Wycombe 0 Cardiff 4. Match Report.

Last updated : 09 April 2003 By NigelBlues

The significance of this result will vary according to whether you are optimistic and pessimistic. If you're optimistic, then celebrate City being right back in the thick of the automatic promotion battle, we will definitely win it, won't we? If you're pessimistic, I guess you have already started being miserable and telling everyone we'll now be teased right to the end before we're ultimately let down again and settle for those dreaded play-offs, haven't you?

Those realistic will just be relieved that City met our expectations on a night when any other result would have been a disaster. Cardiff's football until well into the second half when City raised their game and Wycombe gave up, was distinctly average, even poor at times, but it was an occasion and score to be savoured.

Wycombe in Bucks, for geography fanatics, is two junctions and 20 miles or so after Reading's Madejski stadium along the M4. A bright sunny evening but not the warmest and no rush hour motorway problems saw us get there from Cardiff Gate in under two hours. Sadly, the pub with “dancers" (ok, full frontal in your face strippers) much-loved by some Cardiff fans near the ground last season had no Tuesday evening show so most City fans were found at the only pub within the vicinity of the ground.

Wycombe old town may be quaint, Wycombe Wanderers is not. Situated on its leafy outskirts along a residential road then at the end of an industrial estate, Adams Park is in the natural dip of a valley three quarter surrounded by hills and trees. Fans travel to games by special buses from the centre, park at factories nearby or, as a last resort, park at the ground in large fields on the overlooking hill at the novel price of £1 per car passenger. Most avoid it as it can take an average of 45 minutes to get away and "escape" back after final whistle.

City's mission, after the calamitous weekend home reverse to QPR, was simple really - win or settle for the play-offs. Many changes were speculated but in the event, Lennie settled for just one. Fit and well again, Rhys Weston replaced Steve Jenkins. Spencer Prior, despite severe flak, for another unacceptably poor weekend showing was given another chance but under severe pressure with the wonderful Danny Gabbidon on the bench, rushed back in the team after 5 months absent with injury, despite just 60 minutes of reserve action last week in all that time.

If Cardiff City fans feel depressed recently, Wycombe's are near suicidal with their side on the crest of a slump. Kicking off in 15th place, they are virtually safe from relegation 8 points clear of the bottom four but 21 points behind the play-off places and 24 points (now 27) behind Cardiff.

Winning big or losing big is a Wycombe habit – 11 of their last 14 games before tonight were decided by a winning margin of 2 or more goals but with only 16 points collected in that spell, times are not good. They are undoubtedly at their lowest ebb coming into this fixture fresh from a 4-0 disaster at Chesterfield 10 days ago followed by an astounding 4-1 slump to Stockport last weekend after leading with 12 minutes to go. Wycombe must be the only people in the land not to enjoy four-play anymore!

Manager Lawrie Sanchez vowed to put it right, he'll now need another vow! Chairboy supporters have lost faith in him culminating in unprecedented anger towards Sanchez after the Chesterfield loss, some even believe he is losing or has lost his players in the ‘dressing room’. The way some of his defenders performed in particular, I bet he wishes he had lost them too!

The stadium itself, despite its relative newness (it must be 10 years or so old) is adequate for this level of football. Bog-standard stands and terraces – a high double decker type stand to one side (not dissimilar to Ninian's Upper/Lower Grandstand in size but better design and no pillars), a small 10 row stand opposite it (and behind the dugouts), terracing behind one goal for the home fans and a reasonable 1,900 capacity seated stand for away fans (where 1,096 Bluebird supporters, of course, stood) behind the goal that City defended in the opening period. Interestingly, Welsh flags could also clearly be seen on halfway in the double decker stand and behind the goal in the Wycombe terrace end.

Cardiff prayed for an early goal, Wycombe prayed to avoid it but it was Bluebird prayers answered as City stunned the home side with a priceless 4th minute lead.

After an early Alan Mahon goalbound effort was just blocked by Chris Vinnicombe, City attacked again, Earnie easily beat his man out wide on the left and hit a cross that immediately showed Wycombe's woeful defensive inadequacies as Mahon and Thorne were queuing unmarked at the far post. PETER THORNE met it gleefully and nodded a downward header home send 850 fans ballistic inside the ground and 200 or so (yours truly included) ballistic outside still trying to get into the ground with a "helpful" total of 2 away turnstiles.

The opening spell was lively. Peter Thorne also shot narrowly wide for City, Alan Mahon hit a post after a keeper save following a great run and turn. Wycombe had their moments too although it has to be said all came from more poor defending. Prior still looking unsure and unsteady (and yep, he did fall on his arse again) but crosses or shots were blocked, Keith Ryan clear wide in the area saw his searing shot across beat Margetson but also his far post by a fraction. Dixon came close too as Willie Boland, having a real off night, carelessly back passed back straight to him, his angled shot grazed the top of Margetson's bar, Prior atoning by doing enough to put him off.

All that action was in the first 20 minutes, the rest of the half you can forget about. It was poor standard too from City, Wycombe nothing special but with a lively and willing front line trying to pull City about, they provided some scares and threats. Most of them created from Cardiff's poor passing and play with several culprits responsible - most of them, it has to be said, the usual suspects.

We all know City have no natural leader on the pitch but watching them more closely than usual behind the goal, even I was staggered at how little communication takes place between our players. They each know their jobs, undoubtedly, but it became apparent to me why many have come to regard the 2002/2003 team as a collection of individuals rather than a team who have blended.

At the back, nobody was really organising. Weston was the only one shouting, Prior flapped his arms but said little, Croft and Barker hardly gestured or spoke at all. It's pretty much the same in midfield with Boland hardly saying a word, Kav more animated and cajoling others but mostly when play stopped. Even as players ran into space, they relied on their team-mate on the ball to look up and find them rather than help them by calling out. Then you look to the bench where Lennie is quiet and reflective, Ian Butterworth showing no emotion either with his arms folded. It does worry me that we see so much visible passion from the fans and so little from the players and management.

City, for once, were aided by a referee - Mr Clive Penton of Sussex - who seemed to go out of his way to give decisions to the Bluebirds. Wycombe fans were incensed with some cast iron decisions for their team which either weren't given or awarded to City, it was as if he was trying to make up for last Saturday's ref. It reached a crescendo as Willie Boland and Steve Brown were involved in an off the ball incident as Wycombe prepared to take a goal kick. Both players were niggling each other but Boland raised hands, Brown dramatically fell to the floor. The ref saw the incident and Boland was yellow carded. I don't think his push was severe and Brown could have been carded too for his fall but many refs would have produced red, City fans were relieved. The ref was invisible 2nd half though, as he should be.

Cardiff just about deserved the interval lead but were unconvincing, the front line were finding it hard to get service, Mahon and Ainsworth were very quiet - in fact, the best run of the half was a grey squirrel charging past us running the full length of the away end. The sights you see in the City end eh?

Half-time: Wycombe 0 City 1

City fans were finally treated to some decent entertainment in the form of a half-time penalty competition between two team of Under-11's at opposite ends of the pitch. The team in front of us were spectacularly awful, their penalty taking skills almost as bad as Andy Jordan at Newport the other week.

Thankfully, we were also treated to better entertainment on the pitch too as City stepped up a gear, realised how poor Wycombe were, particularly in defence, and ripped into them. It was easily one of the more enjoyable Bluebird 45 minutes of the season.

Initially, we wondered if City were going to put Wycombe away as Kav, Earnie and Thorne bulldozed though the centre of the Wycombe rearguard but never found the final pass, Ainsworth and Mahon hit disappointing crosses and when Ainsworth, livening up, got one over, defender Senda missed it and Thorne, not expecting the ball, saw the ball go through his legs with the goal gaping just 6 yards away.

On the hour came the sight to gladden all City fans, Danny Gabbidon returned with his new fair hair creating the "pint of Guinness" look replacing Spencer Prior and playing for City for the first time since Barnsley away back on November 9th. The chant of "Oh Danny Danny, Danny Danny Danny Danny Gabbidon" bellowing from the City end possibly the loudest away chant of the season.

He looked nervous at first and nearly cost City as he totally lost his man at the far post from a free-kick (dare I say Spencer Prior style?) and watched in agony as Johnson guided his close range header wide of the far post when he perhaps should have scored.

After that shaky start, it was vintage Gabbidon as he started to shake off his rustiness. Calm, assured, winning everything, finding time and space in central defence like no other player can at this level, a trademark charge through the middle of the pitch, getting wide to help build attacks and getting into the box at set pieces. A wonderful and badly missed sight. Cardiff have lost just 1 of the last 27 league games that Gabbidon has finished so let's hope he's back to stay.

It was a matter of time before City finished off Wycombe, the Bluebirds did it with three excellent goals and three great celebrations too, morale and confidence noticeably lifting a level.

2-0 came on 68 minutes as City worked the ball through midfield then switched it left to ALAN MAHON in space. His low drive across the face of the penalty area from 15 yards was a perfect execution, giving Tallia no chance as it tucked right inside his far post. One of the best goal celebrations of the season followed as Mahon ran to City fans, raised his arms and sprung straight into the joyous arms of City fans flying like Superman with his arms raised. It got him a yellow card - for leaving the field of play without permission! - but worth it for a celebration like that!

3-0 after 81 minutes as Wycombe heads dropped and they collapsed. Another excellent goal though as Gareth Ainsworth charged forward, squeezed past and between two defenders, got to they by-line when he had no right and clipped the ball back. More poor Wycombe marking and defending saw the ball invitingly arrive at PETER THORNE's feet to steer it into an unguarded net from 8 yards. City fans now ecstatic, Ainsworth wanting to shake hands with everyone behind the goal, the Peter Thorne is Magic chant echoing.

4-0 and best goal of the night came on 84 minutes. Peter Thorne strode through the middle, passed left to ANDY LEGG (on as sub for Alan Mahon) who showed outstanding skill and technique as he ghosted around the outside of a Wycombe defender then whipped a vicious angled waist height shot across goal 15 yards out and 20 yards wide which smacked in off the hapless and helpless Frank Talia's far post. A fantastic strike.

All clinical finishes leaving Wycombe soundly thrashed but had City been ruthless, it is no exaggeration to say we could have got 6 or 7 or more. Defenders turned inside out or overpowered, headers wide, Kav put a couple of efforts over the bar, one of them should have been netted, Earnie still in search of his 31st league goal to break all City scoring records for a season brought a stinging save out of Tallia and, at the end, missed another chance set up by Leggy as his low goalbound shot clipped the heel of Peter Thorne and deflected to the keeper. Earnie and Kav both looked to be trying too hard to score and would do better to relax more.

City fans lapped it all up, a rare chance to party and "large it" in style. Chants going round were "it's just like watching Wales" (far better than "it's just like watching Brazil"), singing "time to go" to Wycombe and waving to their fans disappearing early and saving the cruellest chants for under-siege Wycombe boss Lawrie Sanchez with "There's only one Lawrie Sanchez", "Sanchez, give us a wave" (he didn't), "Sanchez for England", "Can we play you every week?" and suggesting he had a packets of sweets and a cheeky smile which is ridiculous - we all know Sanchez never smiles!!

As if we weren't happy enough, Sanchez made us even happier by bringing on ex-Jack, Stuart Roberts, for the closing stages which gave us even more chants to use. Thanks Lawrie! Tallia came in for some good natured stick too, he chose to ignore us, can't blame him really. And more happiness as Gareth Ainsworth went off with a few minutes remaining for Mark Bonner. Ainsworth had waved with two fingers, three fingers, then four fingers on each hand as the goals went in now ayatollahed all the way off the pitch then carried on doing it from the dugout as the game continued.

Wycombe had a couple of moments outside of their defensive wreckage. Simpson was very unlucky with a bicycle kick that smacked off Margetson's left post, a follow up shot hit straight into his arms. Dixon, a useful player, flashed a shot narrowly wide and Darren Currie, a cultured left foot, caused City problems too. It was easy to see why they're the leading scorers at home but have the second worst home defence too.

This was a good night and a great result but, given the dubious challenge of the opposition and their recent form, not one to get carried away about. We are however back clear in third, just one point behind Crewe in 2nd automatic promotion spot with 6 games each to go. Crewe go to Blackpool on Saturday. Anything less than a win will mean City can go into the automatic promotion places with a win at Chesterfield this Sunday.

And after the doom and gloom last weekend, what a great thought that is to hold over the next few days

Report from FootyMad
Cardiff City got their automatic promotion hopes back on track as they thrashed mid-table Wycombe Wanderers 4-0 at Adams Park.

The Bluebirds made the best possible start when they took the lead after just five minutes.

Peter Thorne headed Rob Earnshaw's cross past Frank Talia to stun the Chairboys faithful.

Wycombe responded well and Jonny Dixon smashed a fine shot against the crossbar soon after but Cardiff continued to hold the upper hand until the interval.

The Bluebirds, who had lost 2-1 at home to QPR on Saturday to put a serious dent in their promotion bid, moved to within one point of second-placed Crewe with a stunning second-half display.

Michael Simpson's error allowed Alan Mahon to add a second goal with a 68th minute drive before the Wycombe player almost atoned for his mistake by firing a shot against a post.

However, Lennie Lawrence's side sealed a comfortable win with two goals in the last nine minutes.

Firstly Thorne scored his 13th goal of the season when he converted Gareth Ainsworth's 81st minute cross, before Andy Legg added a last-gasp fourth with a shot from the edge of the area.

External reports
Western Mail