The Story of The Blues
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Wycombe Wanderers 4
Preston North End 2
Saturday 28th May 1994
Football League Division Three - Play-off Final
Wycombe v Preston - 28th May 1994 - local paper cuttings
Blues turn it on for Wembley
Bucks Free Press - Claire Nash reporting from Wembley Stadium:
They saved the best till last. Wycombe were asked the biggest question of their existence on Saturday. The momentous query has fast become an annual one. But they answered it in style to earn promotion to Division Two at the first time of asking and make it three out of three wins at Wembley in the last four years.
Their success followed a gruelling — at times it most definitely wasn’t pretty — baptism of fire in the Football League during the last nine months. It was achieved with a side which had thundered into the Division Three play-off final when many feared the necessary momentum had drained away during the tail end of the season.
They revelled in a passing game against Preston who pursued their relentless forceful style. Wycombe came from behind to overhaul their opponents’ 2-1 halftime lead, courtesy of excellent goals by play-off veteran Simon Garner and two by Dave Carroll. The fourth goal, Carroll’s second of the day, was a moment of pure inspiration by the winger after a run from his own half. It left him, the 17,000 Wanderers fans, and indeed the whole town, walking on air.
Martin O’Neill was similarly thrilled. “We got the ball down and tried to play. Everything we attempted today has come right.” The manager said he was petrified when his team were behind at half time but had the utmost belief in the way they had set about their task early on. “I thought after the first 20 minutes we should have been 2-0 in front. We got level then went behind again. I wanted us to keep doing the same things as the first half. We got lucky in the second half very, very early and that settled us down again. Then we were all over them.” He added: “If your heart can stand it, the best way to go up is in the play-offs. Three teams have gone up already. I think they have missed out on not being able to do it at Wembley.”
Preston were condemned to plumb the depths of despair in defeat. The prospect of the latter if it all went pear-shaped was an obscene amount of pressure for both sides to carry into the game. Ninety minutes to decide an issue formed by a tough nine-month pre-amble. A brutal sudden death finale if ever there was one, rather than the jolly cup-final jamboree as it is viewed by the Football League. Both teams played admirably well considering the burden.
Ultimately, justice was done. Fourth-placed Blues beat a team that finished three points behind them - and escaped a cruel iniquity. Wanderers’ mix of worldly-wise veterans Garner and Nicky Reid with O’Neill’s former Conference heroes found a perfect groove in the second half. Preston, one of the League’s founding members, twice led against the run of play, but were finally left bereft of ideas to combat Blues’ ingenuity. Wycombe’s goals made a mockery of Preston’s pursuit of long-ball bombing tactics. But North End’s isolated moments of masterly finishing gave Wycombe plenty of food for thought at the break.
Steve Thompson left North End’s defence trailing in his wake from the off. One turn and a spurt of acceleration on eight minutes ended with his shot beating Preston keeper Steve Woods, but it went narrowly wide. Steve Guppy squandered one of a spate of golden opportunities when Garner dummied Reid’s centre to give the winger space and time to pick his spot. Guppy aimed directly at Woods, though, who pushed it over the bar. Carroll tried to lob the keeper after a great through-ball by Thompson, but Woods gathered confidently. Wycombe continued to sweep forward in numbers with Thompson and Reid engineering most of the supply lines.
Preston hit back against the run of play when Ian Bryson let fly with a superb overhead kick from Tony Ellis’s cross. Flu-stricken Wanderers keeper Paul Hyde had no chance. Wycombe responded immediately by catching the Lancastrians’ defence on the hop from the re-start. Garner was found by Glyn Creaser’s upfield pass and fed Thompson whose crisp goalbound shot was played into his own net by Jamie Squires. Preston looked frail at the back, but continued an onslaught which forced a huge amount of set pieces. Their second goal, after an unusually incisive pass forward, released Ellis, whose centre was flicked home from an unstoppable angle and velocity by Paul Raynor on 38 minutes. It was celebration time in the Preston stand while Wanderers were left shell-shocked and their supporters felt the tension tighten.
Wycombe proceeded to spoil the premature party in the second half. David Titterton smacked the ball high and long to Garner who had taken up a good central position. The striker showed superb control and speed as he took it down and outmanoeuvred a gaggle of Preston defenders before firing a left-footed shot past Woods on 47 minutes. Garner played a major part again in Wycombe’s third goal, a one-touch masterpiece. Guppy latched onto a loose ball, but rather than hare down the left channel, as is often the norm, he passed swiftly inside to Thompson. The midfielder-cum-striker linked instinctively with Garner who played the cross on for Carroll to bury in the back of the net. Preston’s frustration manifested itself in their challenges and a touch of dramatics when tackled.
There was still a suggestion that Wanderers needed one more goal to make it safe. Carroll duly obliged. He embarked on a mazy run from his own half. Preston seemed leaden-footed or were perhaps wondering just what he was up to. So was the whole stadium. Thompson peeled off to the right flank in case he was needed and Guppy called for the ball on the left. Just when it seemed Carroll looked in danger of being dispossessed, he checked, put the ball onto his right foot and swung in a shot which went in off the far post. Oh boy, oh joy. Substitutes Steve Brown and Chuck Moussaddik joined the celebrations on the pitch. Hyde still had work to do, though, Ellis testing him with a fierce snapshot on 82 minutes. Lee Cartwright let rip from long range, but both last-gasp efforts were futile.
Wanderers, with perhaps their best balanced side of the whole League campaign, were home - another pinnacle scaled, their love affair with Wembley continuing amid a stream of heady success. Next season sets a new summit to be conquered. Base camp is only weeks away. The countdown has already begun.

Up, up and away
Blues go up to Division Two
after second promotion in row

Wycombe Star - Andrew Dickinson reporting from Wembley Stadium
It must be the longest cup run ever. After 42 hard fought rounds and a couple of heroic clashes with Carlisle United, the Blue Army strode into Wembley stadium ready to face Preston North End - a team who had already proved themselves inferior over the season. And there lies the problem with play-offs. Why should teams who have not made the grade over eight months of football be given a second bite of the cherry? Wycombe, having finished highest of the four clubs involved, went to the national stadium with everything to lose and precious little to gain but passed the examination in style.
The opening first half hour was, for such a death or glory affair, refreshingly open. Blues created a number of decent chances with the sort of flowing football that has been scarcely seen in their Endsleigh campaign since Christmas. Preston were their usual predictable selves. One could easily scream ‘Hoof as the ball approached a North End player without the slightest chance of subsequently being proved wrong.
Things had been going extremely well for Wycombe until Ian Bryson casually bicycle- kicked Preston into an unjust lead. But the travelling support had little time to dance and sing before Simon Garner released Steve Thompson with a perfectly weighted through ball. The Wycombe end rose in expectation, Thompson side-footed round keeper Woods and Preston centre back Jamie Squires made sure with an ill-fated lunge into his own goal.
Sadly, Preston regained the advantage on 38 minutes. Jason Cousins, struggling to reach the ball, only succeeded in diverting it to the feet of North End’s top scorer Tony Ellis. Cousins recovered well but Ellis cut back and delivered an inviting centre for Paul Raynor to flick past Paul Hyde.
Martin O’Neill said later he told his team to keep on playing in the same positive manner during half time. As the teams emerged from half time there was a detectable sense of urgency from the Wycombe support, the Preston fans already dreaming of early season weekend breaks in Bournmouth or Blackpool.
Within two minutes of the restart the sand had well and truly been kicked into their faces by Garner. The veteran striker killed stone dead a 40-yard long ball from Dave Titterton and belted it to the left of Woods for the equaliser. Back from the dead twice, and growing more confident by the minute, the Blues continued to rain attacks on the Preston goal.
Then on 57 minutes, Wembley played host to an attacking move that even the most ardent of British football knockers would have to salute. Steve Guppy slipped the ball from his wide left domain into the path of the on-rushing Thompson, who off- loaded the ball to Garner, who in turn played it through to the mercurial Carroll. The right winger made no mistake, taking the masses into hysteria.
Could the Wanderers hang on? After all, the last occasion they troubled the opposition net four times in a match was at the beginning of November. This was clearly not a thought in Carroll’s head as he began a mazy run from just inside the Preston half. Unable to lay the ball off to Thompson who was loitering in an offside position, Carroll persisted. He reached the edge of the box, the defenders stood startled like rabbits in the glare of car headlights. Cutting back to his right he fired a cannonball of justice, blasting a welcoming hole into the fortress of Division Two - and quite right too!

Day in the life of a Blue Army messenger
Wycombe Star - Neil Peters reporting from Wembley Stadium and High Wycombe Town Centre
Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up, I noticed, it was Saturday, May 28, the day Wycombe were going to win at Wembley.
Still not 100% or even 50% awake I found myself making my way down to meet the crowds at the famous Flint Cottage pub. Famous for such rock acts as Red House. The only singing you could hear above the clink of glasses was that of the faithful larger than life Blue Army.
After a stiff pint (early or not, you just don’t drink Coke in the Flint) it was just over the road to give Network Southeast another fiver. It was BR who provided us with the special football service to Wembley, but I would like to know who supplied the never ending number of balloons which filled the length, breadth and depth of our carriage.
Off the train and up the Wembley wall, towards those famous twin towers. Mingling with opposition fans can be a dangerous pastime at the best of times. The ones who talk to you are often drunk and the ones who like to hit you are also usually drunk. Best not risk talking at all, I say. So off on my chicken legs I hopped to the press box.
At this point I would like to say that if 35,000 tickets (the original estimate of Preston ticket sales) were sold at Deepdale, then 15,000 Wycombe fans travelled a long way to get theirs. Sitting in the press box behind the royal box, it looked about even.
Yet again The Blue Army did Wycombe proud. It is something special supporting a team at Wembley which springs from your home town. Recognising faces from pubs, shops, work and who knows where else makes for a very savory atmosphere.
With class performances during the game from both players and fans, it proved to be not just the clqb’s day but the whole town’s day. I departed the ground a lot more relaxed than I had entered it and faced a hefty wait at the station. But the wait did not dampen the spirits of Wycombe’s fans. Exhausted lungs still bellowed vocal talent across West London and beyond.
Back in Wycombe, a blue centipede spilled off the train and onto home territory. For those of you who think football fans are thuggish and unpleasant, you would have been shocked at the karma of the High Street. Everything was a dream. Even the kebabs smelt good to me - and I was still sober!
Talking of alcohol, I ended up in the home base for all Wycombe’s Wembley triumphs - the Antelope pub’s beer garden. On approach the noise was resplendent. It was time to get some comments while people could still talk.
Also see:
Wycombe v Preston - match report and stats - Wembley May 1994
Player quotes - Wembley May 1994
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