Face-To-Face with the Gulls
Did you know that the name Torquay comes from it once being the quay of the ancient Saxon village of Torre? You get more than just football facts here on Vital Wycombe. William of Orange landed near Torquay before marching on London to take the throne in the Glorious Revolution in 1688. The modern town became known as the Montpellier of England after the introduction of the railway in 1848 and Agatha Christie was born in the Town.
Given the distance between High Wycombe and Torquay it perhaps isn`t surprising that the two sides didn`t meet until December 1993. That clash ended in a 1-1 draw that was salvaged by a late headed equaliser from Terry Evans. In seven previous meetings the sides cannot be split. Vital Len has knocked up a spiffing preview which includes all these fascinating facts. Drill down and you never know what you might learn. And we all know how much girls love facts.
Enough of this preambulation, I know you`re only here to read about another fascinating clash from the Chairboys` past. Well this time we`re going back to Boxing Day 2005. You were almost five years younger when this occurred. Frightening isn`t it? The Wanderers were in the midst of Gormania and most Chairboys were dizzy with a footballing utopia that even left Garrincha speechless in awe and admiration. There were one or two message board cynics but nobody ever listens to them.
The previous league game had ended in defeat and a notable one at that. It was the first league defeat of the campaign, 21 games in and it came in heartbreaking fashion with two late goals at Gigg Lane, Bury. That was followed by a Football League Trophy defeat at Walsall by three goals to two. John Gorman had rested goalkeeper Frank Talia for the cup defeat to the Saddlers and he returned between the sticks.
Russell Martin came into the middle of the park for his first start of the season in place of Sergio Torres who had picked up a groin strain. Rob Lee also started ahead of the late, and much missed, Mark Philo (R.I.P.). Midfielders Joe Burnell and Stefan Oakes both made their return after recovering from injuries and took their places on the bench. Conventionally coiffured striker Ian Stonebridge had just returned to Adams Park after a loan spell at Plainmoor but he was ruled out of a return through injury.
The Chairboys` line-up was: (4-4-2)
Danny Senda - Roger Johnson - Mike Williamson - Clint Easton
Kevin Betsy - Russell Martin - Rob Lee - - Matt Bloomfield
Tommy Mooney - Charlie Griffin
Torquay United lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Alex Lawless - Adam Lockwood - Craig Taylor - Anthony Lloyd
Martin Phillips - Darren Garner - Kevin Hill - Tony Bedeau
Jo Kuffour - Morike Sako
379 Wycombe fans made the long trip down to the English Riviera on Boxing Day and were part of a 3,733 crowd that watched an entertaining encounter at Plainmoor. Despite struggling at the bottom end of the League Two table it was the Gulls who seized the initiative from the first whistle and put the visitors under early pressure.
The hosts broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Darren Garner played a free-kick into the Wycombe penalty area which brought goalkeeper Frank Talia off his line and he flapped hopelessly at the ball which allowed 6`7" French striker Morike Sako the chance to head into an empty net and make it 1-0. Mike Williamson almost levelled for the Chairboys shortly afterwards but his header was just too high following Clint Easton`s free-kick into the area.
It was the first of a hat-trick of efforts from Williamson and he looped a header that Torquay goalkeeper Andy Marriott had to tip over before seeing his shot from the edge of the area blocked and Tommy Mooney outrageously flicking the re-bound onto the roof of the net. Russell Martin also came close to levelling the scores but was denied by defender Adam Lockwood who hacked his shot off the goal-line.
Despite dominating the game after conceding the opening goal it was the Wanderers who ended up conceding the next goal just past the half hour mark. Striker Jo Kuffour played the ball into Tony Bedeau on the edge of the area and he took a touch before tucking the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net past a bemused Talia. The Blues had to make a change six minutes before the break when an injured Rob Lee had to be replaced by Joe Burnell.
As was often the case under Gorman the chances continued to be created and continued to go begging. A sublime move saw Danny Senda and Kevin Betsy combine to create a far post opportunity for Mooney but he chose to head the ball back across goal for Charlie Griffin who somehow managed to screw his effort wide. Roger Johnson then missed from point-blank range after getting on the end of Mooney`s cross.
The second half started slowly and it was the hosts who almost made it 3-0 on 53 minutes when Garner hit a shot that whistled just wide of the post. Wycombe must`ve thought it wasn`t going to be their day when Bloomfield and Mooney combined to find Betsy and his cross was met by Griffin whose header smashed against the bar and the home defence cleared. Stefan Oakes replaced Easton on 67 minutes and four minutes later the Wanderers were back in it.
Mooney played an inch-perfect pass through to Betsy and he rounded Marriott and tucked the ball into the net to make it 2-1. The Chairboys pushed forward in search of an equaliser and with just four minutes remaining it came. Burnell bamboozled Garner in the middle of the park and played the ball out to Mooney who crossed to far post where Griffin again saw his header hit the woodwork. Fortunately it re-bounded off the post and against defender Alex Lawless before nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
Torquay United almost won it in the last minute when Kuffour hit a shot that screamed past the post but the Wanderers held on to take a well-deserved point. Gorman said afterwards: 'It was one of those games when you wonder whether it was going to be a bad day but in the end we proved again what a great team we've got for a fighting spirit and both I and Leroy Rosenior applauded each other on that. We've missed four or five unbelievable chances in the first half but we said to the lads at half time that we'd come back. We always do that and all in all we got what we deserved.'
Torquay United did the whole of football a service by mounting a late escape from relegation to help send Oxford United tumbling out of the Football League and into non-league football.