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Shrewsbury Town 1
Wycombe Wanderers 1
Saturday 9th March 1996
Football League Division Two

There were few surprises as Wanderers took on Shrewsbury Town at Gay Meadow as two of the most out of form sides in the Second Division shared the points. The final score of 1-1 added to both side's sequence of poor results. Shrewsbury had not won a League game since January 2nd 1996 while Wycombe could only look at this result as an improvement on their 2-0 home defeat to Brighton the previous Wednesday.

Team news for Wycombe saw underfire Manager Alan Smith give new on loan 'keeper Sieb Dykstra his debut in a Wanderers shirt, while out field, Steve McGavin came in for Miqeul Desouza and Gary Patterson replaced David Farrell.

In a relatively entertaining encounter, it was Wycombe who opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Cousins centered from the right for Keith Ryan to spectacularly head past Edwards in the Shrewsbury goal. The 300 or so Wycombe fans who made the journey to Shropshire saw the locals pull level ten minutes later when a series of passes in the box ended with Ian Stevens back healing past a helpless Dykstra.

Wycombe dominated the remainder of the half with the best effort coming on 25 minutes when Williams flicked on for McGavin, who centred to ex-Shrew Gary Patterson whose header was deflected wide. Terry Evans also had a shot deflected wide ten minutes before the break but the half ended all square.

Nine minutes into the second half, Carroll should have done better after a Williams shot was turned away but Wycombe's best chance of the half came on 57 minutes when a pin point cross-field pass by Bell picked out McGavin who crossed for Carroll in the box only to see Ryan somehow fail to beat the 'keeper from close range. Shrewsbury's best effort of the half followed on 75 minutes when the impressive Mark Taylor was clear through but Cousins scrambled back to clear the ball off the line.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from Adams Park, Claire Nash wrote: 'Wycombe Wanderers knew they had to pull out the stops merely to stop the rot when they ventured into earthquake’ country on Saturday. While the earth didn’t exactly move for Blues in quite the same way a 3.2 tremor on the Richter scale woke up the sleepy environs of Shrewsbury late last week, their quest to turn back a tide of negative fault lines, which has miserably wrecked recent form, took on a steady-Eddy hue. The match was not one to write home about, the second lowest attendance of the day in Division Two was testament to low expectations. But the potential for an impending natural disaster lent it an exciting edge.

If the encounter had been staged 48 hours later, a plummeting Chinese satellite would have provided an additional surreal note of interest for the smattering of 2,866 spectators at this quaint and cosy shire town’s Gay Meadow ground. Watching the sunny picturesque blue skies was already on the agenda with the ball predominantly airborne on Saturday. But both teams got studiously stuck into the serious business of ensuring that not even acts of God or faulty space-age technology were going to stop respective efforts to stem two of the worst form records in the division. Admittedly neither team are about to suffer a cataclysmic demise of Hull-proportions, but they would be the first to put their hands up and admit they have let their supporters down in recent weeks, however difficult it is for them to talk about it.

With Wycombe having lost five of their last six games and Shrewsbury chasing their first win in ten, their disgruntled guiding lights, Wycombe boss Alan Smith and his Shrewsbury counterpart Fred Davies, will have been sufficiently satisfied by this result, if only to use as a platform for better things. But, all the same, only a sliver of a chink of light now illuminates either club’s chances of making the play-offs after a draw. The major plus in Wycombe’s favour for the remainder of the season is their pride. It has become painfully obvious that this is something the players do understand, but it is unfortunate they only show this when the chips are down through their own doing.

The squad got together last Thursday afternoon, the day after Wednesday’s woeful 2-0 defeat against Brighton, to talk through what’s going on, wrong, and what to do about it. “All of us got together in training, just the lads, and went through the game. We know we had a lot to put right,” said Gary Patterson, who returned to Blues’ starting line-up after two games on the substitutes’ bench to take on his former club. The Wanderers midfielder played impressively alongside Keith Ryan in the middle of the park. Both did much to support Wycombe’s attacking play, with Patterson providing a handful of goalscoring chances and Ryan actually finding the target.

It underlined that Patterson was unfortunate to have had to sit out Blues’ last two games, the defeats against Brighton and Swindon. His fellow midfield playmaker Ryan scored his first goal since returning from his year-long stretch with injury, an explosive far-post header buried Jason Cousins’ right- wing cross in the back of Paul Edwards’ net on 11 minutes. Where, Ryan’s effort powered Wycombe into the lead, Shrewsbury showed the delicate touch with their equaliser. With Blues’ defence struggling to clear the ball from the box, Ian Stevens’ deft back heel wrongfooted everyone and flew under Sieb Dykstra’s arching body on 21 minutes.

Wycombe’s debutant goalkeeper proceeded to blow hot and cold throughout the rest of the game, although Blues created more goalscoring chances. Only a great save by Edwards denied Patterson’s lunging header on 27 minutes. Ryan should have scored a second after the break when Dave Carroll’s through ball left him six yards from goal with just the goalkeeper to beat. But the midfielder seemed to hesitate before striking the ball and Edwards had time to dive and fingertip it to safety. With just five minutes left, Patterson put in a great cross which only required the merest of touches of either the incoming Miquel Desouza or John Williams, but neither were able to divert the ball’s speedy trajectory across the goalmouth.'

Wycombe: Dykstra, Cousins, Bell, Howard, Evans, Brown, Carroll, Ryan, McGavin (sub 79 Desouza), Williams, Patterson -subs not used: J Rowbotham, Hardyman
Scorers: Ryan 11
Bookings: None
Shrewsbury: Edwards, Lynch, Withe, Taylor (sub 78 D Rowbotham), Whiston, Evans, Currie, Stevens, Spink (sub 72 Anthrobus), Walton, Berkley - sub not used: Reed
Scorers: Stevens 21
Bookings: None
Referee: Mr A R Leake (Darwen) Attendance: 2,866 (away 319)

Wycombe Manager Alan Smith was again a man of few when speaking to the press after the game but did say: "We had control of the midfield but Shrewsbury’s goal look the wind out of our sails. Their keeper Paul Edwards pulled off three great saves but we had enough chances to bury them."

Meanwhile, Gary Patterson added: “It’s been disappointing not to play. And the lads, to be fair, have not been playing too well. But today we looked a lot stronger. It looked like we were getting there. Now we have got to look at improving our home game performances.” Patterson believed the absence of a midweek game in the week following the game Shrewsbury would do the players good in analysing their progress, or indeed the lack of it, as they prepared for the following Saturday’s clash against Brentford at Adams Park.

Next game - Wycombe v Brentford - Saturday 16th March 1996
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