Mark Perrow reports from Adams Park
City bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the second round stage on a night when a game of two halves favoured the League Two hosts.
Underdogs Wycombe undoubtedly enjoyed the better of the opening period, with goals from Billy Knott and Matt Bloomfield just reward for their dominance.
But a double substitution at the interval turned the tide in City’s favour.
The Robins deservedly pulled one back through Brendan Moloney’s first goal for the club, but were unable to force an equaliser despite enjoying a huge chunk of second half possession.
Sean O’Driscoll handed a debut to 16-year-old midfielder Joe Morrell in a 4-3-3 formation, with Scott Wagstaff and Stephen McLaughlin flanking lone frontman Marlon Harewood.
Also making his first Robins appearance was defender Lewis Dunk, who partnered Aden Flint as one of six changes from the side held to a 1-1 draw at Port Vale on Saturday.
But it was the lowly hosts who took a surprise lead courtesy of a fine finish from Knott, who dispatched Bloomfield’s cutback high into the net with a first-time shot which flashed past Frank Fielding in the City goal from 15 yards.
Wycombe had a spring in their step and midfielder Knott, on loan from Sunderland, was at the heart of everything good about their play.
First the youngster flashed a shot over the crossbar from distance, before his low cross presented a gilt-edged chance for Anthony Stewart who struck his shot straight at Fielding from close range.
It was to be Knott’s invention that set up Wanderers’ second for Bloomfield, as his cute backheel deceived the City defence and found Bloomfield in space to drive a low shot inside the near post.
The Robins were struggling to cope with a Wycombe side whose performance belied that of a team languishing in the bottom half of the fourth tier.
Josh Scowen was next to have Fielding worried when his fierce 30-yarder just veered away from the keeper’s right-hand post, shortly after Scott Wagstaff’s deflected effort eluded the target at the other end.
City were gradually coming into the contest, with the midfield trio of Marlon Pack, Joe Bryan and Morrell looking to dictate the tempo of their play.
It was Bryan who produced the best effort of a first half to forget for O’Driscoll’s side with a curling right-footed shot that had to be pushed behind for a corner, before Aden Flint’s looping header needed tipping over.
However, the Chairboys were still a threat going forward, and winger Paris Cowan-Hall surged into the box and drew a good save from Fielding down to his right.
It would take a half-time double change for City to finally click into gear.
Unfortunately for Morrell, his debut would not last beyond the interval, while Bryan was also withdrawn as Bobby Reid and Sam Baldock entered the fray.
Straightaway there was more intent about the visitors. Reid surged to the byeline and put in a dangerous low cross hurriedly cleared for a corner, before Moloney popped up with a memorable strike to halve the deficit.
Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, the defender manoeuvred the ball on to his less fancied left foot and arrowed a shot into the net to give City more than half an hour to get back on level terms.
O’Driscoll threw on Emmanuel-Thomas in place of Harewood for the final quarter, re-establishing his familiar strike pairing, with City struggling to create the elusive chance to force a penalty shoot-out.
After hitting one shot high over the top, Emmanuel-Thomas was almost set free by McLaughlin’s diagonal pass only for two defenders to converge just at the point the forward looked like bearing down on goal.
Five added minutes added to the tension in the closing stages, but Wycombe saw the game out relatively comfortably to claim an unexpected scalp.