If the Wycombe players are as motivated in playing as I am in writing this article then it would explain last weekend`s debacle at Brentford. One debacle or “unacceptable performance” as manager Gary Waddock described it is bad enough in a single campaign, but I am not sure whether we`re on our fifth, sixth or seventh unacceptable performance so far this season. Suffice it to say, whilst the league table and remaining fixtures still bring hope to many, I am now left completely bereft.
Those looking for something to cling on to will be hoping for three points at home to Tranmere Rovers this weekend but in four previous meetings we have won just once and lost the other three. The first meeting wasn`t until April Fools Day / Easter Monday 2002 when a once promising campaign had hit an iceberg and the good ship Chairboy was sinking fast.
‘Unleash the fury’
Manager Lawrie Sanchez gave striker Richard Harris his full debut alongside Gavin Holligan and Andy Rammell in a three-man attack whilst Steve Brown and Sean Devine had to settle for a place on the bench. The visitors made the better start and Martin Taylor had to save from Stuart Barlow before defender Mark Rogers made a brave block to deny Andy Parkinson.
Just before the half-hour mark Harris was fouled on the right and Darren Currie swung in a free-kick which Rammell headed powerfully into the corner. Taylor pulled off saves from both Sean Thornton and Alan Navarro before Harris had to be substituted with a hamstring and he was replaced by Brownie.
Five minutes after the break Rammell was brought down by defender Clint Hill in the box and after consulting with his linesman referee Paul Alcock awarded a penalty. Brownie coolly stepped to beat goalkeeper John Achterberg and give the Blues a 2-0 lead. Striker Simon Haworth headed home from Gareth Roberts` left-wing cross to halve the deficit shortly afterwards.
Both goalkeepers pulled off fine saves late-on with Achterberg keeping out a close-range effort from Dannie Bulman after he`d been teed-up by Rammell and within sixty seconds Taylor somehow blocked striker Iain Hume`s effort from point-blank range and ensured it would be the home side who claimed all three points. Achterberg lost it at the final whistle and was sent-off for sending a volley of abuse in Alcock`s direction.
The two side locked horns again almost nine months later in a miserable November which had seen Sanchez slip into full-on wibble mode. The team was languishing towards the bottom of the second division (third tier) and they predictably folded against a Rovers side that had won just once away all season. Sean Devine was recalled to the starting line-up after an unexplained absence the previous week.
Brownie was called upon to deputise for Chris Vinnicombe at left-back as was Mark Rogers for the suspended Danny Senda at right-back. Martin Taylor replaced Frank Talia between the sticks whilst Keith Ryan, Darren Currie and Lewis Cook were chosen ahead of Dannie Bulman, Craig Faulconbridge and Richard Harris, all of whom dropped to the bench.
The Wanderers enjoyed much the better of the first half and almost went in front when Cook headed inches wide from Currie`s neat cross. Five minutes into the second half and Paul McCarthy saw his header crash back off the crossbar before things started to go pear-shaped. Stuart Barlow out-paced Andy Thomson before firing low past Taylor and four minutes later Rovers doubled their lead when Simon Haworth thumped home a free-kick from just outside the box.
Taylor was lucky not to concede a penalty when he appeared to pull down Haworth and within two minutes the Blues had pulled a goal back when Currie`s low cross was only cleared as far as Michael Simpson and he smashed the ball home. Thomson, Rammell and Devine all had chances to level in the final ten minutes but they went begging.
The visitors, decked out in a hideous purple change kit, wrapped up the points in injury-time when Barlow raced clear of the Wanderers back-line and lifted the ball over Taylor and into the net. It was to be Devine`s penultimate appearance at Adams Park. Following a brace in a 3-1 home win over Port Vale he was sold to Exeter City much to the dismay of the Chairboys faithful, prompting Chairman Ivor Beeks to say: “If he hadn`t scored those two goals it wouldn`t have created such a fuss.”
‘Relegation confirmed in comedy fashion’
I can still feel myself getting angry despite the events of the next meeting being almost eight years ago now. It was another Easter Monday clash at AP in April 2004 and Wycombe were condemned to only the second relegation in the clubs` history with a lamentable display that saw the visitors record a 2-1 win.
Manager Tony Adams named Lee Worgan in goal after the club were given special dispensation to sign him following an injury to regular goalkeeper Steve Williams. Dannie Bulman also returned to replace the injured Matt Bloomfield but instead of a witnessing a side desperate to avoid the drop the home fans were subject to a desperate first half performance.
From a simple throw-in Darren Currie and Chris Vinnicombe conspired to put striker Eugene Dadi clear on goal and he slotted the ball past Worgan and into the corner of the net. Achterberg made a routine stop from a Currie free-kick before Adams reacted by replacing Faulconbridge with the late Mark Philo. Worgan then had to make two fine saves to deny Gary Jones as the visitors continued to dominate.
On the stroke of half-time Rovers did double their lead when Dadi tapped home from Paul Hall`s pass. There was some kind of response after the break with Roger Johnson heading against a post and playing the last ten minutes as a third striker with the hosts now desperate. He did pull a goal back two minutes from time when he headed home Currie`s cross but it proved to be too little, too late.
To add to the sense of fiasco most supporters actually left Adams Park without realising their side had been relegated but due to the remaining fixtures there was no way back for the Blues. Adams didn`t mince his words after the game saying: ‘If I was a fan I would have been disgusted by that first half display, it was totally unacceptable. Tranmere were a team turning up to be beaten and we gave them a two goal head start.’
‘Get round the back’
The last meeting between the sides was almost two and half years ago now. On a cool Tuesday September evening Peter Taylor`s struggling side crashed to a 1-0 defeat to a Rovers` side managed by John Barnes. The Wanderers started well but conceded after just 16 minutes when striker Ian Thomas-Moore thumped a shot past goalkeeper Scott Shearer and into the far corner from six yards.
The home side should have at least been back on level terms before the break but missed a number of clear cut chances and a lacklustre second half saw the visitors hold on comfortably to their lead and leave the Blues with just one win from their first ten games. A 1-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient on the following Saturday proved to be the final straw for new owner Steve Hayes and Taylor was sacked the following week.
‘All that`s left are memories’