MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
Wanderers scored three times in a League game for the first time in nearly eleven months as they came from behind to beat Mansfield Town 4-1 at a snow covered Field Mill. Going in goalless at half-time there was little indication of what was to come and after Richard Barker had fired the home side in front on 54 minutes things looked awkward for Wycombe. However, Danny Senda's cross on 58 minutes to the back post saw Alex Neil handball and Steve Claridge power home the resulting spot kick. Three minutes later Wycombe were ahead when Steve Guppy crossed and Ian Stonebridge scored from close at the second attempt. Wanderers then survived some home pressure where Barker went close and Senda turned the ball against his own post. However, Wycombe scored twice in the dying minutes to register their eight away win of the campaign. On 87 minutes Claridge put in Gus Ulhenbeek who deceived Kevin Pilkington in the home goal with a 30 yard plus strike. Ulhenbeek repaid Claridge in stoppage time when he crossed from the right for the 'veteran' to notch his fourth goal in three games and keep Wycombe's play-off chase on course.
John Gorman stuck with the same starting line-up that had drawn at home to Darlington the previous weekend. Both Nathan Tyson and Joe Burnell were still missing with their respective injuries but there was a surprise return on the bench for Mark Philo after he had been given the all clear from Lilleshall earlier in the day to resume First Team action. Philo's day may come later in the season as this game saw 38 year old Claridge take the honours.
There was a doubt that the game would even take place due to the freezing conditions. The pitch had been given the all-clear following a morning inspection but snow fall in the hour leading up to kick-off left a carpet of white on the pitch at kick-off time. However, underneath the surface was perfectably playable and made for some exciting football at times.
Wycombe probably edged the first-half with Johnson heading wide in the early stages and both Stonebridge and Bloomfield going close before the 15 minute mark. At the other end Frank Talia made good stops from Adam Rundle and Colin Larkin - the latter the best effort for the home side in the opening 45 minutes. Wanderers best chance of the half came after Guppy had centered from the left but Claridge side footed his shot wide of the post.
Talia made a good save from a Barker shot on the turn less than an minute after the restart before Claridge continued to be a threat for The Stags when he forced a goal line clearance after Pilkington spilled a effort from Stonebridge. Wanderers then conceded the first goal for the 23rd time in their 34 League matches so far in the 2004/5 campaign. However, it proved to be the 13th time Wycombe had managed to salvage something after falling behind. This time it took three minutes to level when Senda's second effort at crossing from the right struck the hand of Neil to concede a penalty. Claridge made no mistake from the spot to level the scores. Three more minutes and Wanderers were ahead after Stonebridge scored his third goal of the season.
An intense spell of pressure from the home side saw Senda deflect a Richie Barker shot onto his own post in the 70th minute but after Gary Silk replaced Guppy in midfield it was Wycombe who tightened things up to finish the stronger side and run out comfortable winners.
Claridge could have scored again on 82 minutes when one on one with the 'keeper but Pilkington managed to save with his legs. But Claridge never stopped running and was involved again as Ulhenbeek scored his first goal in a Wycombe shirt. A long ball forward was met by Claridge who found Ulhenbeek whose shot from distance went through the legs of Pilkington who had advanced outside his penalty area and the ball eventually overcame the snow to cross the line for 3-1 to Wycombe. Nethercott cleared off the line as the home side threatened to reduce the deficit but Claridge's goal in stoppage put the icing on Wanderers' biggest away victory since the 5-0 mauling of Northampton Town in January 2003. Final Score - Mansfield 1 Wycombe
CARLTON BEWILDERED AS STAGS ARE CRUSHED
Mansfield Town 1 v 4 Wycombe Wanderers
Mansfield caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer was left scratching his head as his in-form side were sunk 4-1 in the snow at home to away specialists Wycombe.
Richie Barker put the Stags in front, but a Steve Claridge double, sandwiched between goals from Ian Stonebridge and Gus Uhlenbeek, wrapped up an impressive comeback.
Palmer said: "That result was inexplicable. I can't explain it and the players can't explain it. I'm disappointed in the manner of the goals we conceded but I won't criticise individuals.
"We have a small squad here and they have done very well for me recently. It wasn't a bad performance. We had chances and we were ahead. But we made stupid and unforced errors.
"I have said all I want to say now and we will just put this one in the drawer. Wycombe have not deserved to win this 4-1 with the way they played - we have simply gifted them four goals.
"I understand the fans' frustrations. But when I came here all the talk was of a relegation fight and these lads have done so well they have raised expectations and we have to live with that.
"People must remember a lot of good things have come out of this last three-and-a-half months.
Chairboys boss John Gorman admitted he feared the snow at Field Mill would derail his side's hopes of an eighth away victory this season.
But he felt his players came through a stern test with flying colours to secure their 10th point from the last four games
He said: "That was another magnificent result for us. When we arrived at the ground I must admit I didn't want to play as I didn't think the snow would suit our passing game.
"But Carlton wanted it on as they'd been getting some great results and were full of confidence so it's probably backfired on him.
"I thought we mastered the conditions superbly and played some very good football considering.
"I couldn't believe we hadn't scored in the first half after having so many chances and then when Mansfield went ahead we were up against it.
"But credit to us we went forward, got a deserved penalty to level and Ian Stonebridge scored us a crucial second goal.
"Mansfield then had their best spell of the game before we got the third. It as another great away result and we now have to start playing with more confidence at home as well."
WE SIMPLY GIFTED THEM FOUR GOALS, SAYS PALMER
Evening Post, 23 February 2005
Carlton Palmer praised his side"s display for 60 minutes of last night"s game, but says defensive errors gifted the points to Wycombe.
"It was inexplicable," said Palmer. "I can"t explain it and the players can"t explain it. I am disappointed with the manner of the goals we conceded.
"Wycombe did not deserve to win 4-1 the way they played - we have simply gifted them four goals.
"We had chances and we were ahead. It wasn"t a bad performance, but we made stupid and unforced errors.
"But I won"t criticise individuals - we have a small squad and they have done very well for me recently.
"I understand the fans" frustrations with the result. But when I came here, all the talk was of a relegation fight and these lads have done so well.
"They have raised expectations and we have to live with that. People must remember a lot of good things have come out of the last three months."
"It was a magnificent result for us," said Wycombe manager John Gorman.
"I didn"t want to play when we saw all the snow as I didn"t think it would suit our passing game. But Carlton wanted it on and it has probably backfired on him. I thought we mastered the conditions superbly and played some very good football."
STAGS SUFFER IN A SNOWY BLUNDERLAND
MARK ROACH WATCHES STAGS' PLAY-OFF HOPES DIMINISH IN THE SNOW
Evening Post, 23 February 2005
Mansfield Town 1 v 4 Wycombe Wanderers
There was plenty of head scratching at the end of this game.
Stags played well for an hour. Their football was positive and when Richie Barker gave Carlton Palmer's side the lead in the second half, the home side were in control.
Then, after a disputed offside decision prevented Stags doubling their advantage, the home side shot themselves in the foot with a series of defensive blunders to gift the visitors maximum points and a victory which had looked extremely unlikely early in the second half.
The margin of defeat rubbed salt into the wounds.
It wasn't the classic game of two halves. It was a game of 59 minutes in which the home side were very good value for their lead, and a last 31 minutes plus stoppage time in which Wycombe fully capitalised on Mansfield's self-destruction.
It was a strange night. A snow-covered pitch, a very encouraging first half by the home side and a good display at the back by Jake Buxton were a few of the endearing features.
But Buxton's transformation in the second half matched Mansfield's collective downward spiral.
The young defender had been the leading contender for man of the match in the first 45 minutes.
In the second period he was a different player. He made errors and got caught out of position. But perhaps his biggest sin was feeling sorry for himself after he was caught in possession - his lack of urgency to try to atone for his error left veteran striker Steve Claridge a clear run at goal with the game in the balance.
With the play-offs an achievable target on the back of three wins in four games, it was an important fixture.
The defeat has not scuppered Mansfield's play-off hopes. Another run of three wins in four games would make sure of that.
And, after the game, caretaker-boss Carlton Palmer went so far to state that Mansfield will bounce back at the weekend by claiming maximum points against Rushden and Diamonds.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game, including a lively wing display by Adam Rundle and another hard-working performance by Richie Barker up front.
And, although Stags sit in 12th place in League Two, they are only five points adrift of a play-off place.
It was just one of those nights, and perhaps some fans had a feeling things would go wrong. The attendance of 2,497 was the lowest for a league game since May, 2001, and it was the first time in nearly two years that Stags conceded four goals at home in a league fixture.
It could all have been so different and after Claridge had equalised from the penalty spot, things went from bad to worse for Mansfield.
With the Stags looking good for victory at 1-0 up, a straightforward welly up the pitch would have cleared the danger but instead Alex Neil's hand made contact with the ball and it was downhill from there.
More slack defending presented Ian Stonebridge with an opportunity to make it 2-1 and two more entries in the 'how not to defend' category gave the game a scoreline which didn't begin to tell the whole story.
When Stags took the lead on 54 minutes, another clean sheet and three more points looked a distinct possibility.
Neil crossed from the right, Wycombe failed to clear, and the ball fell to Barker, who fired low into the bottom corner.
After a raised flag saved Wycombe from going 2-0 down, the visitors were back on level terms and it got worse for Mansfield.
Until the closing minutes Mansfield were pressing hard for an equaliser.
Claridge missed a chance to extend the Wycombe lead, but he set up his side's third goal for Gus Uhlenbeek and put the seal on a flattering win for the visitors with his second goal at the death.
Man of the match: Adam Rundle
Latest | February 2005