Wycombe Win Promotion By a Whisker
Wycombe Wanderers were promoted to League One by the narrowest of margins this afternoon despite losing 2-1 at home to Notts County.
The Chairboys have a habit of doing things the hard way and today was no exception. Their long suffering supporters not only had to swallow the disappointment of an unexpected defeat, but also had to endure an agonising 5 minute wait after the final whistle before it was finally confirmed that they had snatched third place on goal difference from Bury.
It would have been great to clinch a place in League One with a win, or even a draw, in front of today's record crowd, but it doesn't really matter. Promotion is earned over nine long months, and after only 8 defeats in 46 league games, no-one can deny that Wycombe deserve to go up.
The disappointment of losing today may have dented the euphoria for some, but that feeling will pass and be replaced by the excitement and anticipation of a new challenge in a higher league next season.
It can be dangerous when you only need a draw and today's game went exactly the way many feared it might, with Wycombe at times looking nervous and showing far too much respect to the opposition.
Manager Peter Taylor made one change to the team that drew at Port Vale last Saturday, with Jon-Paul Pittman coming in for Matt Bloomfield.
The Chairboys lined up in a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation as follows:
Hunt McCracken Sinclair Woodman
Zebroski Sawyer(82) Doherty Holt Pittman(71)
Subs: Jones Oliver Phillips Bloomfield(82) Harrold(71)
The Wycombe manager had promised that his side would take the game to Notts County this afternoon and for the first ten minutes it looked like he might be right.
Cheered on by the biggest crowd ever to witness a league game at Adams Park, Wycombe started well, with players pushing high up the pitch as they searched for an early goal to settle everyone's nerves.
It wasn't to last though, and as we've seen so often this season, slowly but surely the Blues started to sit back and invite pressure onto themselves.
With Tommy Doherty and Gary Holt sitting just in front of the Wycombe back-four, Notts County were given plenty of space in which to play, and began to look more like the promotion contenders than the relegation strugglers.
The pressure almost paid off for the visitors after 20 minutes when a goalmouth scramble gave the home crowd a scare before Wycombe captain David McCracken saved the day with a last-ditch clearance off the line.
Last Saturday, Notts County fell victim to three long-range goals from Dagenham and today they obviously decided to adopt the same tactic themselves as a way of breaching Wycombe's notoriously well organised defence.
After half an hour, the shoot-on-sight policy paid off as the Magpies stunned the home crowd with the opening goal.
When County's John Thompson took possession of the ball forty yards from goal there appeared to be little danger, but with no blue shirts closing him down, Thompson ventured forward and shot from 35 yards.
To the horror of the crowd, Wycombe keeper Jamie Young seemed momentarily rooted to the spot before diving late and merely palming the ball over the line.
It was a terrible goal to concede. The entire 9,625 crowd could see that Thompson was about shoot and he should never have been allowed to score from that far out. Young will not want to watch the replay in a hurry.
Next to try his luck from distance was County's Myles Weston whose low shot from outside the box skidded narrowly past the post.
It wasn't until three minutes before half-time that Wycombe really threatened the Notts County goal when Lee Sawyer showed great skill to juggle his way forward before volleying a fierce shot just over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Chris Zebroski fired a shot on target only to see it blocked by County defender Stephen Hunt. There was no doubt about it though, the Magpies deserved their half-time lead.
Wycombe came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half and after only a minute, Jon-Paul Pittman volleyed narrowly wide following more good work from Lee Sawyer.
The equaliser came from a well-worked free-kick awarded after 51 minutes.
Instead of launching another hopeful ball into the crowded penalty area, Gary Holt squared the ball to Tommy Doherty who sprayed a superb pass into the path of overlapping full-back Lewis Hunt.
A low cross from Hunt found David McCracken unmarked in the penalty area and the Wycombe captain chalked-up his first goal of the season by calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Instead of going all-out for a winner, caution gripped the Chairboys yet again and they gradually retreated back into their defensive shell, only threatening the Notts County goal on two further occasions.
John Akinde was put through after 66 minutes, but the ball just wouldn't sit for the big striker who was crowded out before he could fashion a shot.
Matt Harrold returned from injury to replace Jon-Paul Pittman after 71 minutes, and this season's top scorer acrobatically fired the ball into the net soon afterwards only for referee Trevor Kettle to disallow the goal.
The introduction of Matt Bloomfield for Lee Sawyer after 82 minutes didn't stop Wycombe from dropping deeper and deeper as the second half progressed.
It looked suicidal from the stands. Why Wycombe haven't had the confidence to use attack as an effective form of defence has been a mystery at times this season, particularly when they clearly have the measure of their opponents.
The plan may have been to sit back and let County have the ball in areas where it wouldn't hurt, but that tactic comes unstuck when players are prepared to shoot from distance. Thompson did it successfully in the first-half and sure enough he popped-up again in the last minute of normal time to do it again
Receiving a pass outside the penalty area and with no-one near enough to close him down, Thompson had all the time in the world to steady himself and plant a 25 yard shot beyond the despairing dive of Jamie Young.
When the full time whistle went there was a muted atmosphere in the stadium. Exeter had secured promotion after winning away at Rotherham so everything depended on the Bury result. A two goal win for the Shakers would mean that they were promoted, anything less and Wycombe were up despite today's defeat.
'We're still waiting for the Bury result,' the tannoy announcer kept repeating, neglecting to mention that the Shakers had just gone 1-0 up in the 90th minute and were currently bombarding 10-man Accrington in stoppage time as they searched for the vital second goal.
Fans clutched mobile phones to their ears for what seemed like an eternity until they eventually got the news they wanted to hear.
Wycombe were promoted by a single goal.
It was never going to be easy.
Man of the Match
At times today he seemed to be everywhere.