Face-to-Face with Stanley
Wycombe Wanderers are set to make their fourth visit to the Crown Ground on Saturday to take on Accrington Stanley.
In previous features I've taken a look back at one memorable encounter between the two sides however our half-a-dozen previous meetings with Stanley haven't really lived long in the memory. To be honest they have encapsulated the mundane feature of life in the bottom division of the Football League.
To be fair it's a slightly unfair reflection on the 'Owd Reds who are in many ways a shining example of how to survive as a Football League club on meagre resources. It's true to say they have flown close to the wind on a couple of occasions but continue to 'punch above their weight' with the lowest attendances in the Football League. Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid is that we travel tomorrow more in hope than in expectation that we'll return from the Crown Ground with three points.
The first trip 'oop north came in September 2006 and it followed the giant-killing of Premier League Fulham in the League Cup and a 1-1 draw with Swindon Town at Adams Park when Tommy Mooney headed home a last-minute equaliser to shut the visiting support up.
Manager Paul Lambert named the following line-up: (4-4-2)
Russell Martin - Mike Williamson - Will Antwi - Scott Golbourne
Matt Bloomfield - Tommy Doherty - Anthony Grant - Chris Palmer
Tommy Mooney - Kevin Betsy
Accrington Stanley's starting XI was: (4-4-2) Ian Dunbavin - Peter Cavanagh, Robbie Williams, Michael Welch, Leam Richardson - Gary Roberts, Andy Todd, Andrew Proctor, Ian Craney - Paul Mullin, Romuald Boco
Stanley goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin had to make an early save to deny Scott Golbourne but the hosts took the lead after 27 minutes courtesy of a sensational free-kick from Ian Craney. Doherty brought down Gary Roberts some 25 yards from goal and Craney stepped up and curled the ball into the postage stamp past a helpless Batista.
In the absence of striker Jermaine Easter, who strained his thigh in the draw with Swindon, boss Lambert had decided to play Kevin Betsy up front with Tommy Mooney and he twice had opportunities to equalise but was denied by Dunbavin. He should have been awarded a penalty just before half-time when he was pulled down by home defender Leam Richardson but referee Mike Pike waved away the Chairboys' appeals. The referee was shocking throughout and Wanderers assistant manager Steve Brown was sent to the stand for telling the official what he thought of him.
Ten minutes into the second half the Blues were level. Dunbavin flapped at a Chris Palmer free-kick and the ball was only half-cleared. The ball was played back into the box and Tommy Mooney headed on for Will Antwi to find the net from close range. Mooney couldn't provide a finish from a Palmer cross and substitute Ikechi Anya fired over the bar from just inside the box as the Wanderers pushed for a winning goal.
It looked like the game was petering out as it went into injury-time but as the clock ticked into the second minute of added time a long ball down the middle was flicked on by Paul Mullin and substitute Andy Mangan beat Antwi to the ball to shoot low across Batista and just inside the far post to make it 2-1 and steal the three points. It was a sickening blow for the Chairboys who had done enough to take a point.
Steve Brown said afterwards: "I thought we should have been given a foul on Kech in the top right corner but the referee didn't give it. Then it materialised form there and Mullin, whose flick-ons we'd been defending well all day, nodded the lad through and he's finished it with confidence. We were undone in the 92nd minute by something we had defended all game. Football is a cruel game and we were a victim of that. We started so brightly and had two clear cut penalties amongst creating other chances where they've thrown themselves in front of the ball.Goals change games - the referee has given them a dubious free kick on the edge of our box and the lad has bent it into the top corner. You give credit where it is due but they've taken the lead without really being in the game."