, the 2,000 visiting fans – in a crowd of 13,012 – could begin to celebrate the prospect of a return to Wembley, where their side won promotion to the Championship two years ago.

Wycombe fans
When Wycombe were in the Championship two seasons ago, fans were kept away because of coronavirus
Wycombe celebrate
Wycombe beat Oxford in the 2019-20 League One play-off final

‘Heroes is the right word’ – reaction

MK Dons head coach Liam Manning told BBC Three Counties Radio:

“It’s a tough one to take. When you look across the two legs, I thought we created more and better chances than them.

“We were outstanding tonight and it just comes down to whether you’ve got enough quality in and around the box, which we didn’t have.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the players, the bravery they showed, and for me they deserved more.

“Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve and you have to suck it up and come out tougher, harder and better at the other side. It hurts tonight, but let’s channel that frustration, that disappointment and emotion and become even better and kick on in the future.”

Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth told BBC Three Counties Radio:

“Heroes is the right word – we were sensational. We had a plan to try and do what we did to them at Wycombe, we didn’t think they’d change shape and they didn’t, apart from one minor thing which caused us a problem, with Corbeanu playing down the right and pinning Jacobson in.

“It upset some our rhythm going forward and when they scored, I felt Twine was getting so much on the ball in front of our back four, and that’s when we changed to what we call our deep press.

“I’ve done it many times – I think the last time was against Norwich in the Championship – and I reminded the boys that we will we will chuck our bodies on the line, we will block things and head things, and that’s the way we’re going to get to Wembley. And I couldn’t believe how well they did.

“MK have some fantastic players. They’ll go places without a doubt. We weren’t the better team tonight, but we had a defensive set-up that I’m proud of.”

Wycombe captain Joe Jacobson:

“We’ve put so much into this season. Two years ago people thought it was a fluke (when we reached Wembley) and we didn’t deserve it, but we proved everyone wrong.

“Now we want to go to Wembley and prove even more people wrong.

“We didn’t play great tonight – we dominated the first game – but they played really well, they were braver on the ball and at times we had to sit in and dig deep.

“We’ve got a team who can do it, we’ve done it plenty of times before, everyone is happy to run around, Sam Vokes our centre-forward was at right-back at times. He’s happy to run back and that’s what you’ve got to do if you want to play for Wycombe Wanderers.”


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