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|A look back at the 1990/91 FA Trophy run
Wycombe Wanderers 1
Saturday 12th January 1991
FA Trophy First Round
(research, memories and words by Paul Lewis - first published during 2015/16 to mark the 25th anniversary)
Wanderers had Steve Guppy to thank for scoring the goal that saw Southern League Premier side Wealdstone eliminated in the First Round of the FA Trophy at Adams Park.
Wanderers went into the tie amidst controversy surrounding the future of popular striker Nick Evans. The former Barnet man, signed by Jim Kelman in March 1989 for a Club record fee of Ł32,000, had earned the wrath of O’Neill for turning up late on a matchday and not showing for an extra training. Evans, along with ‘keeper John Granville, Martin Blacker, Simon Hutchinson and Martin Lambert, were all docked wages following the 2-2 draw with Yeovil. Evans was also reported to have failed to have turned up for a last minute training session called by O’Neill in the wake of a 2-0 home defeat to Cheltenham Town on Boxing Day 1990.
32 year old Evans said: “I’d like to get something sorted out. It’s not like I want to go or anything. But I had arrangements made for a couple of weeks and it was a one-off I couldn’t get out of. We’ve got a chance of going all the way in the Trophy, we’re fifth in the league and have got a chance still in the championship. They’re a great bunch of lads here. The board have been top class with my knee and that, and the supporters seem to like me.” Evans objected to being fined when training was arranged at 24 hours’ notice. The players’ weekly agenda was always pinned on the dressing room noticeboard, but did not detail training for that Thursday evening. He added: “This has come right out the blue. I understand he’s manager and makes the rules. But when you are part-time, you have other things.”
O’Neill commented: “He’s got two commitments to meet - he was getting paid elsewhere, when the rest of the semi-pros were in here. People know the rules. Being heavy handed is something I certainly am not. Would getting hammered be the best thing to have as the last thing on their minds as they got on the coach to’ go to Yeovil?” But O’Neill was not short of praise for the forward bought from Barnet, and added: “I don’t think any one’s keen on him going. He’s been a big part in us scoring so many goals. But Nicky tells me this is not his living: I want Wycombe to be as important as their living to them.”
Despite the problems surrounding Evans, O'Neill had no problems in including Evans in the side to face Wealdstone. The Stones travelled to Adams Park just over five years since winning the Conference and Trophy double. However, without automatic promotion to the Football League and problems relating to the future of their Lower Mead ground, their fortunes had declined - suffering relegation from the Conference at the end of the 1988/89 season. Despite their problems, several hundered Stones fans took the opportunity to travel to Adams Park for a rare cup tie against higher league opposition. The Stones fans were housed in a small segregated section at the left hand end of the Woodlands Terrace and they saw their side put up a decent fight.
Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from Adams Park, Pete Lansley wrote: 'Blues’ winner last Saturday came from a man who has not scored for almost a year, and has certainly not been a regular in the side since. Steve Guppy’s match-winning reward comes after a refreshing return to the Blues first team, his lone goal enough to send Wanderers through to the second round of the FA Trophy, and four ties from Wembley. The winger’s positive outlook might yet be the spark to reignite Blues’ season, but not even the most optimistic Wycombe fan could share all of Guppy’s hopes.
After an afternoon when his exciting left wing forays and willingness to battle in a scrappy affair were vital factors in a victory, Guppy said: “We’re getting some lucky results. Maybe this year is our year — in the Trophy and the league! Kettering will slip up, no problem, and anyway, if we get in the top six, we’re back in Europe!”
Before the match, there was a timely pointer to exactly what Wycombe are currently lacking when Martin Blackler collected the Blues player of the month award for December. Blackler, Simon Stapleton and Gary Smith are all ruled out through injury, and with Martin O’Neill preferring to leave Andy Robinson on the bench, it was again an attacking looking line-up which just about dealt with Wealdstone from the Beazer Homes Premier Division. After Blues’ big-goal victories over Wokingham and Basingstoke in the FA Cup earlier in the season, Wealdstone illustrated the strength of the Beazer compared with the Vauxhall as they matched Wycombe most of the way.
The one moment they did not keep up provided Blues with the match winner.Nicky Evans flicked a good ball over the full back for Simon Hutchinson, who did well to stand up and put over a good cross to the unmarked Guppy. The winger kept his cool, controlled the ball, and slotted it home for his first goal in 11 months.
For Wealdstone, 1985 Trophy winners themselves, Neil Cordice saw two headers either side of half time go narrowly the wrong side of the Wycombe woodwork, while Barry Blackman was put in the clear by Paul Morris in the 34th minute. Matt Crossley decided he had no choice but to halt the Wealdstone forward’s progress illegally, cuddling him around the waist as Blackman ran on to the ball in space. Admittedly the incident took place only just inside the Blues half, and out near the touch-line, but it was close to a second such dismissal of the season for Crossley. Crossley was one of four players booked, which is a fair representation of the match.
After Morris entered Mr Wilkes’ little book for a 41st minute foul on Evans, Andy Kerr earned himself his next suspension by tipping over the 30 disciplinary point mark with another foul on half time. Perhaps the referee should have been sent off in the second half as the visitors’ Steve Smart, flying down the right wing, was up ended by the static Wilkes. Crossley came even closer to an early bath with a 65th minute foul on Paul Goyette, which brought him a stern talking to.
Blackman looked likeliest to further congest Blues fixture list by equalising. He was through in the 61st minute, but, delaying his shot as Steve Walford pressured him, he was obliged to lay the ball back to Jim Watson, who shot wide. For Blues, Keith Ryan, free of the flu, battled well in midfield while holding sensibly when Dave Carroll went forward. Ryan saw a 20-yard volley dip over in the 37th minute in one of Wycombe’s better chances. While recent performances are far from fluent, results are swinging towards the Blues, and a fully fit midfield could drive them to Wembley - if not quite into Europe.'
Martin O’Neill was on the verge of signing Cheltenham Town centre forward Mickey Nuttell prior to meeting with The Stones. Injuries to Martin Blackler, Dave Carroll, Simon Stapleton and Gary Smith had diminished Wycombe’s squad. Nuttell had been kept out of the Cheltenham team by Kim Casey who had scored twice against Wanderers in a 2-0 Boxing Day defeat at Adams Park.
Nuttell was signed shortly after the tie with Wealdstone for a fee of Ł6,000. Martin O’Neill commented: “I’ll make him a decent player.” He added: "The Chairman’s given me the money for Mickey Nuttell without any qualms. I’d made three or four tentative Inquiries for centre forwards and been quoted ridiculous prices. Unless Martin Lambert decides to get off his fat arse and do some work, we need to keep looking."
report, memories and pictures >>>
FA Trophy memories 1991 - 25 year anniversary retro index
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