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Club News

The League Cup

25 August 2012

The 1-0 defeat to Watford a fortnight ago ensured that the Blues’ winless run in the League Cup stretched back to 2006, while it’s been a further three years since the club won a home tie in the competition without the need for penalties.

However, Wycombe have enjoyed more than enough success in their 19 years of competing in the cup to warrant a special feature in our wander down memory lane.

They began their adventures with a bang, pushing top-flight Coventry City all the way to extra-time in the second round of the 1993/94 campaign. After easing past Leyton Orient in the opening stage, Martin O’Neill’s men looked doomed to exit the competition after a 3-0 defeat at Highfield Road in the first leg.

City boss Bobby Gould feared a ‘cavalier’ approach from the Wanderers in the reverse clash at Adams Park, and he wasn’t wrong. Goals from Keith Ryan, Keith Scott and Terry Evans sent the tie to extra-time, and a rocket from Jason Cousins – returning from suspension after back-to-back red cards – sent the home fans into dreamland. Steve Morgan and Phil Babb were the unlikely heroes as Coventry rescued the situation with two goals to win 5-4 on aggregate, but O’Neill was left a proud man nonetheless after a sensational performance from his men:

“Ironically, despite the heroics of the players that evening, our dressing room had the atmosphere of a morgue. Victory had been gained but ultimate triumph cruelly snatched away, and the realisation of that fact was slowly sinking in. May there still be many more great moments for us to enjoy in the not too distant future.”

The Northern Irishman had departed by the time of Wycombe’s next giant-killing attempts in the competition – creditable draws against Manchester City, Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Middlesbrough – before the master of the cup shock, Lawrie Sanchez, arrived to guide the Blues past Wolverhampton Wanderers in a thrilling clash at Molineux in 1999.

Keith Curle’s penalty gave the Black Country club a slender 1-0 lead at Adams Park before Jermaine McSporran inspired the Wanderers to a well-deserved 4-2 win in the second leg, terrorising their defence to score twice alongside Kevin Muscat’s own goal and Keith Ryan’s strike. The next round proved to be just as eventful, with West Bromwich Albion requiring extra-time to win 4-3 in south Bucks following a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns.

The 2000/01 season will of course be best remembered for the FA Cup run, but it also played host to another seven-goal thriller in the League Cup as Wycombe came from three goals down to level the scores against Birmingham City, before Andy Johnson plundered a last-minute winner. Andy Rammell’s first goal from the club and a strike from the popular Jamie Bates had the home fans in a state of delirium, but ultimately City’s quality shone through.

That year spelled the end of two-legged affairs in the competition and the Chairboys found themselves on the end of some unpleasant defeats, losing 4-1 to Sheffield United – in which Steve Brown spent some time in goal – and 5-0 at home to Aston Villa.

Villa returned to Adams Park in 2005 for one of the most extraordinary matches in either side’s history, when – after knocking out League 1 Swindon Town in the first round – John Gorman’s Blues decided to attack the Premier League outfit at all costs. And it worked a treat – at least, for the first 45 minutes, as Nathan Tyson, Roger Johnson and Tommy Mooney opened up an incredible 3-1 lead at half-time, prompting some visiting fans to walk out in protest. They lived to regret their decision though as David O’Leary’s side smashed seven goals after the break to romp to an 8-3 victory.

The following year saw a different approach to Wycombe’s tactics, and Paul Lambert quickly mastered the art of upsetting the odds in his first season as a Football League manager. Beating Swansea City on their own patch in round one was an achievement in itself, before Fulham were humbled at Craven Cottage as the Blues secured their first ever passage into the third stage.

Ricardo Batista made himself a hero with a crucial save in a shootout victory over Doncaster Rovers and Jermaine Easter continued his run of scoring in every round with strikes in1-0 wins at Notts County and most memorably Charlton Athletic.

He was at it again in the semi-final, stealing national headlines with an equaliser against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, who finally ended Lambert’s men’s progress with a 4-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

Since then, heavy losses to Birmingham City and Peterborough United have dampened the cup spirit, although it was briefly reinvigorated last year thanks to a shootout triumph over the old enemy Colchester United. Penalties looked to be on the agenda again before Watford squeezed a late winner this season, leaving us with that famous old saying… “there’s always next year.”


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