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Flashback: Devine intervention at Stoke in 1999

Former Blues Media Manager Alan Hutchinson, now Chairman of the Ex-Players Association, looks back to our first visit to Britannia Stadium, at that time, the new home of Stoke City.

4 March 2021

Our very first visit to the Britannia Stadium, new home of Stoke City, took place on Saturday 14th April 1999. A very memorable game was to follow with Wanderers striker Sean Devine hitting the headlines.

At the time Wanderers were fighting for survival in Division 2; they went into the match fourth from bottom and needed to get something from it.

Our very first meeting took place at Adams Park on 28th November 1998 and we lost 1-0. At this particular time Stoke were going through quite a few problems, with fans holding demonstrations against the board for the manner in which they ran the club. On arrival there were so many police with horses all controlling the fans; any misconduct by supporters and they were led away immediately. Special entrance plans were in place and had to be adhered to, and once you were inside the ground space between groups of fans were controlled by police.

The match got off to a roaring start as Wanderers pressed forward right from the kick off. There was no doubt all three points were the target. With so many problems at the home club with fans booing everything, Wycombe wanted to take advantage. However, it took until the 28th minute for Sean Devine to get them going. His first effort was scrambled away by home keeper Carl Muggleton but following up Devine pounced on the loose ball to make it 1-0. It caused angry scenes amongst the home fans as they screamed abuse against the Directors Box.

Wycombe should have taken a bigger advantage of their total pressure as Stoke looked all over the place.  It was former ex-Blues Nicky Mohan who took a barrage of boos and insults from the away fans.

Unfortunately, failure to take advantage of their continuous pressure came to an end on 38 minutes. Ray Wallace clipped Richard Forsyth’s pass over the outcoming Martin Taylor to level the score at half-time. 

The second half began with snow falling, and it seemed to drive Stoke forward; Wycombe dropped back but soon found themselves all over the place. As Wanderers lost their way Stoke took advantage, and substitute David Oldfield gave Stoke the lead. On the hour mark Dean Crowe sent a cross from Forsyth onto the post and Oldfield swept it home for a 2-1 lead.

Pressure from the home side really grew. Two more strikes hit the post and Wycombe keeper Martin Taylor had to be at his best to keep Wanderers in the match.

After Wycombe had been slipping around like novice ice skaters Devine came to their rescue. On 87 minutes, full-back Mark Lawrence sent the ball forward, it struck the ref and helped it into the path of Devine. Suffering from cramp, he picked up courage to collect the ball, hold off defenders and sweep it home for 2-2.

One item to mention, the son of former Wanderers manager Mike Keen - Kevin - played in the Stoke team.

The result left Wycombe in the bottom four with a chance of staying up and enough games remaining.

After the game Blues Manager Lawrie Sanchez said, “Sean got us out of jail. Stoke are play-off contenders so a point here is a good result. We should have taken the game by the scruff after taking the lead. Credit to Stoke, they came back and went in front”.

STOKE: Muggleton, Robinson, Small, Sigurdsson, Mohan, Strong, Keen, G. Kavanagh, Crowe, Forsyth, Wallace.

Subs:  Lighthouse, J. Kavanagh, Oldfield.

WYCOMBE: Taylor, Lawrence, Vinnicombe, McCarthy, Bates, Ryan, Carroll, Simpson, Emblen, Devine, Baird.

Subs: Brown, Westhead, McSporran.

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