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Wycombe Wanderers 1
Crewe Alexandra 1
Saturday 12th August 1995
Football League Division Two

Jason Cousins was red carded as Wanderers had to settle for a draw against Crewe in the opening game of the 1995/96 campaign under new Manager Alan Smith. Cousins was sent down the tunnel for second-bookable offence just after the hour mark and with Wycombe trailing to a 13th minute goal from Crewe's 18 year old Danny Murphy. However, a Steve McGavin penalty on 72 minutes salavged a point for Wanderers as a season of high expectations at Adams Park began.

New boss Smith had yet to flash the cash of news signings but gave competitive Wycombe debuts to Bristol Rovers midfield signing Paul Hardyman and Sheffield United loanee defender Mark Foran. Transfer listed Tony Hemmings was given a place on the bench. Meanwhile, a Crewe side led by long-term boss Dario O'Gradi, included, in addition to former Youth Team prospect Murphy, 20 year old Manchester United Youth Team drop-out Robbie Savage and Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Claire Nash wrote: 'Wycombe Wanderers’ performance against Leyton Orient in tonight’s Coca- Cola Cup first round will be a radical improvement on Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Crewe, vowed boss Alan Smith. Blues’ manager ‘invited’ his squad to train on Sunday morning to re-tune nuts and bolts that were dramatically loosened by their stylish Division Two opponents in a testing opener at Adams Park. After his first league game in charge, Smith believed the players had tried too hard to impress both him and an expect ant 5,000-plus crowd, to the point of disregarding much of what they had practised pre-season.

“The thing that disappointed me was that we did not do anything we had been working on. We had been passing the ball, but they wanted to run with it for some reason today,” said Smith. He saw Wycombe’s fires burn brightly only after they trailed Crewe’s early goal and were down to ten men after Jason Cousins was sent off for two bookable offences. Smith reflected afterwards that he should have realised an unrehearsed opening-minute free-kick attempt by Cousins, which went wide, was a portent of what was to come. The players went their own way and got nowhere.

Blues were all over the shop early on, only being let off the hook by lapses of Crewe discipline at both ends. If Crewe had taken their chances, Blues would have been dead and buried before the visitors’ captain Steve Macauley was adjudged to have brought Steve McGavin down in the area on 72 minutes. The striker made no mistake from the spot to get Wycombe out of trouble.

Crewe’s cool, calm and collected approach play clearly unnerved Wanderers, with even Blues’ newly appointed skipper Steve Brown flailing with rest of them in the first half. Crewe went into a deserved lead after 13 minutes when Danny Murphy leapt in unhindered at the far post to head in Martyn Booty’s cross. Wycombe buzzed around in as agitated a fashion as the ever-present wasps in the stands.

They gradually got a grip but still lacked a good final ball to test Crewe’s defence. Paul Hyde stopped Blues going further behind on 39 minutes when he blocked Lee Unsworth’s shot after good work by Crewe’s dynamically-named but delicate-of-build striker Rob Savage. Wayne Collins had a crack with the rebound but the shot was too high. Wycombe responded with their best chance of the game before the break, Brown steering the ball just wide from Cousins’ thunderous cross.

Blues pulled their socks up after the break, but Cousins was deservedly punished for trying to pull Murphy’s down on the hour. A rugby-style tackle on the winger was a disappointingly desperate act after he had been booked just five minutes before. However harsh the first caution was, Cousins should have been more circumspect in erring again. But, and not for the first time, the red mist blew in.

Wycombe responded with a passionate last half hour. Brown found his feet and accordingly found others with his passes. McGavin worked devilishly hard up front and thoroughly earned a goal, albeit by virtue of a questionable penalty decision. Incisive moves stemmed from Simon Garner’s introduction to the fray, the veteran striker replacing the previously not-oft substituted Dave Carroll whose labours got lost on the right flank.

Crewe’ boss Dario Gradi disputed the penalty decision with which Blues drew level, but blamed his players’ poor finishing for allowing Wycombe to get out of jail. Late efforts by substitutes Dele Adebola and Steve Garvey went close, but not close enough. “We should have buried them. We had enough chances,” he said. His Wycombe counterpart had only words of praise for Crewe’s attractive style. “I have got to give Crewe their due. They play the game the right way,” said [Alan] Smith.'
Wycombe: Hyde, Cousins, Hardyman, Crossley, Foran, Brown, Carroll (sub 65 Garner), Bell, Desouza (sub 84 Howard), McGavin, Soloman - sub not used: Hemmings
Scorers: McGavin 72 (penalty)
Bookings: Brown 38 (foul), Cousins 55 (foul), Cousins 61 (foul – red card second bookable offence)
Crewe: Gayle, Booty, Unuworth (sub 76 Garvey), Westwood, Macauley, Walley, Tierney (sub 84 Edwards), Collins, Savage (sub 69 Adebola), Lennon, Murphy
Scorers: Murphy 13
Bookings: none
Referee: Mr A Butler (Nottingham) Attendance: 5,281

Speaking after the game Manager Alan Smith said: "The thing that disappointed me was that we did not do anything we had been working on. We had been passing the ball, but they wanted to run with it for some reason today." Smith was reported to be happy enough afterwards to crack open a bottle of champagne and was confident that the potential his side hinted at during pre-season will manifest itself in healthy quantities on the pitch, starting with the following Tuesday's Coco-Cola League Cup clash against Leyton Orient at Adams Park. “I don’t think we were very good in any direction today. But the players will get better. They were disappointed, but we have got another game on Tuesday where we can start putting things right,” said Smith.

Next game - Wycombe v Leyton Orient - League Cup 1st Leg - Tuesday 15th August 1995
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