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Crewe Alexandra 2
Wycombe Wanderers 0
Saturday 20th January 1996
Football League Division Two

Wycombe slumped to a 2-0 defeat at second placed Crewe Alexandra after conceeding two sloppy first half goals. Wanderers had the best of the opening exchanges when McGavin had a fierce volley saved after 21 minutes. However, Crewe took the lead on 37 minutes when Mark Rivers' shot from the edge of the box slipped through 'keeper Ben Roberts hands. The real body blow came on the stroke of half time when a Neil Lennon shot, following his run towards goal, was adjudged to have crossed the line despite the efforts of Terry Evans.

Manager Alan Smith introduced Keith Ryan and John Williams for the second half and Wycombe went on to dominate. Carroll had a shot deflected over on 50 minutes while 10 minutes later Howard headed just over from a Farrell corner. Controversey came in the 75th minute when Williams was booked for a 50/50 challenge on the Crewe 'keeper. A minute later youngster Matthew Lawrence (on trial from Grays Athletic) was introduced for Jason Rowbotham as Wycombe pressed forward. Further controversey came in the final five minutes when first Williams had a headed goal dissallowed (for no apparent reason) and Wycombe's day was summed up when a penalty awarded to the Wanderers for handball was blasted straight at the 'keeper by Steve McGavin.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press, Claire Nash wrote: 'If the football powers that be decide to make goal sizes any bigger, they could help Wycombe Wanderers out by making them the size of a hemisphere.

Blues suffered what could only be described as a frustrating Saturday afternoon combating the footballing skills of Division Two style gurus Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road. They were on target twice as they battled against their opponents and unpredictable icy wind to get back on level terms, but John Williams had a header harshly disallowed for an apparent push on his marker and Steve McGavin had a penalty kick saved with ease late on. Apart from that, it looked as though Blues, who dropped a place to 11th as a result, wouldn’t score if they played all night.

There is little doubt that Wycombe’s players must follow the basic rudiments of target practise in training, but such guidelines sometimes seem utterly lost on their key forwards; no matter how well the team has fashioned a well-worked attacking build-up into a goal scoring opportunity. Beyond that, Blues were unfortunate that they couldn’t snatch a point from an encounter against one of this season’s promotion favourites. And the tough games will keep on coming, with a tall order for three points coming up tonight at Blackpool (KO 7.30pm).

Wanderers’ battle to find the target was underlined as being as much a psychological one as it is physical when McGavin, who converted from the spot in Wycombe’s game against Crewe on the opening day of the sea son, explained his unsuccessful penalty.

“I just took it straight down through the middle. I forgot I took one against him in the first game of the season. The goalkeeper said to me afterwards ‘I remember you took one straight down the middle last time’. But I completely forgot all about it.” The striker added: “We lost it in the first half really. It was obviously going to be a game of two halves because of -the wind. Going two goals down after playing well in the first half meant we were up against it. But we played well in the second half. We’ve now got a tough game against Blackpool but I think we can take heart from our second-half performance.”

Wycombe had indeed set about salvaging at least a point with considerable gusto after the break. Despite the Trojan-size contributions from Dave Carroll and Gary Patterson to break down Crewe’s pattern of play in the first half, the hosts were two goals up by half time after. A soft opener conceded by Blues goalkeeper Ben Roberts undermined Wycombe’s defiance.

Alan Smith’s assertive substitutions of Keith Ryan for Steve Brown and John Williams for Miquel Desouza at the start of the second half were a sign of Wycombe’s intent not to let this one slip away completely. Wanderers had most of the possession, but a streak of the aforementioned ill-luck and ineptitude in front of goal accounted for the final unchanged scoreline.
Newcomer Matthew Lawrence also looked unlikely to force an upturn in fortunes. He replaced Jason Rowbotham for 15 minutes of Division Two acclimatisation following his free transfer from Grays, currently propping up the Icis [Isthmian] League Premier Division, on Friday. Crewe, meanwhile, looked well at home, at home. They showed a willingness to take the bull by the horns from the off when leading scorer Rob Edwards burst forward and unleashed a shot which just skimmed the bar.

Wycombe, though, were suitably settled enough themselves after 20 minutes to respond. A quickly-taken throw by Rowbotham found McGavin unmarked in the box, with the striker turning well and firing a shot towards the top corner. Gayle, however, was equal to it. Dele Adebola was proving more than a handful for Blues skipper and centre half Terry Evans, but the outhouse striker seemed bereft of a good first touch. The smokescreen lasted until he neatly brought down a cross to the left wing and found Mark Rivers with a deft pass which the midfielder hit straight for the middle of the goal. Wycombe goalkeeper Roberts appeared to have got it covered but the ball bounced underneath his body and went in.

Crewe dictated the pace of the game once again and strengthened their lead on 44 minutes. Adebola knocked on Rivers’ cross to Lennon who cracked a vicious shot which Roberts palmed onto the underside of the bar. The ball went over the line before Evans had desperately hacked it away.

Ryan slotted in nicely alongside Patterson in Blues’ midfield in the second half. And two main strikers in the shape of McGavin and Williams seemed to serve Blues better than a lone Desouza up front. But it was Carroll who came the closest to fashioning a fine individual effort when he deceptively, as always, burst forth from mid field, but his shot was hooked over the crossbar by Lennon.

Williams may have been made to pay an additional penalty to his booking for bundling Gayle over when chasing a long ball on 75 minutes when his ‘goal’ — with a header from a McGavin cross — was disallowed for infringement. But similarly Lennon was harshly penalised for handball to concede a penalty to Wycombe on 87 minutes. McGavin’s spot-kick tactics, however, were inhibited by amnesia, so no joy and no consolation for Blues.'

Wycombe: : Roberts, Rowbotham (sub 76 Lawrence), Bell, Howard, Evans, Brown (sub HT Ryan), Carroll, Patterson, McGavin, Desouza (sub HT Williams), Farrell
Scorers: none
Bookings: Williams 75 (foul)
Crewe: Gayle, Collins, Smith, Westwood, Barr, Whatey, Rivera (sub 63 Garvey), Murphy, Adebola, Lennon, Edwards (sub 68 Unsworth) - sub not used: Savage
Scorers: Rivers 37, Lennon 45
Bookings: none
Referee: Mr S Baines Attendance: 4,150 (away 449)

Manager Alan Smith had seemingly taken to being very perfunctory with the press in his post match press meetings. However, the ex-Crystal Palace boss had earlier attempted to explain the recent indifferent form that had seen his side fall to 11th place in the table: "The players had been on edge, wondering if they’re ‘my’ players or not ‘my’ players. They had taken things I have said too literally at times and have not been able to do the things we have worked on in training properly. The players, fans, and even some people within the club, have suspected that I had an ulterior motive. The more we play like we did against Notts County then the more ‘together’ we will be,"

Meanwhile, 37 year old striker and fans favourite Simon Garner had joined fourth tier side Torquay United for a month’s loan. The Gulls, bottom of Division Three, also tried unsuccessfully to lure out of favour ‘keeper Paul Hyde on a similar loan deal. Hyde arranged the trial after turning down the offer from Torquay and also Slough Town. Elsewhere, former Youth Teamer Anthony Clark had started a month long loan at Isthmian League side Hitchin Town. Clark had been given his first debut for Wanderers on the final day of the 1995/95 campaign at Leyton Orient. Clark had made one start under Smith, plus two substitutes appearances. None of the trio would play for Wanderers again.

Next game - Blackpool v Wycombe - Tuesday 23rd January 1996
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