Football: Smillie's people left rock bottom

Gillingham 3 Saunders 38, Taylor 45, 70 Wycombe Wanderers 0 Attendance: 4,575
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TROPHIES, Europe, top of the Premiership - those three things have all been achieved by two of Wycombe's most recently departed managers, namely Martin O'Neill at Leicester City and John Gregory at Aston Villa. To boot, O'Neill is being courted by Leeds for one of the country's biggest managerial posts. The current Wycombe incumbent, Neil Smillie, would probably just settle for avoiding relegation this season.

Bottom of the Second Division, Wycombe were yesterday, along with Southampton and Tranmere, one of only three teams left without a win in the English league, but if there is a trait that Smillie shares with his more illustrious predecessors, it is a refusal to see why his team did so badly.

He said: "It's a battle to get out of our situation but I didn't think we looked like a bottom of the table side today. I am confident of climbing the table, because I don't think there's much difference between the teams in this division. We have been hit by six injuries and have also been dropping points at the end of lots of games this season. But I think it'll take just one incident to turn our season round."

That one-eyed belief will either save Smillie's people in the end or condemn them to the drop but the damage was done yesterday by a far from outstanding Gillingham long before the final minutes were being counted down.

Gillingham striker Carl Asaba was at the centre of most of his side's moves with his pace, but was not involved when Gillingham finally did score.

After 38 minutes a ball into the Wycombe area fell to defender Matt Lawrence but his weak clearance only reached Mark Saunders, who nonchalantly dispatched a 25-yard volley into the top corner. Smillie admitted mistakes like that have plagued Wycombe this season and it meant that a second was sure to follow. Seven minutes later Gillingham doubled their lead, when Robert Taylor headed home from close range at a corner.

With Gillingham easily coping with the visitors' lightweight attack, only occasionally bolstered by the energetic running of Andrew Baird and Paul Emblen, they sat back and invited Wycombe to commit men forward but any danger of a shock turnaround was eliminated with 20 minutes left. Taylor won a free-kick 25 yards out and took it too quickly for Wycombe, curling his second goal low into the bottom left-hand corner.

If Smillie was scratching around for scant consolation at the end, it came at least in the sendings-off total, which was one apiece. Gillingham's Darren Carr was dismissed for two yellow cards after 72 minutes, and Wycombe's Paul Emblen suffered the same fate three minutes from the end.

Smillie compared managing Wycombe to getting strapped into the electric chair and he must be wishing he could squirm out of it as O'Neill and Gregory have done so effectively.