Match ends, Fleetwood Town 1, Wycombe Wanderers 4.
Fleetwood Town 1-4 Wycombe Wanderers: Gareth Ainsworth's side take control of play-off semi-final
Wycombe Wanderers comfortably beat nine-man Fleetwood Town in an extraordinary League One play-off semi-final which produced three goals in the first six minutes.
The frenetic opening stages saw Wycombe midfielder Nnamdi Ofoborh fire in the opener from distance after 75 seconds, Ched Evans level things from the penalty spot moments later and Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns flap Joe Jacobson's corner into his own net.
A breathtaking first half at Highbury Stadium also contained a missed Wanderers penalty after Fleetwood's Lewis Coyle was sent off for a reckless challenge on Jacobson before David Wheeler made it 3-1 at the break.
Cairns saved Jacobson's spot-kick midway through the first half but was at fault again after the break when he spilled a high ball into the path of Alex Samuel, who was left with a simple finish to extend the away side's advantage.
Fleetwood managed to keep the score at 4-1 as they closed out the final 30 minutes, but were reduced to nine men late on when Paddy Madden was shown two yellow cards for a dive followed by dissent.
Wycombe now seem all but certain to go through to play either Portsmouth or Oxford United in the final at Wembley on Monday, 13 July, with the second leg taking place at Adams Park on Monday.
Chance to make history
Wycombe were the main beneficiaries of the decision to curtail the League One season early last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gareth Ainsworth's side moved from eighth to third, knocking Peterborough out of the top six, as the final table was worked out using average points per game.
Barring an extraordinary turnaround in the second leg, the Buckinghamshire club will now have a chance to climb into the second tier of English football for the first time in their history.
Despite Wycombe's last match being on 29 February before all football was halted in mid-March, they showed little rustiness and dominated from start to finish - aided by Fleetwood mistakes.
The tone was set by 20-year-old Ofoborh with little more than a minute gone as he drove in first time from 20 yards.
Evans levelled things from the spot after Wanderers goalkeeper Ryan Allsop nudged over Lewis Gibson, although that soft penalty was as good as it got for Joey Barton's men.
Is the Fleetwood dream over?
Fleetwood were still plying their trade in England's ninth tier in 2005, but a remarkable rise saw them climb into League One less than a decade later.
However, their chances of stepping up into the Championship next season now appear to be over.
Costly errors, not only from goalkeeper Cairns, but Coyle's lunge at Jacobson in the box and Madden's foul language towards the assistant referee contributed to their demise.
In contrast, Wycombe were excellent on the ball and clinical in front of goal and have taken a huge stride towards the play-off final.
We've got to be careful - Ainsworth
Despite taking a three-goal advantage into Monday's return leg, Ainsworth urged his Wycombe side not to be complacent.
"Of course this is a great result here but we've got to be careful in the second leg," the 47-year-old said.
"It's only half-time in the tie and Fleetwood are a really good side. You could see that by the way they kept possession so well even when they'd gone down to 10 men.
"We've got to get it right again on Monday and we need to be performing to the same high levels. We have to show Fleetwood respect, though.
"We can't go into the second leg thinking this tie is over and we're going to Wembley."
Fleetwood boss Barton was confident they could win at Adams Park.
"We'll be ready on Monday night and we'll win at Wycombe," the former Manchester City midfielder said.
"I don't know whether it'll be by enough to get us to Wembley but we'll be giving it everything.
"They're going to be difficult to break down, but we'll go there with belief and confidence. We'll give it everything we've got there, and if we come up short, we come up short."
- 4ConnollyBooked at 45minsSubstituted forDempseyat 45'minutes
- 15CouttsSubstituted forMaddenat 65'minutesBooked at 84mins
- 2CoyleBooked at 33mins
- 11MorrisSubstituted forAndrewat 36'minutes
- 21McKaySubstituted forSaundersat 77'minutes
- 3JacobsonBooked at 30mins
- 28OfoborhSubstituted forThompsonat 87'minutes
- 7WheelerSubstituted forFreemanat 90'minutes
- 10BloomfieldSubstituted forPattisonat 80'minutes
- 23OnyedinmaSubstituted forAkinfenwaat 87'minutes
- 25SamuelSubstituted forKashketat 81'minutes
- Tony Harrington
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Fleetwood Town 1, Wycombe Wanderers 4.
Attempt saved. Adebayo Akinfenwa (Wycombe Wanderers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Nick Freeman with a cross.
Foul by Harvey Saunders (Fleetwood Town).
Dominic Gape (Wycombe Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Nick Freeman replaces David Wheeler.
Corner, Fleetwood Town. Conceded by Anthony Stewart.
Attempt saved. Alex Pattison (Wycombe Wanderers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Scott Kashket.
Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Curtis Thompson replaces Nnamdi Ofoborh.
Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Adebayo Akinfenwa replaces Fred Onyedinma.
Attempt missed. Fred Onyedinma (Wycombe Wanderers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Darius Charles with a headed pass.
Foul by Ched Evans (Fleetwood Town).
David Wheeler (Wycombe Wanderers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Second yellow card to Paddy Madden (Fleetwood Town).
Paddy Madden (Fleetwood Town) is shown the yellow card.
Paddy Madden (Fleetwood Town) has gone down, but the referee deems it simulation.
Offside, Wycombe Wanderers. Joe Jacobson tries a through ball, but Scott Kashket is caught offside.
Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Scott Kashket replaces Alex Samuel.
Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Alex Pattison replaces Matt Bloomfield.
Offside, Fleetwood Town. Danny Andrew tries a through ball, but Harvey Saunders is caught offside.