Face-to-Face with the Lions
It looked as if the 2000/2001 season was going to be just another ordinary one when the Chairboys were drawn away to Division Three title favourites Millwall in the second round of the F.A. Cup. The Blues had overcome Harrow Borough in the first round but a trip to the New Den was not one that was relished by many supporters. There was some cause for optimism with Wycombe having already travelled to Bermondsey in the league and returned with all three points after a fabulous 2-1 victory. The tie was switched to a Sunday with the Metropolitan Police claiming they didn`t have enough resources to police both the Premier League meeting between Charlton Athletic and Manchester United and the Wanderers clash with the Lions on the same day.
Your somnolent correspondent just about managed to drag himself out of his pit in time to reach the New Den just on kick-off, where he watched the Wanderers live a charmed life as the home side hit the woodwork twice and relied on upon goalkeeper Martin Taylor who was in outstanding form. Somehow the visitors held on for a goal-less draw to bring the Lions back to Adams Park for a replay.
Millwall manager Mark McGhee said afterwards: 'We are happy to play away from home considering the state of our pitch. On a good pitch, playing the way we did today, we would have beaten them.' He was given his wish as the Adams Park surface was perfect as the two-sides lined-up for a place in the third round.
The Wycombe side lined-up as follows:
Ben Townsend - Jason Cousins - Paul McCarthy - Chris Vinnicombe
Mo Harkin - Dannie Bulman - Michael Simpson - Steve Brown
Andy Rammell - Niall Thompson
Millwall lined-up as follows: Tony Warner - Matt Lawrence, Robbie Ryan, Joe Dolan, Sean Dyche - Marc Bircham, Paul Ifill, David Livermore, Steven Reid - Neil Harris, Richard Sadlier
Wycombe Wanderers manager Lawrie Sanchez made five changes to the starting line-up that had been beaten 2-1 away at Wigan Athletic at the weekend. Ben Townsend came in for Mark Rogers at right-back whilst Jason Cousins replaced the injured Jamie Bates in central defence. Dannie Bulman started in place of Keith Ryan in the centre of midfield and Mo Harkin replaced the injured Jermaine McSporran on the right-flank. Canadian striker Niall Thompson started in place of loan Chelsea striker Sam Parkin.
Wycombe started the game like a house of fire and put the visitors under immediate pressure. Michael Simpson hit a shot straight at Millwall goalkeeper Tony Warner after just six minutes. Simpson turned creator two minutes later but Niall Thompson couldn`t keep his volley down. The shoot-on-sight policy continued with both Dannie Bulman and Steve Brown firing wide. The opening goal came on 18 minutes when Steve Brown`s right-wing free-kick was flicked on by Paul McCarthy and Andy Rammell did what he did best, heading past Warner to make it 1-0.
The lead only lasted six minutes when David Livermore`s free-kick was flicked on by Neil Harris and Joe Dolan tucked the ball into the net past Martin Taylor to bring Millwall level. It gave the visitors the impetus to push forward and Steven Reid hit a shot straight at Taylor after a surging run. It was end-to-end stuff and Warner was nearly caught out by an in-swinging cross from Brown. On the cusp of half-time the Blues regained the lead. Brown again provided the supply, his left-wing corner was headed back across goal by Thompson at the far post and Paul McCarthy showed all his skill to bury the ball into the top corner of the net with a spectacular overhead kick.
Millwall attacked towards their own supporters in the second half and they immediately searched for an equaliser. Christophe Kinet and Tim Cahill replaced Robbie Ryan and David Livermore for the visitors and Dave Carroll came on for Mo Harkin. The Wycombe defence held firm and then enjoyed a spell of pressure themselves. Thompson tested Warner and Brown also saw his shot saved by the Lions stopper. Danny Senda was brought on for Niall Thompson but as the game went into the last 15 minutes the visitors camped outside the Wycombe box. Taylor pushed away a low shot from Neil Harris. Referee Uriah Rennie wasn`t interested in the away fans' appeals for a penalty as they became increasingly desperate. They almost got their wish when substitute Christophe Kinet`s left-wing cross was headed against the post by Harris and the ball was scrambled clear. Wycombe survived time added-on to take victory and earn a third round tie with Grimsby Town at Adams Park.
Little did we know it at the time but the celebrations that evening were repeated a few more times as we set sail on a historic, magical journey to the semi-finals of the F.A. Cup.
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