Wycombe Wanderers first season in the Football League had continued the magical rollercoaster ride began by Martin O`Neill back in 1990. The Blues were in fourth place in the Third Division and went into the return fixture against rivals Colchester United at Layer Road looking for revenge after losing 5-2 at Adams Park the previous September. The U`s were languishing in the lower reaches of the league whilst the Chairboys were in pursuit of promotion. Before the game O`Neill explained: ‘There is a big deal of rivalry between us. Colchester would be easy to beat in normal circumstances. But there never seem to be normal circumstances when we play them.’
Recent signing Nicky Reid continued in the middle of the park after making his debut the previous week in the 2-1 win over Bury at Adams Park. He had been brought in from West Bromwich Albion and came in to replace the suspended Steve Brown.
Colchester United included future Wycombe goalkeeper John Cheesewright between the sticks and assistant manager Pete Cawley in defence. They also fielded a midfielder called Steve Brown in their side, but a different one, who wasn`t anywhere near as good.
The Chairboys lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Jason Cousins – Glyn Creaser – Matt Crossley – Simon Stapleton
Dave Carroll – Nicky Reid – Keith Ryan – Steve Guppy
Tim Langford – Simon Garner
Colchester United lined-up as follows: (4-4-2) John Cheesewright – Tim Allpress, Pete Cawley, Tony English, Christian Hyslop – Alan Dickens, Mark Kinsella, Steve Ball, Chris Fry – Grant Watts, Steve Brown
There were approx. 1,500 Wycombe fans in a crowd of 3,932 at Layer Road, their best attendance of the season. The game was played in a hostile atmosphere and this created a tense game which was exacerbated by the Chairboys taking control of the game from the start. Striker Tim Langford was almost gifted an opening goal after 11 minutes when John Cheesewright made a complete mess of his shot but grabbed the ball before it crossed the goal-line. Langford had two further chances during the first period but failed to hit the target with either effort. The two sides went into the half-time break level.
The second half saw the match continue in a similar vein and the U`s defence finally buckled after the Chairboys had put their hosts under a sustained spell of pressure. 58 minutes had been played when Langford played a one-two with strike-partner Simon Garner before being denied by Cheesewright who dived at the striker’s feet. The ball ran loose to Steve Guppy whose shot from 20 yards was pushed away by Cheesewright. Langford tried to feed the ball back to Guppy but it was cleared out to Simon Stapleton who raced between two home players to play a pass out to Dave Carroll on the right-hand corner of the penalty area. He laid the ball off to Garner who hit a right-footed shot low towards the bottom left-hand corner. Cheesewright dived low to make the save but he couldn`t hold onto the ball and Stapleton came racing to tap the ball gleefully into the net from four yards.
The goal came right in front of the packed Layer Road away end and the huge roar preceded wild celebrations amongst both supporters and players. The goal gave the Wanderers a cushion and they looked to counter whenever possible. Garner limped off a minute after the opening goal and he was replaced by Steve Thompson. O`Neill`s tactics worked and Guppy wasted two good chances to double the Chairboys` lead in the space of two minutes when he was first teed up by Carroll and then Thompson but sent both efforts over the bar.
Colchester created their best chance of the game with 78 minutes played. Pete Cawley`s right-wing cross was met by Steve Brown and his header was pushed around the post by Paul Hyde. David Titterton was brought on for Langford in the 81st minute and took an unfamiliar role in attack. The three points were sealed in the 89th minute when Nicky Reid played a delightful diagonal ball across to Guppy on the left side of the penalty area and he hit a first time volley across goal for Titterton who side-footed the ball into the net past Cheesewright. Whilst the Wanderers fans went potty in celebration the more magnanimous amongst the U`s support tried to escape from their Barside pen to congratulate the Wycombe support personally. There was then a brief spell of wrestling between supporters and stewards before referee Paul Alcock blew his whistle in the first minute of injury-time to ensure that revenge had been served. And how it sweet it tasted.