People Hold On, We've got to be Strong
After a brief pause perhaps the most unpopular Vital Wycombe article returns to your screens. Yes, it`s time to look back at the Chairboys previous clashes with Rochdale. It was bad enough watching them at the time, who needs reminding of them eh? Sadly for both you and I head honcho Len has tied me to a chair and is lashing me as I type. And you thought we just did it for pleasure!
We`ve hosted Dale on a half-a-dozen previous occasions and you may be a little surprised to learn that we have won just one of them. We`ve drawn twice and lost the other three. Not the greatest record going into this weekend`s six-pointer. That first meeting came back in April 1994 after two false starts. A December meeting was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch following a deep thaw over Christmas.
"Hyde and Seek"
The re-arranged game in February was also postponed due to snow but became infamous due to the programme notes of manager Martin O`Neill who fired a hostile broadside at his critics. The game eventually took place on a brisk April evening and ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw. Super Simon Garner put the Blues in front after 16 minutes when he fired home from close range following a Steve Guppy corner.
Sadly the lead was surrendered on 72 minutes when goalkeeper Paul Hyde allowed Mark Stuart`s header to slip through his hands and into the net. The game will be remembered for what is arguably the worst ever miss at Adams Park. With just two minutes remaining midfielder Simon Stapleton somehow failed to turn home Dave Carroll`s low cross from just a yard out. O'Neill said afterwards: 'It was easier to score than to miss.' Fortunately there was a happy ending with Wanderers` enjoying play-off glory at Wembley five weeks later.
That promotion meant it would more than ten years before the two sides would meet again. In a League Two clash in August 2004 the visitors inflicted a first league defeat of the season on Tony Adams` new side with a 3-0 victory. The hosts had the better of the first half with Danny Senda and Ian Stonebridge both going close. New loan signing Adam Birchall came off the bench at half-time to make his debut.
Sadly the change made little difference and Dale took the lead on 70 minutes when striker Grant Holt`s spectacular overhead kick found the corner of the net. In the second minute of injury-time Gary Jones scored a second from the spot after a foul by Gus Uhlenbeek and ninety seconds later Leighton McGivern fired past goalkeeper Frank Talia to add a cherry to the cake for the visitors. Adams said afterwards that he found the game 'boring.' and that he "tried different things just to break up the monotony."
It was a very different story 15 months later as John Gorman`s side recorded a 3-0 victory to stretch the club`s unbeaten start to their league campaign to 21 matches. It was a big day for midfielder Sergio Torres who started in place of the ill Matt Bloomfield in front of his family who had travelled from Argentina to see him play for the first time. They almost saw the Blues fall behind after just five minutes but Talia pulled off a superb save to keep out Gary Griffiths` header.
Four minutes later the hosts were in front when Tommy Mooney fired home after Charlie Griffin had headed the ball back across goal. Nine minutes into the second half Griffin again turned provider for Mooney. He charged down visiting goalkeeper Matt Gilks and the ball bounced back of the crossbar for Mooney to head home. Dale lost the plot with defender Warren Goodhind seeing red for pulling back Torres.
Ten minutes later they were reduced to nine men when Holt lunged wildly at Roger Johnson. The hosts missed a host of chances in the final twenty minutes and Griffin should have scored after being set-up by Kevin Betsy but somehow missed an absolute sitter. He did however get his name on the score sheet with five minutes remaining with a close range finish from Russell Martin`s low cross.
"BC = Before Chelsea"
The next meeting 13 months later is unlikely to live long in the memory. The sides met on the first Saturday of 2007 but the focus was on the first leg of the League Cup semi-final with Chelsea the following week. A wet and miserable January afternoon saw the visitors snatch a late equaliser to claim a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
The central defensive partnership that day was loanee Stephen O`Halloran and new signing Leon Crooks. Striker Fola Onibuje had just signed a permanent deal but there was no place in the squad for him. Goalkeeper Ricardo Batista did well to save from Chris Dagnall and at the other end Gilks denied Matt Bloomfield with his legs. Loan midfielder Anthony Grant curled a shot just wide before Batista pulled off another stop just before the break from striker Glenn Murray.
Six minutes into the second half the Blues took the lead when Mooney flicked the ball on for Betsy and he teed up Jermaine Easter to fire home. Gilks denied Easter a second goal midway through the second half and it proved vital for Dale who levelled with ten minutes remaining. Kelvin Etuhu weaved his way to the touchline before squeezing a shot past Batista from a narrow angle. The Portugese glovesman made up for that error when he tipped Dagnall`s powerful striker onto the crossbar.
"Last minute penalty"
Almost exactly a year later the sides met again and Dale snatched all three points with an injury-time winner. It came from the penalty spot after defender Craig Woodman had up-ended Ben Muirhead and Tom Kennedy stepped up to beat goalkeeper Frank Fielding. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing display from Paul Lambert`s men. Both sides finished the season with defeat in the play-offs.
The last meeting with Dale at Adams Park was almost three years ago. It came in March 2009 when Peter Taylor`s side were suffering from a severe case of promotion jitters. The nine-point lead at the top of the League Two table was long gone and the visitors again claimed all three points in the final minute. They were thoroughly deserved after dominating the game in which loan goalkeeper Marek Štěch stood out. He pulled off a stunning save to tip Scott Wiseman`s volley over the bar.
Frank Fielding returned to Adams Park in the Dale goal and he saved from Matt Harrold before also denying debutant Lee Sawyer. The second half was a tighter affair and it looked to be heading towards a goal-less until 89th minute. Man of the Match Štěch rather blotted his copybook when he sliced a clearance to Adam Rundle and he squared the ball for striker Adam Le Fondre to tap home from six yards.
"All that`s left are memories"