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Wycombe Wanderers 0
Tuesday 7th January 1975
FA Cup Third Round Proper - replay
After holding the First Division leaders to a goalless draw at Loakes Park a few days earlier, Wycombe travelled to Ayresome Park for the right to host Sunderland in the 4th Round, with Boro Manager Jack Charlton predicting "Murder" for the amateurs. Wycombe took nine coachloads of supporters plus many more by car - a few even flew up from Booker! They witnessed probably the greatest night in the non-League history of Wycombe Wanderers.
The team and officials flew up from Heathrow Airport on Monday evening to Teeside Airport. They would stay in the airport hotel before taking a training session at Boro's Hutton Road training ground on the morning of match. After the replay they would travel back by coach overnight and arrive back in High Wycombe at around 5am. For many of the players they would then go back into work on the Wednesday morning.
An estimated 800 Wanderers fans would also make the 600 mile round trip north to see the historic tie. It had been hoped that a 'Special' train could be laid on for supporters but British Rail claimed this was impossible due to staffing difficulties. A BR spokesman said: "We would need four or five changes of crews in each direction on a run like this. Drivers must know the line and therefore can only drive in a limited area. We would have been delighted to have been able to have helped and we wish the Wanderers all the very best. Manager Brian Lee was disappointed with the news, saying:“It is sad when so many people would like to see the- replay that it is in midweek, and sad that those who could make the journey can’t have a special train because there is no driver.”
Nine enthusastic fans took up the option of hiring their own plane to travel to the game from Booker Air Centre - total cost a mere £200 - just over £22 each. They would fly back after the game to Heathrow and be able to go to work the next morning. They along with the other Wycombe fans lucky enough to be at the game would have a tale to tell on a proud night for all those involved with the Club.
What the papers said:
Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Stuart Earp eloquently described the entire evening:
Courageous Wycombe Wanderers finally bowed out of the F.A. Cup on Tuesday night — in the best possible style. After holding mighty Middlesbrough for 89 minutes they succumbed to a Dave Armstrong goal and then a minute later were given their biggest-ever ovation from the 30,000 crowd.
As the players — absolutely exhausted, having played their hearts out for the second time in a few days — gathered on the half-way line, the crowd rose to their feet and applauded them from the field. The chants of “Boro! Boro!” from the mass of red scarves behind one goal turned to “Wycombe Wycombe!” as the partisan supporters paid their tribute having watched one of the bravest displays for many a year. The Middlesbrough players, through at last after battling for 179 minutes against a team of amateurs, formed a tunnel to add their tribute.
It was a fitting finale for Wanderers, who had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in getting this far in the F.A. Cup. Never before had they reached the third round but after giving the First Division joint leaders a real run for their money on Saturday, they came to Ayresome Park and showed more courage, stamina and bravery than anyone could have expected.
Boro chairman, Mr. Charles Amer, breaking open the champagne in the changing rooms afterwards, told me he had never see such an ovation given to the opposing side in his 30 years with the club. You can’t get higher praise than that. Jack Charlton, the Boro boss who had stated before the game, “We’ll murder them” had nothing but praise for the Wycombe men. “They made us fight all the way. It was a great performance and they fully deserved that applause at the end.” Wycombe president Mr. Monty Seymour described the Blues’ display as “magnificent.” “I have never seen Wycombe give a finer performance in my 50 years with the club. They all played their hearts out. The support, too, was terrific.”
And Brian Lee, Wanderers manager, who had shared Charlton’s pre-match prediction of a “murder,” said, “It was a fine performance by the lads.” But Brian, as calm as ever after the game, will be the first to admit Wycombe – were somewhat fortunate to get away with the 1-0 scoreline. To survive until that 89th minute, Wanderers were subjected to some of the severest pressure they will meet for a long time.
Two bursts of Boro power were-particularly memorable, at the start and at the end of the match. -The reason Wycombe survived for so long was a combination of supreme effort. A good deal of luck and a work-rate they will never match again. There were several heroes on the night but none bigger than goalkeeper John Maskell. The last line of defence. John played the game of his life to keep his side in the match, pulling off some unbelievable saves. Not far behind him were the two centre backs, Alan Phillips and Keith Mead who bore the brunt of the Boro blitz. Gary Hand, too, had a game to remember.
Inevitably the stars were in defence but great credit should go to their midfield men for sticking to their task while upfront Steve Perrin again looked a player destined for the pro’ ranks sooner or later. Wanderers kept the same 12 that had the better of the goalless draw at Loakes Park on Saturday while Boro brought in Harry Charlton — no relation to Jack — into midfield for Peter Brine.
The nine coachloads of supporters and the many who made the five-hour journey by car certainly made their presence felt when their team took the field. And looking around the magnificent stadium at Ayresome Park, one could understand the Middlesbrough manager’s criticism of Loakes Park. There was no comparison. As he -said after Saturday’s game. “It’s big and flat up there.” To the players it must have been more a case of Awesome Park. Although Boro began the match the same way as Saturday, with a back pass to goalkeeper Jim Platt, they were soon storming into attack. Only two minutes had elapsed when Armstrong set up David Mills inside the Blues’ box but his shot screamed past the upright.
Wanderers showed their intentions by trying anything from long range when Howard Kennedy cannoned in a 40-yard free kick, but the ball struck a defender and was cleared. With the home side beginning to use the full width of the pitch, the danger signs became all too apparent for Wycombe. Armstrong was the chief danger man, giving Paul Birdseye a torrid time on the wing while Mills and Hickton were always menacing.
Wanderers, however, plugged away well and Kennedy’s power shooting brought Platt in action in the 13th minute. Howard’s drive bounced in front of the ‘keeper who covered the effort well. Two minutes later Perrin left Frank Spraggon lunging on the wing, but his cross was cut out and for the next 10 minutes Wanderers were subjected to a fierce battering. Stretching the ball wide with long, raking passes, the Blues left gaps in the middle as they covered the flanks and when the home side won four quick corners, it seemed only a matter of time before the defence cracked.
But thanks to some poor finishing by Boro and a couple of wonder saves from Maskell, the Blues held out. One save in the 25th minute was particularly memorable. Graeme Souness, the Scottish international, caught the ball perfectly on the. volley from 20 yards but Maskell managed to take the sting off the ball and then save on the line. The Middlesbrough surge was halted temporarily in the 27th minute when Wycombe produced their best move of the game. Three first time passes by Birdseye, Searle and Perrin took the ball sweeping upfield with Boro helpless. Searle crossed from the bye-line as the home defenders struggled to make the ground and Perrin lashed in a short range shot at the near post. Platt, however, was perfectly positioned to save, holding the drive well.
That gave Wycombe fresh hope and as the crowd began to barrack the home team, Boro made more and more errors. Passes were intercepted and in general, Wanderers found themselves with more time. Distribution, however, was poor and many of their attacks were broken up by the towering Stuart Boam and Willie Maddren.
There were occasional flashes of skill, like when Gary Hand chipped a superb ball over Boam for Holifield to cross but at half-time. Wycombe’s greatest feat had been to hold Middlesbrough to 0-0. something few people had anticipated.
Wycombe began the new half with a flourish, taking the game to Middlesbrough and as time wore on, the home side must have been growing more and more worried. They went close many times but with Phillips playing a captain’s role at centre back, they were thwarted time and again.
Wycombe’s main hope for a goal stemmed from Kennedy but his shooting was often wild and on a couple of occasions a cross looked a better bet with men waiting in the middle. It was a measure of Middlebrough’s problems when they replaced Alan Foggon, the top goalscorer, in the 61st minute with Alan Willey. The move, however, brought more danger for Wycombe.
Maskell dived full-length to save from Armstrong’s cross and then held a swirling corner from Spraggon minutes later. With 70 minutes gone, Willey almost snatched the lead. From another corner, the ball came over the defence to Mills who volleyed a square ball Into the centre. Willey got up. well just a few yards out but saw his header hit the-upright and bounce clear. ‘Lady Luck’ was certainly smiling on Wycombe, but they fully deserved it for the way they continued to withstand the growing Middlesbrough pressure.
Dylan Evans came on for Tony Horseman with 16 minutes left. “Bodger” had struggled to get going throughout the game and was given little chance against the towering home defence. It was a shame the Middlesbrough fans did not have a chance to see his vintage skills.
Boro went close again in the 82nd minute. They easily broke up a Wycombe free kick with Craggs sending Souness clear in midfield. He found Mills who ran into the box at a narrow angle and seemed certain to score. Maskell, however, spread himself full-length and blocked the shot with his legs.
A minute later Mills set up Armstrong with a superb flick and after running 40 yards, the latter found Willey in space. In an amazing dribble, the substitute beat three defenders in the box with fine control but then saw his shot saved by Maskell again.
Wanderers were now well and truly on the rack. Subjected to a fierce all-out battering, they defended doggedly and just when it seemed they would take the match into extra time, Boro scored. It came after Maskell had saved another cross by diving full-length seconds earlier. Craggs collected one of the many hasty clearances and found Souness. He spotted Armstrong in space and placed the ball perfectly to his feet. Cutting inside, the blonde striker beat one defender and then slipped the ball wide of the goalkeeper. It was a killer blow for Wycombe. But, with extra time only seconds away and Boro in full flight, the damage could have been even greater in the time added on.
The whistle went a few seconds after the goal but in true character, Wanderers had time to mount one final attack when Kennedy crossed into the box hut no-one could get a touch. It was this kind of fighting spirit that has taken Wanderers to their best-ever run in the F.A. Cup. They won 29,000 new friends at Middlesbrough on Tuesday night with a performance that must rank as one of the bravest in 90 years.
Quotes and press reaction
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