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Wycombe Wanderers 0
Birmingham City 3
Saturday 18th March 1995
Football League Division Two
Wanderers' goalscoring famine continued as they went down 3-0 at home to promotion chasing Birmingham City at Adams Park. Martin O'Neill included new signing Jason Soloman in his starting line-up. The former Watford Youth Teamer joined Wanderers on a free from Vicarage Road, although a clause in the deal would net The Hornets £25,000 should the defender turned striker make 30 appearances for Wycombe. Another new arrival was 24 year old midfielder Peter Garland, signed on loan from Charlton Athletic.
In front of a Police instigated all-ticket crowd of 7,000 plus gate at Adams Park, Wycombe were always struggling against a City side assembled for several million £'s by City boss Barry Fry but could feel hard done by in the way the goals were conceeded. The result saw Wycombe drop to 11th place in table and continue a run where they had failed to score in close to 300 minutes of League football.
Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Claire Nash said: 'The biggest League gate of the season, 7,289, filled Adams Park to see if O’Neill could continue to work wonders on a shoestring budget — against the odds and against complete polar opposites where strength-in-depth is concerned.
It has become easy to forget that Blues have confounded us all time and again on their meteoric rise. But their richly satisfying 1-0 smash and grab win at Birmingham, and the accompanying euphoria, last August seemed a million miles away on Saturday.
Wycombe showed their fighting spirit in the opening exchanges, and Blues’ goalkeeper Paul Hyde adeptly dealt with anything Birmingham threw at him. The visitors meant business, however, in search of their first away win of the year. Their first goal, though, came by way of a fortuitous and scrappy finish. A harsh free kick decision was given against Cyrille Regis for a foul on Gary Cooper 35 yards out just after the half hour. Cooper’s free kick sailed over the tallest men on the pitch, Blues’ Terry Evans and Birmingham’s £800,000 striker Kevin Francis, and went in off Peter Shearer’s shoulder, completely fooling Blues’ defence and Hyde in the process.
Birmingham were motoring now, while Blues found it hard work to fashion anything in reply. The visitors’ second goal followed a good build up in first-half stoppage time. But Steve Claridge clearly handled the ball as he controlled Steve Robinson’s cross into the box. The Bucks Free Press [Valley End] end not surprisingly shouted for handball, but there was no whistle and Claridge spun away from his man to bury the ball in the back of the net with an explosive finish.
Birmingham dominated the second half as they did the first, Mark Ward masterminding the midfield, while Wycombe were invariably forced onto the back foot. Stern defending was required to contain the gangly 6ft 8in Francis, Claridge, and pacy on-loan Crystal Palace defender Paul Williams. They soon had £800,000 substitute Ricky Otto to contend with as well.
Wanderers’ veteran striker Simon Garner caused problems for Birmingham with his surges forward but the only sparks which flew were from his mouth in a verbal clash with Mark Ward during the game’s early moments. Some Blues’ fans already sensed there was no way back when they started leaving ten minutes before the end. They missed the final nail being hammered in by Poole, his long- range drive being deflected in by Wycombe skipper Terry Evans in the game’s dying moments.'
Speaking after the game Martin O'Neill said: "Eventually we were well beaten. But although we were not as good as Birmingham, we needed a few breaks. Two major incidents led to their goals. They were the two major breaks, breaks that we could have done without." Having scrambled around to sign Peter Garland on loan and Jason Soloman on a free the day before the clash with Birmingham, the Wycombe boss was starting to admit that he may have hit the ceiling with Wycombe, saying: “For the first time today I envied Barry [Fry] and the set-up at Birmingham. That’s where I feel I should be — up there with the bigger boys. We fielded seven free transfers, which is lovely in one way but it’s hard to keep making silk purses out of sows’ ears." O'Neill added: “Their substitute cost £850,000. If I spent a third of that on a player he would be my captain for the next eight years.” But O’Neill was adamant that Wanderers were not out of the race for promotion, saying: “I do not want to have reached a peak here. The play-offs are far from finished. We have had a really good season. I’m not happy for it all to slip away now." Negotiations after the game with City would bring former Colchester United striker Steve McGavin on an initial loan deal to Adams Park in time for Wanderers next game, away to League leaders Brentford.
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