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Watch: Mark Sykes scores for Oxford at Wembley in League One play-off final defeat to Wycombe

 

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Oxford United's Mark Sykes (centre) celebrates netting at Wembley.

Oxford United's Mark Sykes (centre) celebrates netting at Wembley.

PA

Oxford United's Mark Sykes (centre) celebrates netting at Wembley.

A goal from Northern Ireland midfielder Mark Sykes wasn't enough to prevent Oxford United falling to defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in the League One play-off final at Wembley.

The right-sided midfielder started against a Wycombe side that didn't include his international team-mate Paul Smyth in their match-day squad.

And the former Glenavon star marked what he had last week called a 'dream' match at Wembley with a goal.

Wycombe had led at half-time thanks to a goal from their trademark corner routine, as Man of the Match Anthony Stewart got on the end of a typically wicked Joe Jacobson set-piece.

Oxford, who were the fancied side before the game, hit back after the break through Sykes' second league goal for the club.

There may have been a slice of fortune as what looked like a cross drifted over Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop and into the top corner.

However, Sykes' goal was soon cancelled out when Oxford stopper Simon Eastwood clattered Fred Onyedinma, allowing Jacobson to tuck home the penalty.

Striker Matty Taylor and captain Robert Dickie had late opportunities to level for Oxford but both headed into Allsop's arms.

Watch Sykes' Wembley goal here:

Sykes was a constant thorn in Wycombe's side with his neat footwork, intelligent running and ability to influence the game from midfield.

Despite his side's failure to win promotion, he'll hope it isn't long before he can follow his former Oxford United team-mate Gavin Whyte into the Championship.

Before last week's semi-final win over Portsmouth, Sykes had told the Belfast Telegraph:

“A few weeks ago a memory came up on Facebook that five years ago I had written ‘Imagine being able to play at Wembley…' I would have been 17 then and I remember thinking that I could do it one day.”

Having spent most of their 126-year existence in the regional Isthmian League, next season will see Wycombe play in the second tier of English football for the first time.

The club were promoted to the Football League in 1993 and have since moved between the third and fourth tiers of English football.

They started this season being tipped once against for relegation to League Two but instead, manager Gareth Ainsworth has guided the club to the Championship.

During his season-long loan spell from QPR, former Linfield forward Paul Smyth played 19 league games for the club, but was an unused sub for both legs of the play-off semi-final.

"It's ridiculous. I can't believe what we've just done," said Jacobson (left). "To go back 11 months, first day of pre-season, nine players, favourites for relegation.

"Where we've got to now is ridiculous. It's stupid what we've done today. But that's us, that's Wycombe to a 'T'".

Boss Ainsworth, drenched in champagne after joyous celebrations with his players, paid tribute to his players.

"That was just amazing, you know," he said. "We can't afford the best footballing players, but heart and determination and that was a Wycombe performance.

Oxford: Eastwood, Long (Forde, 79 mins), Dickie, Moore, Ruffels, Henry (Agyei, 79 mins), Gorrin (Kelly, 46 mins), Brannagan, Sykes, Taylor, Browne (Woodburn, 89 mins). Unused subs: Stevens, Mousinho, Mackie, Hanson, Atkinson.

Wycombe: Allsop, Grimmer, Charles, Stewart, Jacobson, Bloomfield (Pattison, 46 mins), Gape, Nnamdi Ofoborh (Thompson, 63 mins), Wheeler, Samuel (Akinfenwa, 62 mins), Onyedinma (Freeman, 90 mins). Unused subs: Jombati, Kashket, Phillips, Parker, Stockdale.

Belfast Telegraph