Tag Archives: Football League

The fine margins of League Two

The up and down of form of Wycombe Wanderers is certainly a head scratcher this season. It was not that long ago at all when great records were falling. Best unbeaten run for over ten years, longest consecutive scoring run since the late eighties and somewhere along the line the Chairboys equalled their consecutive win tally too. Yet if the Blues succumb to a defeat against Accrington Stanley (if the weather permits the game to go ahead), it will equal the worst run of back to back defeats (six) in the Football League ever for Wycombe, a record set in April 2006.

What’s changed? This is the question that is raging around the stands and bars at Adams Park, social media and forums. Fatigue since the cup exploits against Tottenham Hotspur and Checkatrade Trophy run?  A gruelling sequence of six uninterrupted Tuesday night away games? Injuries to key players? Silly mistakes and missed chances? Key decisions going against Wycombe? It may well be a combination of all of these things. Perhaps a touch of bad luck too, with defeats against Colchester and Crawley coming from two world class strikes that certainly do not happen every week in League Two.

The wretched performance at Stevenage aside, all of the games lost have been tight affairs, with the fourth goal away at Exeter coming very late on with players committing themselves forwards to force an equaliser. Looking back a bit further to the winning run, these matches were all pretty tight too in the league with a couple of 2-0 wins being the most comfortable results in the sequence. This pretty much sums up League Two for me this season. Wycombe have certainly lost the winning habit of late and Gareth will have to rediscover it without the immediate help of Pierre, Stewart, Kashket and Hayes, all potential game changers who are currently injured. Here is what Gareth had to say to me on BBC3CR after the defeat at home to Crawley Town…

Off the field, it certainly has been a successful season for the Chairboys with the lucrative cup runs. However, the fans do not want to see a repeat to the end of last season which ended with a whimper and a mid table finish. The sticky patch that Wycombe currently find themselves in has seen them drop to eleventh in the table but still only four points off the play off positions. With thirty-nine points still to play for and twenty-four of those to be contested at Adams Park, all is still to play for… COYB!

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It’s magic, you know…

The magic moment that I’ve been patiently waiting for since the 1990s. I’d been predicting that this draw would happen to anyone who would listen to me over the last couple of months, and I admit that I’d imagined it actually taking place in the third round of the FA Cup. To see it pop out as the first two balls of the fourth round draw was surreal to say the least, and to think of some of the hugely unsavoury things that I’ve sung and shouted at Martin Keown down the years… You see, I’m one of those despicable people that support two football teams. Wycombe Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur.

I come from a long line of Tottenham fans, my Nan was born and bred a goal kick away from White Hart Lane, whilst my other Grandparents lived up the road in Edmonton. One of my early memories is playing football in the back garden there and being able to hear the crowds at Spurs, the perfect back drop to my attempts to plant the plastic football in the bottom corner of the washing line post that played the part of the goal. My Dad has told me all about his regular outings to the Lane to watch Bill Nicholson’s double winners and it was his love of the game that took me and my brother to our first ever live match in January 1987, Wycombe Wanderers v Bromley in the Isthmian League. We had moved to High Wycombe a couple of years before and I remember wandering up to Loakes Park, wondering why that part of town always smelt of chocolate. The game was a tempestuous affair which The Chairboys won easily, with Bromley having a player sent off. The sights, the smells and the swearing ensured that I was hooked, whilst watching Declan Link whip corners in was a thing of beauty to my young eyes.

The next few seasons really were a golden age for the beautiful game for me. Later that year, I got an early dose of galling disappointment when Spurs somehow lost to Coventry City in the FA Cup final, a superb diving header from Keith Houchen breaking my heart. I carried that disappointment around with me until January 1989, when I was delighted by lowly Sutton United unceremoniously dumping the Sky Blues out of the third round. This, coupled with Wimbledon winning the cup in 1988 guaranteed that I fully understood the magic of the greatest club competition in the world.

After the thrillingly brilliant Italia 90 World Cup, it was all about Gazza and I was taken to see Spurs play for the first time, an away game at Loftus Road where they drew 0-0 with QPR. On leaving High Wycombe that day, I’d been cruelly informed that Gascoigne was injured and wouldn’t be playing, so I sat in silence the whole way down the A40, already acutely aware that an afternoon of observing Steve Sedgley lumber around the midfield wasn’t going to be great. The joke was on me as Gazza shone in a tight game with the cauldron like atmosphere of Loftus Road ensuring that I’d extended my vocabulary too.

I was by now a complete football obsessive, getting my fix from televised games, Sports Night and Match Of The Day, whilst tracking the Wanderers in the pages of Midweek and The Bucks Free Press. Take it away Barry Davies…

“Is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is you know. OHHH I SAY…”  It’s still one of my favourite commentary moments ever. Whenever I hear it, I’m transported back home  dancing around the living room. Perfection.

I didn’t have to wait long to experience the FA Cup in the flesh either. Queuing up in the rain with my Dad outside the new home of The Chairboys to secure tickets for the second round clash against West Bromwich Albion. We were not to be disappointed… (WARNING – this video contains some awful ‘say what you see’ style punditry)

Next up, I got a paper round and some disposable income which was largely spent on season tickets to get me into Adams Park at every opportunity. Wycombe Wanderers became the focus for six wonderful years until I went to university in London and started to go and watch Tottenham and experience the dizzy heights of the Premier League.

2000/2001 really did set the bar high for FA Cup magic. Wycombe Wanderers and Tottenham both marching to the semi-finals, only to avoid each other and both get knocked out (yet more heartbreak!) The Chairboys run was simply magnificent though, and the fifth round replay against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park is one of the best games I have ever been to for pure drama. Over to you Alan Parry…

I wasn’t at Filbert Street as I had to work, so I listened to the game on the radio. I just couldn’t believe it when Roy Essandoh scored, mainly because I’d seen him make his debut for Wycombe the week before and I had decided that he made Trevor Aylott look like Roberto Baggio by comparison. A free agent, signed after the club put a plea out on teletext for a striker who wasn’t cup tied, he scored only one goal that season and it knocked high flying Premier League Leicester City out of the cup. Unbelievable.

Since then, there has been very little for me to speak of in terms of romance in the FA Cup. I remember getting up in the middle of the night in Beijing to watch Tottenham get beaten by Portsmouth, another semi-final defeat. Another low point was the then non league Fleetwood Town brushing Wycombe aside 2-0, despite having a man sent off in the first half. I was away in Albania and 5Live had the game as their main commentary match and I’ll never forget Mark Lawrenson summing up the performance.

“This is the worst display from a Football League side in the FA Cup that I have ever seen.” 

Ouch. The magic can go both ways.

Last season, Wycombe took Aston Villa to a replay before bowing out in the third round. This was a great achievement, but with Villa going through a horrendous season it lacked the sparkle of previous cup endeavours.

Since falling into commentating a few years ago, Wycombe Wanderers have provided me with a real rollercoaster ride to describe. From survival at Torquay to losing on penalties in the play off final at Wembley, I’ve loved every single minute of it. With White Hart Lane being demolished at the end of this season, I knew that the FA Cup with Wycombe  was my only realistic shot of being able to commentate on a game there. Somehow, I just knew it would happen.

Thirty years have passed since my first ever game at Loakes Park and I’m delighted that both my dad and brother will also be at White Hart Lane to see our two teams walk out side by side. I just I hope I can hold it together on the commentary…

gazbelieve

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Pirates On The Horizon

The Chairboy’s old friends Bristol Rovers are in town, complete with their new Jordanian owners. Both clubs have come a very long way since the climax of the 2013/14 season, and today meet in much healthier positions in the table. With only one point between the two sides and with Rovers on a three match winning streak against the Wanderers, it should be a tasty affair.

I spoke with Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth in the build up to the game

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I also had a chat with midfielder Sam Wood

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Full match commentary will be on Chairboys Player from 2.55pm, whilst build up, team news, reports and a post match interview with Gareth Ainsworth will be on BBC Three Counties across all their frequencies.

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A home from home

Well. Who would have thought a long trip to Plymouth would have resulted in a former Pilgrim scoring from a set piece to claim all three points against high flying Argyle? Even under a different manager, the same defensive frailties were still evident against the Chairboys, as the home side failed to deal with a poorly delivered early corner. And after an almighty scramble in the box, it was Gozie Ugwu who triumphantly rose from the mud to celebrate a much needed strike which he will hope can kick start a run of goals.

Before the game, I enjoyed a chat with a friend who is a season ticket holder at Home Park. As you could only expect from a football fan of a team riding high in the league, his glass was very much half empty. His main concerns were that Wycombe would press the Plymouth midfield high up the pitch and disrupt the flow of the game as in his opinion, that would be how to stop them from playing their game. How right he was!

Armed with an early lead to defend, the Chairboys slowed the pace of the game down at every opportunity and made it a real war of attrition, aided by the combination of a dreadful pitch and an immobile referee in Philip Gibbs. Even with the early loss of young goalkeeper Alex Lynch to injury, resulting in forty six year old coach Barry Richardson going in goal, Wycombe looked comfortable. The only scare for the visitors came near the end of the first half, after Reuben Reid escaped through on goal and appeared to be fouled by Jason McCarthy. Nothing was given however by a referee who struggled to keep a lid on this feisty affair. Shortly afterwards, the board went up to signal the amount of time to be added on to compensate for the Wycombe players receiving treatment. Five minutes!  The Argyle manager, Derek Adams, was furious at this and berated the fourth official to such an extent, Gibbs had to come over to placate the Scotsman. After a short conversation, the board was held aloft once more and proudly displayed nine minutes (a reverse Dolly Parton), although at least one of those extra minutes was used up by Gibbs to transport himself from the centre circle to the touchline and back.

The second half saw Argyle throw everything at Wycombe. I expected the introduction of the excellent Graham Carey at the start of the second half to change the game, but despite some early pressure, the visitors stood firm. Centre backs, McCarthy and Aaron Pierre were superb and in front of them, the returning defensive midfielder Marcus Bean was immense. As the Pilgrims committed more players forward, it was Wycombe who looked the more likely to score as the game came to an end, lighting the blue touch paper in the technical areas on the final whistle…

 

Click here to listen to Wycombe Wanderers manager, Gareth Ainsworth, talking to me on BBC Three Counties after the game.

And to read the post match thoughts of Plymouth Argyle manager, Derek Adams, click here.

The story of the day though was undoubtedly the Wycombe Wanderers debut of Barry Richardson. At the age of forty six, Richardson became the oldest player to represent the Chairboys in the Football League, beating Rob Lee by over six years. I caught up with Barry after the game…

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Cheery Os

After a lengthy hiatus, caused mainly by the day job and moving house twice, this blog is back to once again pollute the world wide web.

With Wembley heart ache banished by some excellent early results, hopes and expectations remain high in South Bucks. However, the upcoming run of fixtures, starting with a visit to top of the table Leyton Orient, will be the real litmus test on how Gareth Ainsworth’s small squad will fare this season. Injuries have come early this time around, but encouragingly, the results and performances seem to remain consistent. Even in defeat against an impressive Plymouth Argyle, The Chairboys performance was good and on another day they would have taken something from the game.

After a very bizarre season which ended in relegation from League One, Leyton Orient appear to have found some stability under the steady hand of Ian Hendon. They currently lead the way in League Two after winning their opening five games of the season and Gareth Ainsworth has described the game as ‘David vs Goliath’.

Here is my pre match interview with Gareth for BBC Three Counties…

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In fifteen competitive meetings between the two clubs, there has never been a draw. The Os are yet to concede a goal at home, whilst the Chairboys backline has not been breached on the road. What price a history making 0-0? (8-1 on Paddy Power). However, before you start mentally spending your winnings, it’s probably worth taking note that Orient have scored in the last eight league meetings against Wycombe. Betting eh? It’s a mugs game kids.

The main dangerman for Orient is the wide man Dean ‘Tiny’ Cox, who is playing in a more central position so far this season, but to great effect. Sean Clohessy getting forward from right back is providing most of the crosses, aimed towards the on song Jay Simpson, who plays the ‘little man’ to the ‘good touch for a big man’ Paul McCallum. Striker Ollie Palmer is pushing for a game and has already notched up two Football League goals against the Chairboys, all be it from a combined distance of eleven inches. They all count though, and Wycombe new boy, Gozie Ugwu will happily snap up a tap in to get himself up and running in the Quarters following an all action debut last Saturday.

A bit like my front room currently, this tie has nothing in it and is a tough one to call. If you are heading to East London tomorrow then have a safe journey. If you can’t make it then you can join us live on Chairboys Player, where myself and Will Vince will be providing full match commentary from 2.55pm

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Pre Morecambe

The last home league game of the campaign is upon us and whatever happens against Morecambe, Wycombe Wanderers are a million miles from the depths they reached at this stage last season against Bristol Rovers. It’s been a magnificent season and there is a great chance for someone to write themselves into Chairboys folklore in the last two games.

It will be a patched up team and losing Aaron Pierre is a massive blow at both ends of the pitch. A rock defensively and a constant thorn in the side of the opposition at attacking set pieces, Wycombe will need to dig deep against an awkward Shrimpers side who will be well organised by Jim Bentley.

I spoke with Gareth Ainsworth ahead of the game and it was this quote that jumped out at me…

“We need the fans to keep with us, keep chanting, keep the boys going.”

If you’re going to be at Adams Park, play your part!

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I also caught up with talismanic skipper Paul Hayes…

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If you can’t be at Adams Park today then tune into BBC Three Counties 98FM where there will be full match commentary from myself, Scotty and Geoff Doyle. The coverage will also be broadcast on Chairboys Player around the world as normal.

Get involved after the game and contact the BBC3CR Sports Show.

Twitter – @BBC3CR@bluntphil, @GeoffDoyle1 & Scotty
Text – Text ‘3CR’ and your message to 81333. Start your text with 3CR, then leave a space and continue your message as normal. Texts will be charged at the standard network rate.
Phone – 08459 455 555

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Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oxford United 3

In front of a bumper holiday crowd, Wycombe Wanderers were undone by an impressive performance by Oxford United. Gareth Ainsworth kept the same formation that he had effectively employed in the last five games, with only one personnel change in that run (McClure for Onyedinma vs Dagenham & Redbridge) it certainly is a settled side.

Credit must be extended to Michael Appleton for the manner in which Oxford attacked Wycombe in the first half as it was a game plan that was clearly designed to exploit the offensive set up of the home side. With the effectively rotund Patrick Hoban dropping deep to create the extra man in midfield, possession was soon switched to the flanks where Kemar Roofe and Danny Rose were able to get at the Wycombe full backs. It was the wide pair that did the damage in the first half, both setting up and scoring a goal each whilst the Chairboys struggled to find a footing in the game.

Wycombe looked a much better side after the break and they pulled a goal back on forty-eight minutes with Paul Hayes forcing the ball over the line after an impressive knock down from Alfie Mawson. A concerted period of possession followed for the home side but they did not really trouble Ryan Clarke in the visitors goal and it was Oxford who scored the next goal. Rose was the architect again, assisted by a back from the dead Hylton, and Roofe was left with a simple chance which he calmly slotted past Matt Ingram on the hour mark.

Gareth Ainsworth responded by making a double substitution with Aaron Holloway and Peter Murphy coming on in place of Matt Bloomfield and Sam Wood. Hogan Ephraim followed shortly afterwards in place of Sam Saunders and to the Wanderers credit, they ran themselves into the ground in their pursuit for a way back into the game. A glimmer of hope arrived on eighty-nine minutes when Holloway slid home Onyedinma’s cross but even though six minutes was allotted for injury time the equalizer never materialised.

For the post match thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth click here

So the eight game unbeaten run has come to an end. On the whole it has been a wonderfully entertaining period of the season with thirty-two goals (eighteen for and fourteen against) coming since the last defeat against Newport County. With the promotion target set and the fear of relegation banished, Gareth has set up the team to attack which is why the defence is more porous. The team deserve great credit for where they find themselves at this stage of the season. The only cloud in the sky currently is that Wycombe have only won once at home in seven attempts. Much has been made of the concrete state of the pitch and how it contributes to poor performances at Adams Park. The stats and away performances back this up and hopefully enough money is generated through the share scheme to invest in the pitch. Invest is the key word because if Wycombe can bring their away form to Adams Park on a regular basis then a significant rise in attendances will surely follow.

I will no doubt see some of you at Burton on Monday, have a safe journey up. If you are not making the trip then the game will be live on BBC Three Counties 98FM, 104.5FM and on Chairboys Player.

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My occasional partner in crime on the commentaries, Keith Scott, is cycling from London to Amsterdam to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. It’s a great cause and one close to Scotty’s heart so if you can, please sponsor him here

          

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