The greatest of all great escapes is told by Adrian Wood.Part 24 - Season 2013/14 – The battle for Football League Survival
With Gareth Ainsworth as manager, Wycombe’s form in the second half of the previous season had been much improved with the club rising from bottom place to a comfortable finishing position of 15th. Season ticket sales were up on the previous season and the second season under the ownership of the Wycombe Wanderers Trust was eagerly awaited.
The playing squad was smaller with notable departures including Joel Grant, Dave Winfield and Grant Basey. New arrivals though included exciting winger Paris Cowan-Hall and forward Steven Craig. Meanwhile striker Jon-Paul Pittman returned to the club and right back Nick Arnold moved on loan from Reading. Pre-season included an entertaining 2-2 draw with Premier League Aston Villa when the club revealed their new “Tequila Sunrise” change kit.
The season started well enough. Cowan-Hall’s debut goal earned a 1-0 success over Morecambe at Adams Park on the opening day and three days later the side were desperately unlucky to exit the Capital One Cup when Championship side Leicester City won 2-1 at Adams Park, the winning goal coming in the fifth minute of added time.
Charles Dunne was off to Blackpool but returned on loan for the remainder of the season while the popular midfielder Billy Knott arrived on loan from Sunderland. Dean Morgan and Craig scored the goals in the 2-1 home victory over Southend and an impressive 3-0 win at Plymouth saw Wycombe into fifth place. Progress was made in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with wins firstly at Exeter and then at home against League 1 outfit Bristol City. Mid October saw an exciting 3-2 home win over Torquay, the club twice coming from behind and Cowan-Hall grabbing the headlines with two fine headed goals.
Sadly though there was to be no further home success for over four months. Exit from the JPT came at Swindon when the Robins’ winner came in the fourth minute of added time. In the FA Cup there was a fine 2-0 first round replay win at Crewe before a wonder strike from Kevin Davies earned Preston a 1-0 success at Adams Park in round two. The crowd for the home midweek game against Exeter in late November attracted a crowd of just 2,357, the lowest ever Football League gate at Adams Park to date.
There was a splendid 4-1 victory at Northampton just before Christmas but on Boxing Day League new boys Newport County won 1-0 at Adams Park. The year ended with the side in 17th place – worryingly just five points above the relegation places.
2014 started disastrously without a win in the first eight fixtures. By the time of the home fixture against Chesterfield (February 22nd), the team were 22nd, just two points clear of relegation. There had been a run of five home games without scoring before Stuart Lewis scored in the 1-1 draw with Fleetwood. Just 2,185 attended that fixture, setting another new record for the lowest home FL attendance. Young defender Kortney Hause moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers just before the January transfer deadline. New faces introduced were left back Jordan Mustoe, utility player Anthony Jeffrey, and striker Reece Styche. The latter made 14 appearances but failed to make the scorers list.
Off the field news saw the Wycombe Wanderers Trust release a statement announcing the potential of selling a 'controlling interest' in the Football Club to a company of investors who claim they are "committed to injecting funds into the Club to continue its development both on and off the field." However the investors failed to appear at the Trust AGM at the end of February.
Home form improved briefly with wins over Chesterfield and then Hartlepool. Aaron Pierre arrived on loan from Brentford and another loanee Sam Togwell (Chesterfield) marked his debut by being sent off in the 0-2 defeat at York. Another row of six games without a victory followed the sequence being broken with a much needed 2-0 home win over Dagenham & Redbridge at the start of April. By now Danny Rowe had become the latest loan signing, moving from Rotherham until the end of the season. A defeat at Newport though left Wycombe out of the bottom two only courtesy of a better goal difference than 23rd placed Northampton. Those two sides fought out a 1-1 draw at Adams Park on Good Friday and the season’s best crowd of 7,004 saw Pierre net his first goal in Wycombe colours. Three days later though Wycombe lost 0-1 at Fleetwood despite the hosts being reduced to 10 men after just 12 minutes.
The last home game was against Bristol Rovers. Both clubs, and also Northampton, had 47 points, while Torquay were five points adrift at the bottom. Wycombe’s better goal difference though was keeping Ainsworth’s side in 21st place. Sadly it all went wrong for Wycombe. They went behind early on but equalised through a brilliant back-heel from McClure. Rovers had only one serious goal attempt second half but made it count when David Clarkson netted from home range for the winning goal.
The cold reality of Wanderers' Football League survival was now that they had to win their final game at Torquay and also hope that either Bristol Rovers (home to Mansfield) or Northampton Town (home to Oxford) lost their final game. In addition, defeat for Wanderers would see them finish bottom behind Torquay. Wycombe made no mistake at Plainmoor with a 3-0 victory. Elsewhere Oxford did Wycombe no favours by losing 1-3 at Northampton but there was joy amongst the Wycombe ranks when news spread that Mansfield were leading 1-0 at Rovers. The tension was unbearable as the minutes ticked by but when news filtered through that Mansfield had indeed won, there was unrestrained joy amongst the Wycombe fans, players and management at Plainmoor. It had truly been an amazing day.
For the record Wycombe survived courtesy of a superior goal difference, minus 8 compared to Rovers’ minus 11. There were just six league wins at Adams Park and the average attendance worked out at 3,680. Finally, 2013/14 was to be Wasps’ last full season at Wycombe – the tenants, under coach Dai Young, finished 7th in the Aviva Premiership with a best attendance of 7,040 for the late October meeting with Leicester Tigers.
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Tuesday 19th April 2016.