Wycombe Wanderers 3 Southend United 1
A year ago the Chairboys were relegated at Leyton Orient but the fans remained in place to noisily demonstrate their support for manager Gary Waddock. Today he repaid their faith by steering the club back to league-one at the first time of asking.
Waddock assembled a squad containing players with real character. Winners, who didn’t know when they were beaten, warriors, who put their bodies on the line, experienced men, who understood what it takes to succeed, and a sprinkling of talented youngsters hungry to learn their trade.
In the mould of their manager, the players are a likeable bunch, and their bond with the fans is the best we’ve seen at Wycombe for quite some time. Together, players and fans embarked on a 46 game journey last August, and despite a few pot-holes along the way, it ended in glory at Adams Park this afternoon.
In a performance typical of many this season, the Blues started slowly and went a goal down before fighting back to achieve the required result.
They looked nervous in the early exchanges and Nikki Bull had already tipped a Mohsni header over the bar when the Shrimpers took the lead after 15 minutes through Anthony Grant.
Knowing you have to score twice is a daunting prospect and the longer it goes on, the worse it gets, so it was a crucial turning point in the game when Wycombe equalised only five minutes later. Stuart Lewis unselfishly found Scott Donnelly in the box and the loanee slotted the ball home to an enormous roar from the crowd.
The goal settled Wycombe, and six minutes later they were in front when Danny Foster’s cross was knocked into the path of Ben Strevens and the striker pounced to poke it home from close range.
Southend keeper Glenn Morris did well to stop Donnelly making it 3-1 before half-time, and shortly after the break, only a goal-line clearance denied Stuart Lewis as the Blues searched for the comfort of a two-goal cushion.
The third goal arrived only eight minutes after the restart when Donnelly chased down a back-pass and his challenge caused the ball to break for Scott Rendell who calmly stroked it into the corner of the net.
There were other chances. Rendell will be disappointed not to have scored his 20th goal of the season when he failed to beat Morris from close range after Strevens unselfishly served him the ball on a plate. The Shrimpers’ keeper also made a fine diving save to deny Andy Sandell and charged off his line to thwart Kevin Betsy.
When the final whistle sounded, the best team had won. The Blues were promoted in a fashion that the crowd could be proud of, and the ensuing celebrations were a hundred times better than two years ago.
On a day like today everyone deserves credit, but special mentions go to Gareth Ainsworth who rolled back the years to lead by example, and Dave Winfield who was absolutely colossal at the back.
Wycombe Wanderers will be playing in League One next season. Amen.
Bull, Foster, Winfield, Johnson, Sandell, Ainsworth (Beavon 72), Lewis, Donnelly, Betsy, Strevens, Rendell (Pittman 90)