Many Chairboys will know our record against Rotherham United on their own patch. It`s Stockport-esque. We`ve never won there. Not once. In half-a-dozen previous visits to South Yorkshire, we`ve picked up three points with two goal-less stalemates and a 1-1 draw that was positively exciting in comparison. It`s a record that isn`t going to get many pulses racing and I doubt many Chairboys are losing sleep with giddy excitement at our impending trip to the windy and dusty Don Valley Stadium this weekend.
Your correspondent is going to take you back to a memorable meeting with the Millers back on Tuesday 1st October 1996. They were great days. Great days, indeed. We hadn`t won a league game all season, nine games played and just four points on the board which left us bottom of the Division Three table. I can hear you saying: “doesn`t sound that great to me?” Oh but it was and I shall get on with it and tell you why. Alan Smith had just been sacked as manager. Oh yes, many Wanderers fans can still remember exactly where they were when they heard the good news. And not only was it good news, but a blessed relief.
Youth team boss Neil Smillie was appointed caretaker manager and his first game in charge was at Adams Park against a Rotherham United side sat just a place above us in the table. He made one change to the starting line-up that were thrashed 6-3 at Peterborough United in Smith`s last game in charge. Miguel De Souza returned up front in place of QPR loan striker Michael Mahoney-Johnson. Striker John Williams returned to the subs bench.
The Chairboys` line-up was: (4-4-2)
Jason Cousins – Terry Evans – Paul McCarthy – Mickey Bell
Dave Carroll – Matt Lawrence – Steve Brown – David Farrell
Steve McGavin – Miguel De Souza
Rotherham United started as follows: (4-4-2)
Bradley Sandeman – Paul Hurst – Ian Breckin – Neil Richardson
Trevor Berry – James Dobbin – James Crawford – John McGlashan
Mark Druce – Andy Hayward
3,438 enthusiastic and cheerful supporters turned up at Adams Park on a cold but clear evening and their smiles were soon wiped off their faces. The first quarter of an hour did at least show some promise and the home side took the game to the visitors. David Farrell was inches away from connecting with Miguel De Souza`s low ball across the face of goal in the 5th minute before heading just over the bar from Dave Carroll`s right-wing cross three minutes later.
With 18 minutes on the clock Rotherham took the lead against the run of play when a neat move cut the Blues defence open and Bradley Sandeman pulled the ball back for Mark Druce to fire low past Brian Parkin and into the bottom right hand corner of the net. Wycombe suffered a further blow just past the half hour when Steve Brown had to come off injured and John Williams came on to replace him. Steve McGavin posed the greatest threat for the hosts and he had a shot blocked on the goal-line three minutes before half-time.
Rotherham immediately raced up the other end to double their advantage. It was Sandeman again who created the goal, his through-ball caught out Terry Evans who tumbled over and allowed Andy Hayward a free run on goal and he coolly sent Parkin the wrong way to find the net from the edge of the area. In first half injury time the Chairboys gave themselves a lifeline. De Souza`s low cross from the right was controlled by McGavin who was immediately tackled. The ball fell straight to Matt Lawrence and he hit a low shot across Steve Cherry and into bottom left hand corner of the net to make it 2-1 at half-time. It was his first goal for the club.
Wycombe came out at the start of the second half with the bit between their teeth and attacked the visitors` goal. Cherry had to pull off an excellent save to tip Paul McCarthy`s header away before Evans came even closer to an equaliser, seeing his header beat Cherry but crash back off the crossbar following a Carroll corner. Just as it seemed it might not be the Blues` evening they drew level. Cherry`s goal-kick was headed straight back by Carroll and McGavin raced in behind the Millers` defence, chested the ball past the goalkeeper before coolly slotting the ball into the net.
With 79 minutes played the Blues` took the lead for the first time. A chorus of “Come on you Blues” accompanied Carroll`s right-wing corner which found Lawrence on the left side of the area and his low shot wasn`t held by Cherry and McGavin made him pay by slamming the ball into the net from within the six yard box. The goal was greeted with wild celebrations from both players and supporters alike. McGavin thought he`d notched a hat-trick when he headed home four minutes later but his effort was chalked off for offside.
The Chairboys` sealed their first three points of the season with three minutes remaining. Carroll stole possession on the half-way line and ran at the Millers` defence. Just as it looked like we were in for another Jesus special, defender Ian Breckin got in a tackle only for the ball to run to John Williams and he smashed the ball past Cherry and into the net to make it 4-2. The Smith-era was over and it was celebrated in fine style. There were even cries of olè as the Wanderers passed the ball around as they saw the game out.
The win helped the Blues` climb off the bottom of the table above Rotherham and John Gregory was soon appointed and he completed the great escape to keep Wycombe in the third division for another season.