Torquay United 0, Wycombe Wanderers 3.
WANDERERS achieved the impossible as they pulled off a last-day escape in the most dramatic of circumstances.
They needed – and easily picked up – victory against the league’s worst side and hope against hope someone else did them a favour.
Wycombe fulfilled their side of the bargain as they easily saw off a hopeless Torquay side who finished with ten men thanks to goals from Sam Wood, Steven Craig and Matt McClure.
It looked as though M40 neighbours Oxford United were doing them a favour as they went in front against relegation rivals Northampton, but a red card for the U’s helped pave the way for a Cobblers comeback.
Attention then turned to Bristol Rovers’ home match with Mansfield Town – and, having lost to the Pirates last week to enter the pits of despair, Wanderers fans gleefully lapped up the news the Stags had done them a massive favour.
Colin Daniel’s first half goal helped Wycombe achieve the impossible dream, as Mansfield held out against a Rovers onslaught.
It sparked scenes of wild celebration as manager Gareth Ainsworth ran onto the pitch screaming with delight at his side’s survival.
Luck hasn’t always been on Blues’ side this season but they had a hint of fortune in the build-up to their first goal as Matt Bloomfield appeared to control the ball with his upper arm as he was found in space, but it wasn’t spotted and the long serving midfielder was able to send the ball over to the back post.
Wood was there lurking and although his first effort was blocked the midfielder stretched and lunged and prodded the ball over the line.
And barely 90 seconds later news filtered through that Northampton had fallen behind at home to Oxford – prompting chants of ‘There’s only one Gary Waddock’ from the 929 fans who had made the journey south.
The hosts weren’t there merely to make up the numbers though, knowing a win themselves would take them off the foot of the table, and Wood made his presence felt at the other end as he scrambled Krystian Pearce’s header off the line before it was desperately hacked to safety.
Ashley Yeoman had a shot blocked at close quarters by Anthony Stewart and from the rebound Jordan Chapell was denied in similar circumstances, with his effort cannoning away off the imposing figure of Aaron Pierre.
With Torquay starting to create a glut of half chances, with former Wanderer Elliot Benyon having a shot blocked by Leon Johnson, Blues needed the security of a second goal and they really should have extended their lead. Wood let fly from distance and his effort crashed against the post, but with keeper Martin Rice stranded on the ground Craig could only scuff the rebound horribly wide of a gaping open goal.
It was a ghastly miss, but it was matters elsewhere that prompted the Wanderers fans to fall silent as Northampton levelled against an Oxford side who by this time had already been reduced to ten men.
The Cobblers went on to take the lead and the Gulls’ top scorer reminded Wanderers the fine margins at stake as his shot took a deflection and looped over the bar.
Then, another moment of jubilation in the away end as Mansfield took the lead against Bristol Rovers – once more taking Wanderers out of the bottom two.
Things were now taking a turn for the better as Matt McClure picked Pearce’s pocket before charging towards goal and being tripped by Anthony O’Connor as he entered the penalty area. The referee pointed immediately to the spot and Craig stepped up to exorcise the ghost of his earlier miss, calmly rolling the ball into the opposite corner to the one Rice dived towards.
That solid first half performance meant that with 45 minutes left of the season Wanderers were safe.
Blues could only hope results elsewhere stayed the same and they set about their hosts early in the second half as good work from Craig and McClure opened the room for Wood to crack one goalwards from the corner of the area, with the powerful effort knocking O’Connor off his feet as he blocked it.
It was O’Connor’s last positive contribution as he wrestled Craig to the ground as the Scotsman looked to work his way towards goal – and having been booked for the trip which led to the penalty the defender could have no complaints at being shown a second yellow card.
A rare free kick from Torquay in an attacking position was easily defended as McClure headed clear and Josh Scowen led the charge out of defence, but Wood had a shot turned behind by the lunging challenge of defender Dale Tonge as Wanderers failed to capitalise on a three-on-two break.
But minutes later they had a third goal as a long ball caught the home defence and goalkeeper dithering and McClure nipped in to coolly lob home from the edge of the box.
It was job done from a Wanderers perspective and with Northampton home and hosed, all attention turned to what was going on at the Memorial Stadium.
Every bit of news and every tweet was met with chewed nails and frayed nerves as it became kitchen sink time for Rovers, still trailing to Mansfield and needing a goal to survive at Wycombe’s expense.
The goal never came despite five minutes of injury time – meaning Blues stayed up on goal difference.
Wanderers: Ingram, Rowe, Stewart, Johnson, Pierre, Bloomfield, Scowen, Lewis, Wood, McClure, Craig (sub Morias). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Arnold, McCoy, Kuffour, Ainsworth, Kretzschmar.
Attendance: 3,149 (929 from Wycombe