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It what had been described as a 'must win' game by the Wycombe management, Wanderers weathered an early spell of pressure that saw the visitors go close on at least half-a-dozen occasions. But it was Wycombe who took the lead on 40 minutes from their first corner of the game; Craig Faulconbridge knocking on Michael Simpson's delivery from the left and Andy Thomson converting at the far post.
Vale levelled three minutes after the break when Ian Armstrong's shot from the left took a deflection off Keith Ryan and looped over Martin Taylor into the far corner of the net. Wanderers grabbed the points after the introduction of Sean Devine and Stuart Roberts on 70 minutes. Just three minutes after the pair had entered play Darren Currie switched play across to Roberts on the right and his cross was adjudged to have hit a Vale hand in the penalty area. Devine raced to get the ball and promptly slotted home the spot kick into the Valley End net. Then in the final minute Thomson made a vital goal-line clearance with his head and from the next attack Devine powered in from the right flank before directing the ball home into the far corner of the net to seal three welcome points and lift Wycombe to 13th place in the table.
Looking back on this game this was a day where the luck shone on the Wanderers. Andy Thomson, who made vital contributions later in the game, could well have been heading down the tunnel in the 10th minute after he was adjudged to have fouled Stephen Brooker on route to goal down the Vale right. It was the referee's assistant who spotted the infringement but after discussions wth referee Joe Ross only a yellow was issued. From the resulting free-kick John Durnin flicked the ball up before looping a shot over the Wycombe wall that Martin Taylor did well to tip over.
Wycombe's defence has been the cause for concern in the opening half of the 2002/3 campaign and there were cries of dismay from the crowd in the 16th minute when another complete relapse let in Vale. Thankfully for Wycombe the visitor's finishing was as bad as Wycombe's defending and the mistakes went unpunished.
Vale continued to create chances while Wycombe struggled to make any impact on the visitor's defence. On 20 minutes Durnin casually hit a 20 yard effort that Taylor could only turn and watch as the ball rebounded to safety off his right hand upright. Two minutes later Mark Rogers was wrong footed by Micky Cummins but the low shot didn't have enough on it to beat Taylor.
It was the 29th minute before Wycombe had their first serious attack of the game and it was a well worked affair with Rammell crossing from the left, Currie heading down pnly for Simpson to see his shot from the edge of the penalty area blocked.
Five minutes before the break Wanderers' first corner of the game produced the opening goal - Thomson being in the right place at the far post to score his first goal in a Wycombe shirt. The goal gave Wycombe confidence and two minutes later Bulman's run from the left channel forced another corner and there were claims for handball when Ryan's resulting shot at the far post looked to have been blocked by an opponents hand.
Taylor held Cummins' snap shot on 44 minutes to ensure Wycombe had the vital advantage at the break.
Half-time Wycombe 1 Port Vale 0
Vale's equaliser three minutes into the second-half may have been fortunate but was reward for their earlier efforts. However, Wycombe didn't seem too put off by the freak goal and began to get the upper hand. Good work from Faulconbridge on 57 minutes down the left flank culminated in Bulman cracking a 20 yard effort but it was always drifting away from the target.
Rammell was just too far in front of Curries' cross from the right on 68 minutes to direct his header goalwards but it was a double substitution just a couple of minutes later that provided the catalyst for Wanderers victory.
Within three minutes of the change Roberts' work down the right forced what most people would say was very harsh handball decision against Phil Charnock. But that didn't bother Devine who converted the penalty with precision.
Not surprisingly Vale pushed for another equaliser and it was Thomson who made a crucial header to direct away a 90th minute goalbound effort before Anderson backed-up by blocking the loose ball. Just seconds later Wycombe broke away and from the right flank Devine finished clinically. Roberts almost made it 4-1 in the 2nd minute of stoppage time when he came in from the left but his low shot finished in the side netting.
Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio after the game Lawrie Sanchez said that the result would mean that he'd enjoy his weekend for the first time in a few weeks. He added "Our recent form has been disappointing results wise and it has sapped the confidence of everybody. And as disappointed as the fans can be, I can guarantee that I've been feeling a hell of a lot worse about it. But you have sometimes got to be philosophical and if you looked at the end of the game then it could have gone either way. We've won it today but we're not going to get carried away with a win but we'll use it as a basis for pushing on."
Full-time Wycombe 3 Port Vale 1
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