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|A look back at the 1990/91 FA Trophy run
Wycombe Wanderers 2
Cheltenham Town 1
Saturday 23rd February 1991
FA Trophy Third Round
(research, memories and words by Paul Lewis - first published during 2015/16 to mark the 25th anniversary)
Wanderers made hard work again of FA Trophy progress - having central defender Andy Kerr to thank for a late headed goal to see off Cheltenham Town in the Third Round tie at Adams Park.
A single goal had been enough to eliminate VS Rugby in the Second Round and it was no easier against Cheltenham. The Robins travelled to Adams Park with their regular 'keeper suspended for a controversial sending-off in their Conference match with Runcorn on 26th January 1991. In stepped 19 year old Steve Weaver who had been borrowed from Bristol City for the 3rd Round tie and who was also blamed for Wanderers’ winning goal.
Meanwhile, sitting in the stands for the visitors was non-League goalscoring legend Kim Casey. He had scored twice in Town’s 2-0 victory at Adams Park on Boxing Day 1990 but was injured for the Trophy tie at Wycombe. However, Town included former Wanderer Anton Vircavs in their line-up. The central defender had spent time with Wycombe in the 1980’s and was a key figure in the side that won promotion to the Conference (then Gola League) at the end of the 1984/85 season. Vircavs had joined Cheltenham in the summer of 1986 following Wycombe’s relegation back to the Isthmian League and having made over 200 First Team appearances for the Wanderers since signing in 1981.
Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from Adams Park, Pete Lansley wrote: 'Wycombe’s own pair of twin towers brought Wembley a step closer on Saturday when centre halves Glyn Creaser and Andy Kerr scored the goals which secured a place in the FA Trophy quarter finals at the expense of resilient Cheltenham.
Blues’ defensjve duo have now hit — or rather usually headed — 16 goals between them this season, and there won’t be many more important than Saturday’s. And supplying both goals was the returning Dave Carroll, instrumental in reviving Blues to winning ways. While Creaser’s near post header exactly half way through the first half justly crowned an impressive display of attacking football, Kerr’s winner arrived when Conference strugglers Cheltenham looked as if they had done enough after the interval to earn a replay.
The result is sweet revenge for Wycombe following Cheltenham’s Boxing Day victory at Adams Park, and conditions, similar to those at Christmas, again shaped the match. With the wind in their favour, Blues took the game to Town in the first period and threatened to tear them apart. A fired-up Keith Ryan, angry when held down by Chris Burns off the ball, responded by getting into some dangerous shooting positions. Mark West chipped a ball onto the midfielder’s chest in the 14th minute and Ryan’s volley was blocked, while Ryan also shot wide, and had another effort pushed around the post by keeper Steve Weaver.
West also went close a couple of times but after several near misses the goal when it arrived was as simple as they come. Carroll lining up to take a corner is tantamount to Blues being awarded a free chance when the winger is on form and skipper Creaser rose to glance the cross into the far corner of the net.
Swift, slick football ensued. After 25 minutes, Ryan won a midfield tussle, West played it off and Mickey Nuttell sent in a screamer of a 25- yard left-foot shot which rose above the bar. West’s close-range 38th minute header came desperately close to giving Blues the two-goal buffer manager Martin O’Neill wanted as Wycombe dominated the first period.
That Cheltenham only won their first corner after 40 minutes indicates Wycombe’s first half dominance, but their first goal attempt on target changed the nature of the game. Matt Crossley jumped into Steve Brooks, Kevin Willetts netted the penalty and with the wind in Cheltenham’s favour the tie altered dramatically.
The recalled John Granville saved Blues with some safe handling, not least outside his area as Paul Bloomfield raced through after 71 minutes, for which the keeper was booked. Then Tony Lynch ran through with only the Blues keeper to beat in the 80th minute, but shot straight at the well-positioned Granville. On came Simon Hutchinson as O’Neill tried to revitalise Blues’ attack. Hutchinson soon set off down the right wing, scuttling his way past three defenders to win a corner. With Carroll setting the sights, it was Kerr who outjumped Weaver to fire the bullets and head Blues into the quarter finals.'
Speaking after the game, Wanderers' boss Martin O'Neill said: "We played well first half but always needed the second goal. We’re not capable of keeping a clean sheet, and with our backs to the wall in the second half I thought we performed commendably.” Despite Cheltenham’s second-half pressure bringing some derisory responses from sections of the Adams Park crowd, O’Neill added: “We were playing against a very strong breeze with a few moans from the crowd — except, let me tell you, he crowd from behind the goal, who kept us going. They have done a job for us.”
Former Cheltenham Town forward Mickey Nuttell was as pleased as anyone to see off his former side. Nuttell, out of favour when he left Cheltenham for £6,000 in January 1991, had scored four goals in eight games at Wycombe and said: "I’m very disappointed not to score, and wasn’t that pleased with my overall performance but at the end of the day it was a team performance. As long as we win and we’re in the next round, that’s all that matters." Nuttell has brought a mixed response from the Wycombe fans with O'Neill still publically seeking another striker to help solve Wycombe's lack of striking power. Nuttell added: "I’m just getting into my stride. I just hope the goals keep coming, and I stay in the side. My main asset is providing knock downs for Westy or whoever and I just hope it goes from strength to strength."
The full draw for the Quarter-Final made on the Monday after the Cheltenham tie was as follows:
Colchester Untied v Witton Albion, Kidderminster Harriers v Emley, Altrincham v Horwich and Northwich v Wycombe.
Wanderers' trip to Northwich bought increased hope of a first Wembley trip since 1957. Ambitious 'keeper Chuck Moussaddik confidently predicted: “We’ll win the league, and be at Wembley in the final. I won’t tell you the score — I’ll keep you guessing.". Meanwhile, Wycombe's top scorer Mark West and on the losing side for Wanderers in two previous quarter-finals, added : “It’s the Trophy we’ve got to go for. We’re not going to lose it this time. We’ve been to Kettering and lost 2-1, been to Hyde and lost 1-0, and we’re not going to lose to this bunch of dumb northerners."
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FA Trophy memories 1991 - 25 year anniversary retro index
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