Wanderers lost the game 2-1 after conceeding a 90th minute goal but pipped Bury to third spot by virtue of superior goal difference of one. But those simple facts do not go any way to conveying the anxiety for Wycombe followers on a day when everything was geared up for a promotion party.
The 'Sold-out' signs had been put up 30 minutes before kick-off meaning that the game would be played out before a record Football League attendance at Adams Park. Wanderers needed just a point to ensure automatic promotion and even if Wycombe didn't win then both Exeter City (away to Rotherham) and Bury (home to Accrington) would both have to win. And just for added safety, if Wycombe lost and Exeter and Bury won, then the latter would need to overturn a goal difference of plus three in favour of the Wanderers.
Understandly Wycombe may have been nervous but against a team that had lost four of its five previous games, the expectation was for Peter Taylor's to ease any doubts and secure promotion with final day victory. But the football is never that simple. 30 minutes into the game and up steps John Thompson from around 30 yards and catches out Jamie Young with a shot that dips and squirms past the Wycombe 'keeper and into the back of the Hillbottom Road end net for a goal that was certainly not in the script. It could have got worse too when Weston struck a shot just wide of the upright three minutes later.
Wycombe finally responded three minutes before the break when some incredible skill from Lee Sawyer saw the Chelsea youngster juggle the ball over the County defence before sending in a shot that dipped just inches over the cross-bar.
Half-time Wycombe 0 County 1
With both the Exeter and Bury games goalless Wycombe began the second-half with more purpose and after Pittman had gone close soon after the re-start, it was training ground set-piece that eventually got Wanderers back on level terms. A free-kick from the left channel was played to the far side of the County penalty area where the ball was squared back for David McCracken to slide home and raise the home support back into party mood.
A second goal now for Wanderers would have sealed promotion. Substitute Matt Harrold had the ball in the net on 79 minutes but the whistle had already gone for a high boot during his challenge to win possession. Moments earlier the Wanderers big screen had displayed that the Exeter and Bury games were still goalless but that was news was outdated as Exeter had taken a 1-0 lead at Rotherham on 70 minutes and were now second in the table. More importantly the Bury game was still goalless and it was a case of holding on.
Once again County had not read the script and with less than a minute left of normal time it was that man Thompson again who angled in a shot from the right edge of the penalty area that crept agonisingly past the out stretched arms of Young and into the far corner of the Valley End net. The small pocket of County fans housed in the corner of the Old Main Stand celebrated while the rest of the ground fell into stunned silence.
The remaining minutes at Adams Park were played out in an almost surreal atmosphere and perhaps with the news that Bury were still goalless against Accrington (who had themselves missed a 56th minute penalty), it was Wanderers who seemed reluctant to attack and maybe settle for a 2-1 defeat. At 4.51pm the full-time whistle was blown at Adams Park and was greeted by an erie mixture of hush, confused looks and even celebration in some quarters.
Final Score - Wycombe 1 Notts County 2
Those with access to radio, a view of Sky Sports News or other media connections, listened and watched on in desperation and hope that the full-time whistle at Gigg Lane would be blown. At 4.53pm the almost unbelievable news came through that Bury had been awarded a penalty in stoppage time for handball on the line by Stanley's. It took a while for the spot-kick to be taken but at 4.55pm Bury took a 1-0 lead through Phil Jevons and were now level on points with the Wanderers but still had an inferior goal difference. Reports suggested that the goal sparked a mini pitch invasion at Gigg Lane - presumably by those with a reduced knowledge of maths and the referee was still in the process of playing a signalled five minutes of stoppage time. Insert suitable horrified quote here. Then as the tension mounted at Adams Park, at 4.57pm, a few of screams from those close to the news feeds confirmed that the game had ended 1-0 to Bury. Seconds later the announcement came over the PA system that Wanderers were promoted and the celebrations could begin. Football is never simple.
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