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Gillingham 1
Wycombe Wanderers 0
Tuesday 21st November 1995
FA Cup 1st Round replay

Wanderers exited the 1995/96 FA Cup following a lackkustre display in their replay with Gillingham at Priestfield. Despite going into the tie on the back of 14 match unbeaten run in the League, things were not quite right with the Wanderers. A very public dispute between Manager Alan Smith and Goalkeeper Paul Hyde over new contract negotiations had added to an unneasy atmosphere on and off the pitch.

The 150 or so Wanderers who had struggled around the M25 to Kent to see Wanderers 'fight' for the right to host Hitchin Town in the Second Round, were very much in the minority amongst an official gate declared at just over 8,500 but according to locals, looked a lot more. The Gills fans saw their side tear into Wanderers from the off and the crucial goal came on 8 minutes when Paul Watson's inswinging corner from the right saw Terry Howard head into his own net at the far corner of the six yard box despite being under little pressure from the home forwards.

Wanderers improved slightly after the break but on an evening where the team couldn't manage to get a shot on target, the closest to an equaliser on 56 minutes came when Dave Carroll's sweeping cross from the right was headed back across the face of the goal by Gary Patterson but just wide of the right-hand upright. It was the last serious effort from Wanderers who had Hyde to thank for tipping a 71st effort from Dennis Bailey around the post.

A disappointing night for Wanderers fans and the subsequent reports in the local press pulled few punches. Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Claire Nash wrote: 'Wycombe Wanderers’ apparent aversion to cup competitions this season plumbed new depths when they crashed out of the FA Cup with barely a whimper in Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at Gillingham. Blues looked as if they simply didn’t care. With a plum home tie against non-League Hitchin in the next round in the offing, and the possible prospect of a Premiership scalp to take after that, Gillingham made it clear they wanted it more.

An early strike, from a Terry Howard own goal, was enough for the Division Three promotion hopefuls to finish limpid Wanderers off. Gillingham were fortunate to have still been in the first-round tie at all — their late goal at Adams Park a week last Monday wiping out Gary Patterson’s memorable stunner.

The manner of Blues’ response when the tables were turned on Tuesday really stuck in the craw of their supporters. Some individuals’ performances suggested that they found neither pride in playing for Wycombe nor the desire to uphold a semblance of credibility in the most prestigious club competition in the world. Against Manchester City in the Coca-Cola Cup, you can interpret Blues’ exit as the result of a Premiership side’s superior status. Against Walsall, a 5-0 drubbing amid a 14 game unbeaten league run was a dozy aberration. Surely? Think again.

Gillingham goalkeeper Jim Stannard, run ragged by Blues last week, was handed the easiest payday of his life on Tuesday. Wycombe failed to register a single shot on target. Blues held most of the possession in the second half, once Terry Howard and Jason Cousins got to grips with the hosts’ front two Leo Fortune-West and Dennis Bailey. But Blues wasted it, utterly. Long balls lumped up field sparked nothing more than dire displays of head tennis. Wycombe, quite frankly, looked like headless chickens, in attacking mode, completely bereft of ideas.

You had to pinch yourself that this was an FA Cup tie. Proceedings didn’t suggest there was ever the remotest chance of the game turning. You had to kick yourself, hard, that you were watching Wanderers at all. Passion, verve, commitment, heart. These qualities have traditionally served Wycombe well — when the chips are down and ability lacking in the skills department.The words were double dutch to the men in blue on Tuesday — which suggests that for some there may be a desire to do well but without the accompanying responsibility of looking out for others’ necks as well as your own.

Gillingham’s solidarity was right-on from the start of Tuesday’s tie. After dominating the opening moments, Gillingham forced Howard into a mistake when Paul Watson whipped in a vicious cross which Dennis Bailey ran in to connect with at the far post. Howard got there before the striker, whose equaliser brought the tie to the Priestfield Stadium, but headed the ball into his own net.

Earlier, Miquel Desouza was through on goal, but he held onto the ball and lost possession when he could have passed to an unmarked David Farrell. Gillingham continued to play the better football and show a more positive attitude. Wycombe forced a flurry of corners after the break, but did nothing with them. In a rare multi-man move with wide play on 56 minutes, Dave Carroll put in a good cross to Gary Patterson who fired across the face of goal. Simon Garner’s introduction to the fray brought some brains into Blues’ effort, but he was outmanoeuvred by his team-mates’ nonsensical tactics.'

Wycombe: Hyde, Rowbotham, Bell, Howard, Cousins, Brown, Carroll, Patter son (sub 64 Garner), Desouza, Williams (sub 73 McGavin), Farrell – sub not used: Soloman
Scorers: none
Bookings: Williams 7 (foul), Brown 54 (foul), Rowbotham 68 (foul)
Gillingham: Stannard, Micklewhite, Watson, Smith, Harris, Green, Marlin, Rattray (sub 41 Puttnam), Fortune-West, Beiley, O’Connor - subs not used: Freeman, Dunne
Scorers: Howard 8 (own goal)
Bookings: Bailey 39 (dissent), Watson 53 (time wasting)
Referee: Mr Fraser Stretton (Nottingham) Attendance: 8,585 (away 150 approx)

Wanderers Manager Alan Smith had little to say to the press after the game, but skipper Terry Howard said: "Too many of our players did not ome out of the traps tonight. I cannot recall Jim Stannard having to make a single save. If you go 90 minutes without troubling the goaleeper, you cannot expect to get anything out of the game." Jason Cousins added: "Not enough players were up for a battle. There is not enough team spirit, no togetherness. There’s too much bickering going on and not enough people taking responsibiliy for their actions". He went on to say: “There’s no way we an blame David Kemp and the Manager for tonight’s performance. It was up to the 11 men on the pitch. “If there are any problems, we need to voice our opinions and sorted out once and for all."

Meanwhile, post match comments regarding the accuracy of the official gates declared for both the first tie at Adams Park and the replay at Priestfield, prompted an article in the Kent Today newspaper.

Wanderers' next game was the long trip to Carlisle United the following Sunday - the game had been switched to the Sunday because Border TV wished to show the game live on local TV. Carlisle would receive a £10,000 rights fee for the coverage with Wanderers earning a £2,000 share to add to the £50,000 fee from Sky for the live coverage of the Gillingham FA Cup tie at Adams Park.

Next game - Carlisle United v Wycombe - Sunday 26th November 1995
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