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Wycombe Wanderers 1
Notts County 1
Saturday 13th January 1996
Football League Division Two

A last minute goal from John Williams salavaged a point for Wanderers against Notts County, after it looked like the match would end in defeat for Alan Smith's side when the visitors scored against the run of play in the 86th minute. Prior to Williams' equaliser, the biggest cheer of the day came for the return of Keith Ryan from injury. It was Ryan's first match since he picked up a serious knee injury in a Berks and Bucks tie with Chalfont St Peter on 24th January 1995.

The meeting with County was Wanderers' first competitive outing since the Boxing Day game at Swindon Town. However, Smith did keep his squad busy by arranging a home friendly with a Queens Park Rangers XI. Mark Hateley was the most noteable name in the Rangers side as goals from Gary Patterson and Miquel Desouza saw Wycombe run out 2-1 winners in front of 715 crowd at Adams Park. Michael Mahoney-Johnson scored the visitors goal, while Sieb Dykstra was the beaten 'keeper for Wycombe's goals.

The draw with 4th placed County (making their first ever visit to Adams Park), saw Wanderers remain in 10th spot in Division Two, with 35 points from their opening 23 games.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Claire Nash wrote: 'A moment of instinctive brilliance by substitute John Williams ensured Wycombe Wanderers deservedly came away with something from a match they should have won by a mile. If Blues’ finishing had matched their refreshingly exciting endeavour throughout Saturday’s Division Two encounter against Notts County, all three points would have been secured some considerable way before the final heart stopping minutes set Adams Park alight.

With just seconds remaining, Williams equalised with an overhead kick after County had taken the lead against the run of play on 86 minutes. Not only did the goal do Alan Smith’s side a mammoth favour in preventing a huge injustice at the hands of promotion-hunting rivals, but it will also go some way to relieving some of the pressure on the striker who had so far laboured and lost since becoming Wycombe’s club record signing four months ago at £150,000.

“If they had won, it would have been daylight robbery. I said to the lads in the dugout that I couldn’t believe we hadn’t scored. When I went on I was just trying to get on the end of any crosses that came my way,” said Williams afterwards. He added: “It was a great feeling when the goal went in. It has given me a boost. When I came here I was on a high. But unfortunately for me I went into a slump. But I’m proud to be part of Wycombe. The manager has kept faith in me and I hope to repay that faith.”

Williams’ second goal for the club, scored with his first touch after replacing Steve McGavin, ensured Blues’ most impressive home performance so far this season gained some reward. The player’s joy and relief as he trooped off pitch after the final whistle was shared by his team-mates who warmly congratulated the former Coventry forward — who was promptly sent straight back onto the pitch to do further training exercises due to his brief appearance.

After some stultifying bore draws thus far at home this term - games that Wycombe usually came away from with not much more than they deserved, which partly explains a sub-5,000 attendance on Saturday — this encouraging display nearly became an underserved waste. All the pluses, including Keith Ryan’s long-awaited return as a substitute after a year out with injury, almost inexplicably made a minus.

Blues were on top pretty much from start to finish, which was reflected in a bumper 22-strong corner count. The way they never relinquished a grip on proceedings, despite the shock of going a goal down, set the performance apart from previous home displays and should stand them in good stead for the second half of the season. A trip to high-flying and FA Cup giantkilling Crewe on Saturday gives Wanderers a suitable opportunity to put new-found confidence and enterprise to the test.

But everything had threatened to unravel the longer Wycombe went without scoring against County. The visitors had goalkeeper Darren Ward to thank for keeping them in this game. The Welsh international made a series of spellbinding saves to prevent Blues from going into the half-time interval with a handsome lead. Then, after the break, Wycombe’s players became extravagant, wasting well-crafted attacks by shooting on sight at any given opportunity.

It could be said that Blues peppered the County goal with chances when in fact it’s truer to say they had lain the double glazing at West Wycombe Park under siege. Ideally a little extra target practise in training should sort out the wayward trajectory tendency by Wycombe's forwards and midfielders. Although first-choice strikers Miquel Desouza and Steve McGavin were substituted by Ryan and Williams, they were a vital cog in Blues’ movement upfield when exchanging passes with Steve Brown and Gary Patterson in midfield. But they both seemed to freeze when put through on their own one-on-ones with the goalkeeper were invariably won by Ward or resulted in a rafter-shaker.

Dave Carroll was the first to suffer at Ward’s hands when Blues raced out of the traps. The goal-keeper made a tremendous save when he flew to his left to deny the midfielder’s rasping shot after just 21 seconds. Ward denied Desouza in similar fashion after 20 minutes, this time getting down sharply to his right to push the Wycombe striker’s shot away for a corner.

Patterson’s header from Farrell’s 29th-minute corner was cleared off the line. Moments later, County caused a solitary moment of panic in Wycombe’s defence when Ben Roberts had to scramble to smother the ball when Blues struggled to clear a cross to Paul Rogers.

Wycombe reasserted themselves and picked up where they left off after the break. Desouza seemed magnetically drawn towards Ward rather than chipping him on 47 minutes, while McGavin was unable to finish after a Gary Strodder header gifted him a clear run at goal on 50 minutes.

Ryan’s arrival lifted Wycombe and the crowd who gave him an emotional welcome when he replaced Desouza on 77 minutes. County, however, gave Wycombe due warning of what was to come when a Tony Battersby volley through a crowd of players hit the woodwork on 81 minutes. Five minutes later Paul Rogers caught Blues completely cold when a ferocious effort from 20 yards rocketed past Roberts. Williams was immediately sent on as a substitute. His impact was a telling one. Ryan had a hand in the goal when he flicked on Jason Rowbotham’s cross to Williams who said he finished the only way he knew how.'

Wycombe: Roberts, Rowbotham, Bell, Howard, Evans, Brown, Carroll, Patterson, McGavin (sub 87 Williams), Desouza (sub 78 Ryan), Farrell - sub not used: Soloman
Scorers: Williams 90
Bookings: Rowbotham 8
Notts County: Ward, Gallagher, Baraclough, Murphy, Strodder, Hogg, Rogers, Devlin, Whyte, Battersby, Legg -subs not used: Agana, Galloway, Arkins
Scorers: Rogers 87
Bookings: Baraclough 70
Referee: Mr E. Lomas (Manchester) Attendance: 4,980

Speaking after the game Manager Alan Smith said: "I think the biggest thing for me was that the lads had I played well today. They had done everything David Kemp and I have been asking them to do. I wouldn’t want to criticise any of the forwards for not scoring because in the first minute County’s goal-keeper set the tone by making a good save. We gave the game our best shot and funnily enough was fairly confident we would get something out of it. We dictated the game. If we had lost, in fairness to Notts County, it would have been an injustice."

Next game - Crewe Alex v Wycombe - Saturday 20th January 1996
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