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A look back at the 1990/91 FA Trophy run
Altrincham 0
Wycombe Wanderers 2
Saturday 13th April 1991
FA Trophy Semi-Final 2nd Leg

(research, memories and words by Paul Lewis - first published during 2015/16 to mark the 25th anniversary)
Saturday 13th April 1991 will always be remembered as a significant day in the history of Wycombe Wanderers Football Club. Not only did Martin O’Neill’s side reach the Final of FA Trophy at Wembley, it would also be the springboard for success in the following seasons – injecting a massive cash pot into the playing budget and providing the catalyst for a new generation of supporters who would be gripped by a first trip to the Twin Towers for the Wanderers for 34 years and what would be a first major trophy success for 60 years.

It was no surprise that players, management and supporters alike were apprehensive and nervous in the lead up to game at Moss Lane. Only supporters aged 40 years plus would have been able to remember the previous trip to Wembley in 1957, while others would have been scarred with memories of an Amateur Cup semi-final defeat in 1972 and a Trophy defeat at the same stage ten years later – the latter a crushing 3-0 home defeat to Altrincham after drawing the first game 1-1.

This time around, leading from the 1st Leg 2-1, O’Neill’s side went about their ways in a professional manner. Kicking towards the mass of 1,500 Wanderers fans on the open terrace at Moss Lane, the first-half saw Wycombe weather the expected pressure from the home side and go in at the break with the game still goalless – keeping Wanderers goal lead from the 1st Leg intact as the teams headed down the tunnel for the respective half-time team talks.

Wycombe flew out after the break but after an Altrincham effort went begging around the hour mark, the magic moment finally happened on 64 minutes when local hero Mark West shot home at the far post following a flick on by Keith Scott. There was a fraction of a second of anticipation from the Wycombe fans at the opposite end of the ground as they strained to see the outcome of the shot but Westy’s joyous reaction was the signal for hysterical celebrations and the first real thoughts of ‘Wembley here we come’.

Wanderers never looked back from that point, while Altrincham gradually lost the plot, culminating in ‘hardman’ Ken McKenna being red carded for an off the elbow into the chest of Matt Crossley – the Wycombe defender offering McKenna the parting shot of ‘You’re off now, aren’t you?’ as the Alty player trudged off the pitch with the Wycombe fans right in his ear.

Then in stoppage time, substitute Simon Hutchinson was tripped in the box to win a penalty and Scotty did the honours to take Wycombe into an unassailable 4-1 aggregate lead. Moments later the final whistle sounded and just about everybody from Wycombe invaded the pitch.

An amazing day, summed up by Manager Martin O'Neill, who described his team's victory as: "Fantastic - one of the greatest performances."

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from Moss Lane, Pete Lansley wrote: 'The euphoric reactions of Wycombe’s Wembley-bound heroes after Saturday’s completed victory over Altrincham said just how much this triumph meant. Keith Scott had just added a penalty to Mark West’s earlier goal when the final whistle blew. From the substitutes’ bench and from the terrace behind one goal, more than 1,400 heroes rushed to congratulate each other out on the Moss Lane pitch.

Wycombe Wanderers had clinched their first Wembley appearance in 34 years, and players, management and fans alike hugged each other in jubilation. West was chaired from the pitch, and before all the players appeared in the stand to applaud the travelling blue army, I struggled through to witness the scenes in the players’ tunnel. There, red-eyed chairman Ivor Beeks lifted his manager Martin O’Neill up in the air. Steve Walford, a man who has won FA Cup and European semi-finals, cried with delight.

The simple truth was that Wycombe deserved to win this match and the tie overall. Neither leg was an attractive footballing occasion in technical terms, but the first leg advantage had given Blues sufficient confidence to dictate the pat tern of the second leg. Several Wycombe players said the look of dejection on the Altrincham players’ faces as they trooped off defeated after the first leg indicated the northerners were ready to go out of the competition.

Altrincham boss John King had his players working on set pieces at Moss Lane from 10am on Saturday. By 3.30pm, with Wycombe having maintained their advantage, all the King’s men were starting to look jaded and to run out of ideas. Their tempers frayed as frustration grew and the realisation came that they were not going to Wembley. This culminated in the dismissal of 32-goal striker Ken McKenna with three minutes to go when an observant linesman spotted the aggressive striker elbow Matt Crossley in the stomach off the ball. But by then, Wycombe had already dealt the significant damage with West’s 64th minute killer blow confirming their hold on the tie.

Mark West is about to recieve the ball before scoring Wanderers' opening goal at Moss Lane
Picture by Steve Peart as published in the Wycombe Wanderers matchday programme.

Steve Guppy and Dave Carroll funnelled back to supplement the defensive cause, but twice midway through the half Carroll threatened to increase Blues’ advantage.

On 20 minutes, the winger found space to crash in a volley across the face of the goal, before firing over from 20 yards moments later. Simon Stapleton, running through on 26 minutes, saw his drive held by Jeff Wealands before Guppy volleyed over from Carroll’s cross on the stroke of half time as Blues attacked the end bedecked in blue.

Altrincham’s chances often originated from Paul Showler, although the England semi-professional winger was too quiet to cause John Granville any problems with efforts on target. After 25 minutes, Showier fed Nicky Daws, who passed to the feet of John Brady. Brady turned Andy Kerr to fire over. Six minutes later, Harry Wiggins threw the ball to the feet of McKenna. Scott was back defending to toe the ball only as far as Showier, whose far-post cross eluded Glyn Creaser only for Daws to fire over from ten yards out.

The teams’ confidence levels soared in opposite directions at half time, and Wycombe were responsible for the more cohesive football after the break. West slipped a ball inside to Stapleton, whose first time effort, again on the run, brought a brilliant save from Wealands in the 47th minute. Four minutes later, Scott fed West who played the ball back to Keith Ryan. The ball came wide to Crossley, whose cross was headed narrowly wide by West, arriving at the near post.

Wycombe’s pressure increased and Scott, from West’s clipped centre, headed just wide before Carroll on 54 minutes drove inches wide of the same upright.

Altrincham’s best chance of the game came on the hour when Mark McCarrick’s driven centre arrived at the feet of Nigel Shaw 15 yards out. But the Altrincham midfielder struck his first time effort over and in amongst the blue balloons.

Then came the moment when Wycombe’s place at Wembley seemed booked. Carroll’s corner not for the first time this season was met by Creaser, who flicked on at the near post. There, stealing in away from his marker was West, to steer the ball into the far corner of the net. The celebrations were something else as Westy treated the Wycombe fans to a succession of dances ranging from Charlie George’s 1971 FA Cup winner to Roger Milla’s hip-swivelling, toe-tapping extravaganza.

McKenna dribbled round Creaser and Crossley in the area on 71 minutes to find Kerr, prostrate in his way. Substitute Mark Hughes shot wide when in space 18 yards out two minutes later, but then Altrincham’s disappointment spilled over.

Brady felled Stuart Cash for a yellow card while Daws was lucky to stay on the field after taking the same player out and questioning his fatherhood while Cash was grounded. McKenna, one of the mouthiest, most ill-tempered opponents Wycombe will face this or any season, eventually got his comeuppance near the end as his frustration at being nigh-on perfectly marked by Creaser all afternoon got the better of him.

In injury time, Simon Hutchinson was released into the area by Scott and had his legs taken away for Scott to grab the ball and stroke home his sixth Wycombe goal in nine starts. Then came the celebrations that won’t be forgotten — and there’s still Wembley to come!'

Wycombe: Granville, Crossley, Cash, Kerr, Creaser, Carroll, Ryan, Stapleton, West (sub 79 Robinson), Scott, Guppy (sub 84 Hutchinson)
Scorers: West 64, Scott 91 (pen)
Bookings: Crossley 44 (dissent)
Altrincham: Wealands, Miller, Wiggins, Rowlands, McCarrick, Anderson (sub Reid), Shaw, Daws, Brady (sub Hughes), McKenna, ShowIer
Scorer: none
Bookings: Brady 57 (foul) - Red Card: McKenna 87 (violent conduct)
Referee: Mr T West (Hull) Attendance: 3,500 (1,500 away)

Keith Scott slots away a penalty at Altrincham to confirm the victory that took Wanderers to Wembley.
Picture by Steve Peart as published in the Wycombe Wanderers matchday programme.

What the Wanderers players said after the game:

Glyn Creaser: Nervous as hell. Shed a few tears at end, I must admit. I’m gutted: no I’m not, what am I talking about? That’s a load of rot. Overwhelmed. Best day of my career full stop.

Simon Stapleton: I’m going to get absolutely slaughtered tonight, absolutely lacerated. I never thought we’d lost it, it was just a matter of ticking the clock. We just had to keep battling. I never thought we were going to lose because I never thought they were going to score. All I know is we’re going to Wembley and they’re not.

Keith Scott: I picked up the ball, I said I was taking it and I took it. When we scored, it was obvious they needed two to take it into extra time but I think we took the wind out their sails when Westy scored. Very happy at half time, because they’ve always got to score. And if we battled like we did in the first half, and we fancied our chances to score, and we did score and now we’re going to have lots and lots to drink.

Andy Robinson: Yes, pretty nervous. I didn’t feel like they looked like scoring. I thought Scotty did well up front. Just a few times (played at Wembley). A long time ago for schoolboys. I suppose it’s a bit like a second home.

Keith Ryan: We all played really well, and I’m just glad to be there. At half time, it was going well, 0-0 obviously, and I just think from then on, we just had to battle 100 per cent. It didn’t have to be pretty as long as we got the result. All it took was a big battle. As long as everyone battled their hardest, we knew we were there.

Andy Kerr: He (McKenna) was a handful but it proved what he was getting up to because he ended up getting sent off. He deserved to get what he got. Glyn did brilliant, John did brilliant as well. Wembley....I’ve just got to get that in. There were bits bobbling around but we got behind them and forced them to knock it over and wide so we had no worries at all really.

Stuart Cash: Brilliant. Best day of my career. He (Daws) didn’t cause me any problems really. He got a bit ratty at the end, but it’s not surprising when Wembley’s at stake. He came to me after and apologised. We’ll get down to Wycombe and have a session tonight. I’m pleased for the gaffer. The fans helped us win the game, like they were superb. They deserve all the praise they can get. They were brilliant.

Dave Carroll: Pretty important (last week’s goal). Yeah, first of this year. Been a bit unlucky a few times. The highlight (of career) really. We really battled today.

Matt Crossley: He (McKenna) didn’t come too far near me. I saw the linesman flagging and I told him you’re off. (Wembley?) I’ll be there next week for the League Cup I’m a Man. United fan.

Simon Hutchinson: Brilliant. Good job he brought me down because it was on my left foot. Just brilliant to be part of it. Obviously, everyone wants to be part of it, but I was happy to get on there at the end of the day. Played there (at Wembley) for England schoolboys about three times so it’ll be nice to get back to the old place.

Steve Guppy: Great result. We did what we had to do.

Mark West: Someone got a flick on. It’s come over the geezer that was marking me and somehow I got a toe to it and it’s wrong footed the geezer on the line and slipped in the corner. Then I could do my Charlie George, 1971.

Meanwhile, Wanderers Manager Martin O'Neil, speaking on the Monday after the game at Altrincham, said "The party night was excellent. There were quite a few hundred waiting at the football ground, and it’s been good news ever since. The people in the office are buzzing. The final whistle was a special moment. Westy’s goal: when that went over the line, that gave us breathing space as they then had to score three to knock us out on the day. And the defence was superb, but then, everyone was superb."

Wanderers would have to wait a few days to find out their opponents in the final to be held on Saturday 11th May 1991 at Wembley Stadium - Witton Albion beat Kidderminster Harriers 4-3 to draw 4-4 on aggregate. It would be Harriers who won through to take on Wanderers with a 2-1 victory in the replay at Stafford on Monday 15th April 1991.

Saturday 13th April 1991 - Altrincham V Wycombe - FA Trophy Semi-Final 2nd Leg
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Saturday 11th May 1991 - Kidderminster v Wycombe - FA Trophy Final Preview >>>

FA Trophy memories 1991 - 25 year anniversary retro index
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