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Strummerville to Waterlooville November 1976
(Research, memories and words by Paul Lewis - First published 18th November 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary)
Back in mid November 1976 Wanderers fans were looking forward to the start of the FA Cup competition proper. Merthyr Tydfil had been dismissed 3-1 at Loakes Parrk in the final qualifying tie thanks to goals from Micky Holifield, Alan Phillips and Ian Pearson. Opponents in the First Round proper to be played on Saturday 20th November 1976 were the relatively unknown Waterlooville.
The Southern League, Division One South, side had battled through all the qualifying rounds to reach this stage, including a 4-1 home victory over Wanderers’ fellow Isthmian Leaguers Hendon. The tie could not be taken lightly and local interest in the game was high with the Hampshire side having only reached the First Round stage on one previous occasion.
Interest from Wycombe fans was high too. It was just two seasons since Wanderers had hit the national headlines as they reached the Third Round before bowing out to Middlesbrough, while the 1975/76 campaign had ended with a gallant Second Round defeat away to Cardiff City. An estimated 600 were expected to travel to support the Wanderers in Hampshire. Many would use one of several official coaches organised by the Supporters Club, while others would risk the delights of an independently arranged coach, known affectionately at the time as a ‘Nutters Express’.
Less then ’48 Hours’ after The Clash had secretly blown away The Nags’s Head, Wanderers rolled into Hampshire with a swagger. The ‘Nutters Express’ poured off its passengers and joined the majority of the Wycombe following crammed immediately behind the goal on an open terrace at Waterlooville’s 4,000 capacity Jubilee Park ground. It probably wasn’t safe but this was the 1970’s.
Kicking towards their own fans, Wanderers got off to flyer. After just 14 minutes Tony Horseman shrugged off the challenge of a home defender before chipping the ball back across the face of the goal where John Priestley hooked home a volley. The Wycombe fans celebrated wildly with many hardly able to see the ball cross the line, such was the squeeze.
Five minutes later the lead was doubled when Horseman was the provider again, crossing from the left for Dylan Evans to send a header against the crossbar. With Waterlooville ‘keeper Richard Damerell on the ground, Howard Kennedy was first on hand to jump and head in the rebound.
This time the surge to see the action caused part of the pitch surround rail behind the goal to give way. Some Wycombe fans spilled onto the pitch but the incident left several fans injured in the crush. The game was stopped for around five minutes while medical staff attended - taking one unfortunate Wycombe supporter to a nearby hospital with a broken leg.
The incident took the edge off the support for the Wanderers but the action on the pitch continued in a frenzy but without any further goals before the break. Wycombe had chances to completely wrap the tie up during the second period but having refused to sit back on the lead were pegged back on 68 minutes – Mick Bennett crossing low for an unmarked John Robson to convert.
There were nervous looks from the Wycombe fans but a solid display from central defenders Keith Mead and Alan Phillips, plus goalkeeper John Maskell, ensured it was Wanderers who went into the Second Round draw where they were rewarded with a home tie with Reading.
There was relatively happy news too for the Wycombe fan with the broken leg. Steve Stroud (nicknamed 'Cheese Roll' at the time) was discharged later that evening and despite his injury managed to travel back to High Wycombe on one of the ‘special coaches’. Now that is punk.
Wanderers into the record books and the night Ron Watts first saw The S*x Pistols
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