Wycombe Wanderers overcame a feisty Chelmsford City side to reach the third round of the F.A. Cup for the first time in eight years with a 3-1 win at Adams Park. The visitors went into the tie with little to lose and played on the hosts’ nerves in the opening twenty minutes before the full-timers broke the deadlock when Scott Rendell headed home from close range. The goal gave the Chairboys control of the game and with the Clarets offering little threat the first half meandered towards the half-time break.
The second half was an entirely different story with “the magic of the cup” injected into the tie by an eccentric display from referee Mr Lewis. In a performance reminiscent of namesake Stephen`s most famous role as ‘Blakey’ from On The Buses he disallowed Stuart Beavon`s goal which came within ninety seconds of the re-start. Beavon clearly handled the ball in build-up but Mr Lewis obviously didn`t see the offence. Whilst he eventually made the right decision he did so only after initially giving the goal and then cracking under pressure from the vociferous protests of the Chelmsford players and consulting with his assistant.
The incident upped the ante and there were a number of physical challenges from both sides. It gave the visitors the impetus to push forward and they levelled on 59 minutes when Kevin Betsy was harshly adjudged to have fouled City`s chief wind-up merchant Dave Rainford. Chelmsford`s leading goalscorer Sam Higgins stepped up to smash the free-kick through the wall and past the unsighted Nikki Bull to set-up a chance of a cup shock.
Wycombe responded well and applied plenty of pressure with a series of corners. They re-took the lead in the 73rd minute when the visitors` defence failed to deal with a Betsy cross and Rendell smashed home from within the six-yard box. The Wanderers sealed their place in the third round draw with six minutes remaining when Beavon raced through the Chelmsford back-line to tuck the ball past goalkeeper James Pullen and seal a deserved 3-1 victory for the Blues.
The Chairboys lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Chris Westwood – Dave Winfield – Leon Johnson – Andy Sandell
Gareth Ainsworth – Stuart Lewis – Matt Bloomfield – Kevin Betsy
Stuart Beavon – Scott Rendell
The Chelmsford City line-up was: (4-5-1)
Ben Nunn – Mark Haines – Sami El-Abd – Ben Coker
Anthony Cook – Dave Rainford – Matthew Lock – John Martin – Ricky Modeste
The opening twenty minutes of the game at a chilly Adams Park was a cagey affair with the home side clearly looking nervous. Wycombe manager Gary Waddock made three changes to the side that were comprehensively beaten by Torquay United in midweek. Chris Westwood moved to right-back in place of Danny Foster and Leon Johnson came into the centre of defence. Stuart Lewis started ahead of Lewis Montrose in the centre of the park and Scott Rendell replaced Ben Strevens in attack.
Scott Rendell looked the man most likely for the Wanderers in the opening exchanges and he showed great control from Gareth Ainsworth`s pass but couldn`t hit the target with his shot on eight minutes. Three minutes later he again showed a good touch to take Chris Westwood`s pass but fired straight at James Pullen. The Conference South side had a couple of corners and Nikki Bull failed to collect a Ben Coker cross when he was put under pressure by Ricky Modeste.
Stuart Beavon fired wide after cutting in following an excellent cross-field ball from Ainsworth and then Matt Bloomfield gifted the visitors a chance when his square pass intended for Westwood was intercepted by Modeste but the winger could only fire his low shot wide of the post. With 22 minutes on the clock the home side broke the deadlock. Bloomfield did well to pick out Ainsworth from a corner and the cult hero hit a volley that was going wide until Scott Rendell got on the end to flick a header into the net.
The following half-a-dozen minutes saw the game develop into a battle. Ainsworth was booked for a very clumsy challenge on Modeste only for the Chelmsford man to make a similar tackle on Stuart Lewis but fail to receive any retribution from the man in black. Bloomfield then went in hard on Dave Rainford. Rendell met Betsy`s cross on the half hour but flashed his volley high into the 1,400 or so City fans in the Hillbottom Road end. Matthew Lock was the next man into the book for another heavy challenge with Dave Winfield on the receiving end.
With the number of challenges being made and the players on both sides starting to lose their footing on a slippery surface the first half drifted away and ended in uninspiring fashion. Coker received a cheer for hitting a clearance onto the roof of the Woodlands stand and on the stroke of half-time Chelmsford defender Mark Haines was very lucky to get away with what appeared to be an elbow on Rendell.
The second half started with controversy when a great move ended with Ainsworth crossing for Beavon who used his arm to control the ball before firing into the net from six yards. Referee Mr Lewis awarded the goal which predictably resulted in the Chelmsford players surrounding him and his assistant and their protests eventually succeeded when he disallowed the goal. Beavon was again showing his worth to the side with his immaculate control and ability to find space and provide an option in attack.
Having been given a reprieve, the non-league side snatched an equaliser in the 59th minute. Betsy appeared to have taken the ball when he tackled Rainford just outside the area but again the Chelmsford players’ exaggerated appeals were rewarded with a free-kick. Sam Higgins hit the free-kick straight at the defensive wall which failed to do its job and the ball whistled through a gap and into the net with the unsighted Bull rooted to the spot. Whilst the Wycombe goalkeeper and defence conducted the post-mortem the Chelmsford players and supporters enjoyed wild celebrations.
It was now a proper F.A. Cup tie and Bloomfield showed his tenacity to win a series of challenges before creating a chance for Ainsworth but his shot was blocked. Winfield then went in hard on Higgins and that saw both sets of players indulge in a case of handbags. Chelmsford defender Sam El-Abd raced down the pitch to get involved and both he and Winfield were shown yellow cards. Leon Johnson showed that he is still a little short of confidence with a clumsy clearance to concede a corner but the set-piece was cleared and Betsy raced away on a counter-attack which was only stopped when Rendell ran into an offside position.
Ainsworth fired a shot straight at Pullen before Rainford became the next man to be booked for a clumsy challenge on Betsy. A series of corners ended with Andy Sandell heading straight at Pullen. Anthony Cook went close to giving the Clarets the lead when he fired low across the face of goal and the ball flashed inches wide of the far post. A minute later the Blues went back in front. Betsy crossed from the left and with the visitors unable to clear, Rendell smashed the ball low past Pullen from six-yards.
Chelmsford made a double substitution but it made little difference as the home side pushed forward in search of a third goal. Rendell was inches away from providing a finishing touch to Betsy`s dangerous low cross before the winger saw his shot pushed around the post by Pullen. The tie was done and dusted in the 84th minute when Beavon looked to find Betsy who was standing in an offside position. Betsy stopped and made no attempt to play the ball and Beavon carried on his run, leaving Rainford trailing in his wake, to coolly tuck the ball past Pullen and make it 3-1.
Waddock made three changes in the final few minutes and injury-time was notable for a contested drop ball and another bizarre refereeing decision when Haines unceremoniously shoved Beavon over but play was allowed to continue. It couldn`t be said that Chelmsford weren`t competitive but at least they left McDonald`s windows alone.
The Wanderers will be very satisfied with their performance and they deservedly earned a place in the third round draw, which takes place at 6pm on Sunday 28th November, live on ITV.
Don’t get too excited, you know we`re going to get Hereford United or Lincoln City at home.
Attendance: 3,205 (Approx. 1,400 away fans)
1. Nikki BULL – 6
23. Chris WESTWOOD – 6
5. Dave WINFIELD – 6
6. Leon JOHNSON – 5
3. Andy SANDELL – 6
7. Gareth AINSWORTH – 6 (Sub – 90+5 mins: 30. Kadeem HARRIS N/A)
10. Matt BLOOMFIELD – 6
18. Stuart LEWIS – 6 (Sub – 90+1 mins: 17: Lewis MONTROSE N/A)
11. Kevin BETSY – 7
9. Scott RENDELL – 8* (Sub – 90 mins: 12. Ben STREVENS N/A)
20. Stuart BEAVON – 7
Standout opposition player – Goalkeeper James PULLEN