CONTRASTING emotions greeted the final whistle at Adams Park this afternoon as Wanderers lost out in the loser-loses-all clash with Bristol Rovers.
Some of the 2,300 visiting Gasheads gleefully invaded the pitch to acclaim their 2-1 victory over their relegation rivals, plunging Wanderers deep into the mire and leaving them needing a miracle if they’re to survive.
And the Easter bunnies in the Wanderers team now need someone to respond to a mayday call as they head to Torquay next weekend for what looks very likely to be their final match in the Football League after a 21 year stay.
It was apt the stormclouds, black as the collective mood of the home faithful, gathered overhead finally parted as the game ended, with raindrops as well as tears falling down the cheeks of Wanderers supporters.
Goalscorer Matt McClure reappeared on the pitch for the post-match warm down dewy eyed, as his error that laid the winning goal on a plate for Rovers’ David Clarkson undid his first half heroics.
The goal of the season polls were set to be reopened as McClure scored a miraculous backheeled mid-air volley to bring the sides level and give Wanderers hope of pulling off the great escape.
But fifteen minutes from time he inadvertently sent an aimless ball into the box across the face of his own goal where Clarkson was on hand to tap home, redeeming himself after being sent off against Wanderers earlier in the season.
It leaves Blues three points from safety with one game left.
Their last four matches of the season included games against the other three sides in the bottom four of the Football League and before that sequence Wanderers had their destiny in their own hands.
The first two of that triumvirate of games yielded just a single point – and the third could bring with it further heartache. Torquay, for so long having looked nailed-on certainties for the drop, were only relegated today and they could leapfrog Wycombe with a final day victory at Plainmoor next week.
That would leave Wanderers as the 92nd side in the Football League – an outcome Ainsworth said this week was unthinkable.
Blues’ destiny now lies in the hands of others and the body language their players showed as they trooped round the pitch after re-emerging from the dressing room to applaud the few fans who had stayed behind at the end for an end-of-season lap of honour – perhaps dishonour would be more appropriate – indicated they knew, deep down, that the game is up.
Wycombe can still stay up but they need to win and hope one of Northampton Town or Bristol Rovers slip up next weekend.
That looks unlikely though with Rovers’ next opponents, a disinterested Mansfield Town, being brushed aside 3-1 at home by Torquay today and Northampton boss Chris Wilder having a point to prove as he faces the side he left to join the Cobblers in the first place, Oxford United.
Ainsworth, so ever the optimist, tried to put over that message in his post match press conference; that the season wasn’t over and his men could still survive if someone else did him a favour.
But his body language and the way he spoke those words betrayed the fact he also thinks it’s game over.