Part 2 of Adrian Wood's trip down memory lane.Part 2 - Season 1991/92 – All down to Goal Difference
The close season saw works at the stadium that included the public address system receiving attention, the crush barriers being successfully tested (as required by the Taylor report) and the dividing fence on the Woodlands Terrace being moved to allow home fans more space. The ground capacity was increased to 7,200. The big disappointment was the refusal by the Wycombe DC of the club’s application to develop a training pitch on the chalk adjacent to the stadium. Admission prices showed a small increase on 1990/91 with terrace admission being £4 (concessions £2) and stand seats £5. Terrace season tickets (GMVC games only) were £68 per adult.
On the playing side, the most notable departure was keeper John Granville who had made a total of 163 appearances for the club. Martin O’Neill brought in two players who were to play considerable roles in the club’s successes over the next few years – keeper Paul Hyde, signed from Hayes for an initial fee of £10,000, and defender Jason Cousins joined with four years of experience at Brentford. As in 1990/91, O’Neill arranged some testing pre-season friendlies against Football League opponents – Division 1 outfit Coventry City won 5-0 at Adams Park, but goals from Ty Gooden (a summer acquisition from Arsenal) and Dave Carroll ensured a 2-1 win over West Ham United in front of a 3,260 crowd. Further 2-1 victories followed against Watford Reserves and Division 3 side AFC Bournemouth.
Pre-season the bookies had installed Wycombe and Colchester as favourites for the Conference title. In response O’Neill’s side started the league campaign superbly. Goals from Mark West and Carroll ensured a home 2-1 win over Gateshead on the opening day and this was the first of seven consecutive victories leaving Wycombe seven points clear at the top. During that run the club had also beaten Barnet 1-0 at home in the Championship Shield (contested between the Conference champions and the FA Trophy winners). In memory of Kevin Durham who had died tragically in the summer and who had played for both clubs, the proceeds from the fixture went to the Trust Fund set up for Kevin’s young son.
Late September however saw two crucial home defeats. Macclesfield won 1-0, their winner coming from John Timmons following a clear handball. Mickey Nuttell and Cousins were sent off and referee Royston Osborne needed an escort off the pitch. A week later 5,184 turned out in driving rain and gale force winds for the visit of arch rivals Colchester. The U’s led through Nicky Smith but this was soon cancelled out by Steve Guppy. In the last minute however Colchester keeper Scott Barrett’s goal kick caught on the wind and bounced over Hyde into the top corner. Before Christmas the Essex side completed the double over O’Neill’s side with a comprehensive 3-0 success at Layer Road. At the turn of the year Wycombe were second with a commendable 44 points from 20 games. They trailed Colchester by seven points but had three games in hand.
To help supporters travel to Adams Park the club introduced a Park and Ride scheme with buses operating from Mill End School and the cost being financed by the club. Due to a poor response however the scheme was discontinued. More off the field news was that the Bucks Free Press Group signed a three year sponsorship deal that included the rights to the name of the Western terrace, previously known as the Valley Terrace.
Meanwhile six players – Hyde, Cousins, Creaser, Carroll, West and Guppy - all appeared for the FA XI against a Diadora League side. Guppy was called up for the England Semi-Professional international against Wales but regrettably cried off through illness. O’Neill made some more key signings in the club’s bid for the championship – striker Kim Casey joined from Cheltenham for £9,000, Dennis Greene arrived for £15,000 from Chelmsford, and Slough’s talisman Steve Thompson was signed for £25,000.
There was to be no FA Cup run in 1991/92, Kettering winning 2-0 at Adams Park in a 1st round replay. The defence of the FA Trophy started with a 2-0 home win over Salisbury. After the game the crowd were held back in the stadium as the fire services dealt with a major blaze in a nearby industrial unit. A fourth round 1-2 home defeat against Witton Albion ruled out a return to Wembley. However there was silverware in the form of the Bob Lord Trophy after Runcorn were beaten 2-1 on aggregate in the final.
The big prize however was still very much up for grabs. Another run of seven consecutive Conference victories in March and early April saw O’Neill’s side top the table for the first time since early October. However a midweek 1-3 defeat at bogey side Macclesfield proved ultimately costly. An 86th minute winner from Keith Scott at Gateshead seemed to have put the Blues back in top spot only for Colchester to snatch a late equaliser in a 4-4 draw at Macclesfield. The two clubs were now level on points and despite Wycombe’s wonderful 5-0 away win at Redbridge Forest, they were behind on goal difference going into the final day. A ground record attendance of 6,035 saw Wycombe thrash Witton Albion 4-0, but it was not enough as Colchester beat Barrow 5-0 (attendance 7,193) to take the title – and promotion to the Football League – with a nine better goal difference. Both clubs had set a new record Conference tally of 94 points. This was a huge disappointment for the club compounded a little later by the failed campaign to replace Aldershot who resigned from the Football League through bankruptcy.
The club had played some splendid attacking football throughout the campaign. The home form had been superb with 18 league wins, 1 draw, and just the 2 defeats. They finished 21 points clear of 3rd placed Kettering. Keith Scott top scored with 18 league and two cup goals. The average home attendance was 3,606 (the best in the GMVC) a 29% increase on the previous season’s average. With the reserves and youth team also enjoying successful campaigns there was justifiably much optimism looking forward.
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Tuesday 11th August 2015.