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A look back at the 1990/91 FA Trophy run
Northwich Victoria 2
Wycombe Wanderers 3
Saturday 16th March 1991
FA Trophy Fourth Round

(research, memories and words by Paul Lewis - first published during 2015/16 to mark the 25th anniversary)
Wanderers reached the Semi-Final of the FA Trophy for only the second time in their history following an impressive 3-2 victory at fellow Conference side Northwich Victoria. It was local hero Mark West, wrapped in cotton wool in the weeks leading up to the tie, who got the scoring underway after just four minutes but with his injury concern hanging over him, Manager Martin O’Neill withdrew 'Westy' after only 23 minutes.

Malcolm O’Connor equalised for the home side shortly afterwards but it was new signing Keith Scott who also took the plaudits with two second half strikes to secure a semi-final re-match with Altrincham – the team Wanderers had lost to in the 1982 Trophy semi-final.

In the three weeks since beating Cheltenham Town in the 3rd Round at Adams Park on 23rd February 1991, Wanderers had gone through an indifferent spell in the League – playing out a goalless draw at home to bottom of the table Bath City, losing 1-0 at Altrincham but then beating Slough Town at home 2-1 in front of a 3,183 gate at Adams Park on Saturday 9th March 1991.

The latter game marked the debut of two loanees brought in by O’Neill. 25 year old Nottingham Forest full-back Stuart Cash made an immediate impact by adding class and composure to the Wanderers defence and had agreed a deal until the end of the 1990/91 campaign. Meanwhile, upfront, a 23 year old Keith Scott scored on his Wycombe debut having agreed a loan from Lincoln City having previously been on loan for Gateshead (for whom he scored against Wycombe earlier in the 1990/91 season) and most recently at Boston United.

The deals for both Cash and Scott had finally been secured the day before the meeting with Slough, with O’Neill commenting in his post match interview: “All that rushing around yesterday has obviously paid dividends. We need a few bodies for two reasons: one, for the FA Trophy, and two, to give the place a lift.”

O’Neill’s ‘rushing around’ and determination to get extra players in his squad had taken the Wycombe boss to a midweek meeting of Boston v Altrincham match on Wednesday 27th February 1991. It was there that Barnet Manager Barry Fry had made an approach to Wanderers for former Bees star Glyn Creaser but the offer was flatly rejected by the Wycombe Manager. O’Neill was at the Boston with the prime intention of checking out Pilgrims striker Paul Cavell. Cavell scored despite Boston losing 6-2. O’Neill had already put a £20,000 bid in for Cavell but this was turned down by Boston. The other scorer for Boston that night was Keith Scott and it turned out Lincoln were interested in selling him.

Scott scored for Boston again in their 3-1 defeat at Northwich the following Saturday (2nd March 1991) and O’Neill was set on making him a Wycombe player in time for the Trophy meeting with The Vics two weeks later. During the next week O’Neill travelled to see Scott play for Lincoln City reserves against a Nottingham Forest ‘3rd team’. Scott scored the only goal of the game and the deal was as good as done.

Also making an impression on O’Neill that day was Forest defender Stuart Cash. Cash, reportedly on £400 per week at The City Ground, was desperate for First Team football but was behind England defender Stuart Pearce in the pecking order at Forest. O’Neill turned to his former boss at Forest, Brian Clough, to agree a deal that bring Cash to Wanderers for the remainder of the season and with Forest still paying half his wages.

The deal to prise Scott away from Boston was able to take place as Wanderers were able to offer Lincoln a fee for the player subject to the initial loan working out. And work out it did, with Scott netting two vital goals at The Drill Field that would put Wanderers on the brink of a first Wembley appearance for 34 years.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from The Drill Field, Tim Singleton wrote: 'Wycombe Wanderers are just 180 minutes away from their first ever appearance at Wembley in an FA Trophy Final. The battling Blues fought their way through to the last four with what must rank as one of the most gutsy performances ever produced by a Wycombe team.

Now only two games one leg at home, one away stand between Martin O’Neill’s whizz kids and a dream appearance at Wembley in May which would surely see thousands of Blues fans travelling down the M40 to the twin towers.

Two second half strikes from on-loan signing Keith Scott were enough to inch Wycombe ahead after the Vics had put The Blues under intense pressure. And although the Cheshire side hit back nine minutes from time, Blues survived the frantic end to the game to equal the club’s feat of 1982 when a quarter final win at Kidderminster saw them through to the FA Trophy semi-final as an Isthmian League team.

Wycombe had super-striker Mark West to thank for sending them on their Wembley way. Rested for the midweek game at Kettering, West started Blues’ most important cup game since the ill-fated quarter final at Hyde two seasons ago with a flourish. The only survivor of the 1986 side which lost at the same stage to Kettering, West ghosted in unmarked to volley home Dave Carroll’s delightful cross. West left the field halfway through the first half, his job done, and now faces operations this week on toe and knee injuries.

Wanderers players and supporters celebrate Mark West's opening goal.
Picture by Steve Peart as published in the Wycombe Wanderers matchday programme.

Two minutes after West’s departure came Northwich’s equaliser. Blues’ defence had already been stretched by Vics’ man of the match Malcolm O’Connor when the pacy midfielder struck on 25 minutes. Ex-Wanderer Andy Graham, who scored a Wembley winner for Wealdstone six years ago, managed to put in a towering cross which eluded John Granville at the near post, bounced on the bar, and fell onto O’Connor’s head two yards out.

That was the rallying call for the Vics, themselves Trophy winners in 1984, and O’Connor blazed a 20-yard shot inches over after Paul Maguire had released him. Graham also headed over as Blues wobbled in the Drill Field drizzle, unable to bring calm to their fraught defensive display.

That was the catalyst for a string of comic capers in the Northwich defence. Three minutes later, a Guppy cross was dropping into Ball’s hands, safer than his head, when substitute Mark Wrench backheaded the ball over him leaving Scott an effortless header from two yards.

The Vics hit back within two minutes, O’Connor spearing a tired Wycombe midfield before rifling a 20-yard shot past Granville. But weary Wycombe, showing the survival spirit on a muddy, strength-sapping pitch, held on until the final whistle, Granville making up for his first-half indiscretion by making three vital saves in the last two minutes. It was close, it was nail-biting - but in the end it was the Blues who kept themselves on the road to Wembley.'

Wycombe: Granville, Whitby, Cash, Kerr, Creaser, Carroll, Ryan, Stapleton, West (sub 23 Hutchinson). Scott, Guppy - sub not used: Robinson
Scorers: West 4, Scott 75, 79
Bookings: none
Northwich: : Ball, Balin, Jones, Maguire, Hancock, Parker (sub 12 Wrench), O’Connor, Buxton, Graham, Stringer (sub 69 Easter), Callaghan
Scorer: O’Connor 26, 81
Bookings: none
Referee: Mr S. Bell Attendance: 1,968

Keith Scott, arms raised, celebrates his goal with Dave Carroll and Simon Stapleton. Stuart Cash is the Wycombe player running in to join the congratulations
Picture by Steve Peart as published in the Wycombe Wanderers matchday programme.

Speaking after the game, Wanderers' boss Martin O'Neill said he was: "Absolutely delighted”. Adding; "The commitment was fantastic; I couldn’t ask for anymore. And we scored three goals away from home." The first of those three came from Mark West, whose importance to O’Neill was emphasised by his selection despite a pending operation. “We took a gamble on Mark playing,” admitted O’Neill. “But he got a goal and we can’t say any better than that.” West, who played just 23 minutes of the tie joked afterwards: "That all he puts me out there for."

In the other quarter-finals, favourites Colchester United lost 2-0 at home to Northern Premier League leaders Witton Albion – Altrincham crushed Horwich 5-0 at home despite being without suspended top scorer Ken McKenna, while Kidderminster Harriers eased past Emley 3-0 at home. The draw for the semi-final saw Wanderers paired with Altrincham, with the first leg set for Adams Park on Saturday 6th April 1991 and the return at Moss Lane a week later.

Saturday 16th March 1991 - Northwich v Wycombe - FA Trophy Fourth Round
Picture Gallery published for the first time to mark the 25th anniversary>>>

Next: Saturday 6th April 1991 - Wycombe v Altrincham - FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg
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FA Trophy memories 1991 - 25 year anniversary retro index
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