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Walsall 0
Wycombe Wanderers 1
Tuesday 2nd April 1996
Football League Division Two

A Dave Carroll penalty on 70 minutes saw Wanderers return from their trip to the Walsall with a 1-0 victory and continue to keep the play-off hopes alive for the 1995/96 season.

The victory at The Bescot Stadium came after Alan Smith named an unchanged line-up from the side that had beaten Burnley the previous Tuesday. The win was all the more sweeter having lost 5-0 at the same venue in a Football League Trophy tie earlier in the season.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from The Bescot Stadium, Claire Nash wrote: 'Wycombe Wanderers’ rich run of form. may still seem like too much, too late but it’s certainly not stopping them from deservedly revelling in a series of impressive performances. Tuesday’s hard-earned 1-0 victory at Walsall, a ground where they lost heavily in two previous visits, underlines the prevailing sense of teethgritting determination and spirited endeavour.

By following on from last Saturday’s 4-1 win over Burnley, and before that a 5-2 success over Bradford, Wycombe have announced, albeit later than hoped, that they mean very serious business indeed.

They are in the sort of shape that no- one in Division Two’s top six would relish coming up against at the moment, particularly if they are local rivals Oxford United, currently in fifth place and stuttering slightly after a barnstorming recent run. If Blues extend their six-game unbeaten run against Hull on Saturday, the scene couldn’t have been better set for Monday’s derby against their near neighbours.

Wycombe had to grind out a result on Tuesday night after being initially out played, but not outfought, by Walsall’s pass-smiths. A Dave Carroll penalty was enough to see Blues through after a coolly executed stifling exercise on the opposition. The only disappointment was that Mickey Bell, one of Wanderers’ most consistent performers, had to be pulled off with a groin strain and is now set to miss the crucial Easter fixtures.

The memory of last November’s demoralising 5-0 defeat in the Auto Windscreens Shield probably had a lot to do with Wycombe’s will to succeed. Dave Carroll was happy to recall torrid events from the past in the afterglow of victory. "After having to stay on the pitch at half time that night, we knew we must have done well tonight because we stayed in and got a cup of coffee."

Initially, however, the hosts’ eyecatching mid-fielder and skipper Martin O’Connor looked dangerous, with strikers Kevin Wilson and Kyle Lightbourne likely to cause problems if given the right sort of service. Blues goalkeeper Sieb Dykstra saved well with his legs after Lightbourne was put through on four minutes.

Wycombe had their chances with McGavin curling a shot straight at Trevor Wood and firing wide just before half time. Desouza also wasted an opportunity when he played McGavin’s neat through ball wide of the near post on 27 minutes.

Wanderers skipper Terry Evans had an explosive header blocked just as WalsaIl tried to step up a gear just before the break. Steve Brown was instrumental in Wycombe getting their second-half foothold. Starting as he meant to go on, he put in a great cross for Ryan to chase, but Adrian Viveash cleared.

Brown was involved in the penalty decision on 69 minutes after Wood failed to hold onto Gary Patterson’s cross. Brown kept the ball in play, but as he tried get in a shot, Wood brought him down. Carroll assertively snatched the ball up and fired a low shot to the right of Wood from the penalty spot. It looked as though Ryan was going off after being kicked on the knee which he ripped up last year. But the midfielder rejoined the fray which boiled up in the dying moments. Smith believed his players had it all under control, but Walsall’s late bombardment still kept Blues’ away support on tenterhooks.'

Wycombe: Dykstra, Cousins, Bell (sub 51 Hardyman), Howard, Evans, Brown, Carroll, Ryan, Desouza, McGavin, Patterson - subs not used: Farrell, Rowbotham
Scorers: Carroll 70 (penalty)
Bookings: Desouza 76 (foul)
Walsall: Wood, Ntamark (sub 79 Butler), Daniel, Viveash, Evans, Mountheld, O’Connor (sub 73 Keister), Bradley, Lightbourne, Wilson, Houghton – sub not used: Rogers
Scorers: none
Bookings: Bradley 29 (foul)
Referee: Mr Fraser Stretton (Leicester) Attendance: 3,252

Speaking after the game Manager Alan Smith said: "We had to really grind a result out today. Walsall didn’t have a chance in the second half. It was a good performance because Walsall are a good side. They are in a false position in the league and they play some good football." In praising his side’s performance, Smith added: "We were a credit to Wycombe Wanderers Football Club. I’m pleased because we had to battle. Sometimes we have not been able to keep it going. But we did tonight." However Smith warned against complacency at basement club Hull City on the following Saturday, saying. "We’ve got to be mentally strong. If we go up there thinking it’s going to be a stroll, we’ll end up with mud on our faces. If we can go into the Oxford game unbeaten, it will be like a Cup final out there."

Next game - Hull City v Wycombe - Saturday 6th April 1996
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