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Bristol Rovers 2
Wycombe Wanderers 1
Saturday 4th May 1996
Football League Division Two

The final day of the 1995/96 season was a highly emotional one for Bristol Rovers fans who were watching their team play their last game at Bath City's Twerton Park before a move to Bristol Rugby Club's Memorial Ground the following season.

Meanwhile, Wanderers fans were perhaps happy to see the back of a season where on the field fortunes had swayed under new boss Alan Smith, while off the pitch controversy had included a failed attempt by the Club Board to reduce the maximum number of members plus plans to introduce a new non-quartered kit design. The latter prompted a 'KEEP THE QUARTERS' flag to be unvieled for the first time during the match at Bath.

On a bright and sunny afternoon in Bath, it was Rovers fans who were in bouyant mood when Marcus Browning thumped home a 14th minute left wing cross after Wycombe had failed to clear. Marcus Stewart doubled their lead on 55 minutes when he picked possession in the area before gleefully angling his drive hard and low past Sieb Dykstra.

With the home crowd more than happy to continue with Mexican Waves rather than watch the rest of the game it was left to Dave Carroll to have the last say at Twerton Park when he controlled the ball in the area and hammered the ball into the roof of the net after 72 minutes. To their credit Wycombe pressed for an equaliser with Williams going close on 78 minutes and with 2 minutes left an overhead attempt from Dave Carroll never really found its course and Rovers held on for their win.

Emotional scenes at the end when the Rovers fans spilled onto the pitch to send off their team but for Wycombe fans the end of the season could not have come quick enough. Wycombe finished 12th in the table with 15 victories, 15 draws and 16 defeats, goals for 63, goals against 61, points 60.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press from Adams Park, Claire Nash wrote: 'The carnival atmosphere at Twerton Park was more than Wycombe Wanderers could bear as they bowed out of a disappointing season in defeat on Saturday. With Bristol Rovers wrapping up their term by playing the last game ever at their humble ground in Bath before moving back to their native city next season, they seemed to have everything to play for. The Mexican-waving 6,000- plus crowd wanted their side to depart the ground in spectacular fashion and they duly obliged.

Wanderers, with no notable changes to their line-up, apart from the recall of Miquel Desouza to the substitutes bench and then the field on 64 minutes, initially looked as if they were up for the fight. David Farrell was once again deployed alongside John Williams up front as Blues boss Alan Smith continues to look for the key that will unlock Wycombe’s goalscoring. However, it was Bristol Rovers who drew first blood. Peter Beadle fired just wide from Justin Skinner’s through ball on 14 minutes.

As Wycombe’s travelling army watched with their hearts in their mouths, wondering what to expect this week, Rovers’ lively supporters did not have to wait long for something of substance to celebrate. Just moments later, Rovers pounced when Matt Crossley’s poor clearance fell into the path of Marcus Browning who gratefully took the opportunity to score from six yards out.

Steve Brown headed Farrell’s cross over on 21 minutes as Blues tried to get back on level terms in what was generally a scrappy encounter with both sides’ off-side traps draining the adrenalin factor. You had to use your imagination at times with the play, as the ball rarely dropped below the roof of the main stand. Rovers threatened again on 31 minutes when Justin Channing’s cross shot was fired just wide by Lee Archer, who had raced in unnoticed at the far post. Blues had their chances, though. Gary Patterson headed into Andy Collett’s hands on 36 minutes, while Farrell’s chip sailed narrowly over after the goalkeeper had raced out to stop Williams’ charge.

Much to the dismay of the Wycombe’s fans, Rovers appeared to go from strength to strength after the break. Their pressure was rewarded when Marcus Stewart drilled home into the bottom corner after exchanging passes with Beadle on 55 minutes. While Sieb Dykstra’s crazy run up field failed to help matters too much, it was Carroll who again proved to be the steady Eddie for Blues. He found the target with a great finish from a move he started himself on 72 minutes. His volley two minutes from full time could have helped Wycombe end the season with some pride, but it wasn’t to be. It turned out to be Rovers’ day, which they celebrated with a pitch invasion as if they had won the league.'

Wycombe:Dykstra, Rowbotham, Bell, Crossley, Evans, Brown, Carroll, Ryan, Farrell (sub 64 Desouza), Williams, Patterson – sub not used: Lawrence, Skiverton
Scorers: Carroll 73
Bristol Rovers: Collett, Arch (sub 75 Gurney), Armstrong, Browning, Clark, Piltson, Skinner, Miller, Stewart, Channing (sub 90 Low), Beadle (sub 86 French)
Scorers: Browning 15, Stewart 55
Referee: Mr Michael Fletcher Attendance: 6,621

The post match comments were left to Wycombe’s solitary goalscorer Dave Carroll, who said: “Even though it was a big game for them, it should have still been a big game for us as well. The crowd got behind them and they responded to it, but I think we should have got a draw." The Wanderers’ supporters player of the year, added: “Once we had scored we played a lot better, ‘but the goals we lost seemed to sum up our season."

Meanwhile, in the days following the match with Rovers, Wycombe Manager Alan Smith confirmed the players he was releasing. Crowd favourites Terry Howard and Simon Garner have been given free transfers along with Paul Hardyman, Simon Stapleton, Jason Soloman and Shaun Stevens. The loss of Howard was particularly controversial. The 30 year old defender came third in the Player of Season voting and commented: "“I’ve been expecting this. The writing’s been on the wall since I was dropped. To be honest, I don’t know what I’ve done to upset the manager, but it’s obvious I’ve done something. I’m disappointed obviously. But I was happy with the way I’ve played this season. I think I can hold my head up high. But saying that, something like this does leave a sour taste, finishing third as player of the year and then getting a free transfer."

Meanwhile, Stapleton left Wycombe after seven years at The club. The 27-year-old was signed on a free from Bristol Rovers by Martin O’Neill’s predecessor Jim Kelman. However, his last two seasons had been shattered by a recurring knee injury and his departure came as little surprise.

Smith also offered new two year deal to out of contract midfielders Dave Carroll, Steve Brown and Keith Ryan. Smith commented: "Those three have performed pretty well all season. I want to keep the better players, not get rid of the nucleus of next season’s squad" The under fire Wycombe boss also went on to offer new one-year deals to defenders Matt Crossley and Terry Skiverton, goalkeeper John Cheesewright and striker Matt Lawrence.

Off the field, progress on the new Woodlands Stand was now well underway, with a completion date set for the start of the 1996/97 camapaign. COTN took some pictures of the progess and published them here >>>>> .

The 1996/97 season would open on Friday 26th July 1996 with a pre-season game at home to QPR. The Football League season would commence on Sunday 18th August 1996 with the trip to Shrewsbury Town.

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