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STAYING UP - Saturday 3rd May 2014
What the papers said
Wanderers' amazing final day escape from relegation at Torquay on Saturday 3rd May 2014 will be etched in the memories of those there or listening in. Chairboys on the Net raided the newsagents on the days after the match and these are some extracts of how some of the local and national press reported the events.
Wycombe in wonderland after unlikely great escape was The Daily Telegraph headline for Jonathan Liew report from Plainmoor. He said, "Many years from now, people will look up Wycombe's 2013-14 season on Wikipedia, read that they finished 22nd, and conclude that it was a pretty disappointing season. And they would be right, of course. But football is not a game of numbers and records. It is a game of moments and feelings." Liew, who also authored a double page match preview, added, "The league table will not, for example, record Sam Wood's body-popping dance across the penalty area at Plainmoor in front of 929 delirious travelling fans. It will not be flecked with the tears of striker Steven Craig, or the water squirted at manager Ainsworth by his beaming players. Nor is it likely to document the rising heart rates, the ears pressed up against portable radios, the anxious glances up to the press box. Nor the roar, feral and ferocious, that went up among the Wycombe fans, while their team were still passing the ball around."
The Guardian's Jeremy Alexander reported with the headline, Wycombe savour survival on day of pure escapism. He captured the moment Wycombe found out they were safe by saying, "It was the 93rd minute at Plainmoor. Wycombe Wanderers, 3-0 up against 10-man Torquay United, had solved their half of the simultaneous equation. They had to win to avoid going out of the League but they needed Northampton or Bristol Rovers to lose as well. It was as simple and agonising as that, with Northampton 3-1 up at home to Oxford United but Rovers only 1-o down at home to Mansfield. Suddenly Wycombe's fans, 929 of them who had clapped and chanted throughout, went quiet, hardly daring to believe as they strained for the certainty of their fate from the Memorial Stadium via radio or tweet, before releasing a roar as if the tap of Niagara Falls had been turned back on. Like Macaulay's ranks of Tuscany, their players, with a minute or so to go, could scarce forbear to hug and cavort. Sometimes survival is richer than success, football better than fiction."
The Western edition of The Sunday Independent carried reports of both Wycombe's game at Torquay and Bristol Rovers' defeat at home to Mansfield. Richard Latham reporting from The Memorial Ground commented, "It was evident that a long afternoon was in prospect as relegation rivals Wycombe and Northampton took first half control of their respective games. Rovers made a bright enough start without being able to conjure up the goal that would have eased the inevitable tension." He then described the crucial goal that led to Wanderers' Football League survival. "Then came the moment supporters were dreading. On 36 minutes, Anthony Howell delivered a cross into the box and Colin Daniel hooked a volley towards goal that gave Steve Mildenhall no chance as the ball went in off the foot of a post. By the time Rovers ran out for the second half it was clear they would have to score - and they did everything but."
The Football League had the headline TEARS OF JOY FOR WYCOMBE for a report from Plainmoor by Matt Bamsey. He said, "Gareth Ainsworth celebrated Wycombe's great escape by swinging from the crossbar in front of 929 ecstatic Chairboys fans- before insisting he never wants to do it again." After the goals that kept Wycombe in the Football League, he added, "It led to wild scenes of joy, with players in tears and Ainsworth performing acrobatics after his side engineered a final twist in the battle to avoid the drop. And once emotions had simmered a touch, Ainsworth admitted he had learned some valuable lessons from his side's brush with relegation."
The Western Morning News, published on the Monday after the game, saw David Tomas try to explain Torquay's fate, saying, "After their own fate was sealed, despite an eighth away win at Mansfield Town seven days before, the job for the Gulls was to make sure that the last day was not all about Wycombe Wanderers, who turned up as rank outsiders in a three-way scrap to stay up. But instead of going down with all guns blazing, ten-man Torquay - they were dreadful in defence before Anthony O'Connor's 51st-minute dismissal and punchless in attack - surrendered. In the end, it was all about Wycombe." Commenting on Rovers game with Mansfield, he added, "Quite how the Pirates, urged on by a 10,000 crowd, failed to score in such circumstances is almost beyond belief. But they did not, and at Plainmoor Wycombe just kept going." Then describing events at the end of the ninety minutes he said, "Ainsworth and his staff kept looking anxiously into the grandstand for news of events in Bristol, but a huge roar from the Away End told them that Rovers had been beaten just before the final whistle at Plainmoor. It had been a memorable and scarcely believable afternoon for Wanderers, but a depressingly forgettable one for United. One which summed up their sorry season."
Local coverage for the Wanderers had to wait until the Friday 9th May edition of the Bucks Free Press. Coverage of the day was carried across eight pages, including the page and a two page spread of photos outside of the regular sports section. The match report from Andy Carsell commented, "Wanderers achieved the impossible as they pulled off a last-day escape in the most dramatic of circumstances." He went on to say, "Colin Daniel wrote his name into Wanderers folklore as his first half goal helped Wycombe achieve the impossible dream, as Mansfield held out against a Rovers onslaught. Mansfield’s 1-0 win sparked scenes of wild celebration at Plainmoor as manager Gareth Ainsworth ran onto the pitch screaming with delight at his side’s survival." Describing the tense scenes towards the end of the match, the report added, "Every bit of news and every tweet was met with chewed nails and frayed nerves as it became kitchen sink time for Rovers, still trailing to Mansfield and needing a goal to survive at Wycombe’s expense." Quotes from Wanderers players filled much of the coverage in the Bucks Free Press, with Matt McClure, scoring of Wanderers third goal at Torquay, trying to put into words his feelings as full time approached, saying, "With two minutes left when the fans were screaming, me and Stevie (Craig) looked at each other and started crying. It was unbelievable – I can’t describe it. We’ve done it as professionally as we could do it. We knew if we got an early goal it would filter through to the others and they would start panicking a bit. We got the penalty, Stevie stuck it away, and the third goal killed them. It was just a matter of time, waiting for that final whistle and hoping someone else had messed up for us. Our fans started going mental and were waiting for the final whistle. You feel for Bristol Rovers, but rather them than us.”
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