Torquay United 0 Wycombe Wanderers 3 match report: Fairytale ending for Ainsworth

Late goals just enough to keep Wycombe alive as Bristol Rovers go down after 94 years in the Football League

Gareth Ainsworth believes in fairy tales. He reads them to his three children at bedtime. This was more Roy of the Rovers than Hans Christian Andersen, and the Wycombe manager wisely suspended disbelief until he turned towards the main stand at Plainmoor, and saw a forest of raised thumbs

We don’t give good news that often from the press box. Our signal, that Bristol Rovers had been beaten at home by Mansfield, and Wycombe had retained their place in the Football League, sent him and his players wonderfully, gloriously wild.

The final whistle blew immediately. Ainsworth sprinted on to the pitch, swung from the crossbar and flaunted a home-made banner which proclaimed “Believe.” All the worry drained away. The prospect of penury was ignored. They lived for the moment. 

Even the Torquay supporters, whose team finished bottom of League Two after an abject performance which offered little hope of an immediate return from the Conference, stood in unison and applauded.

“Being a football manager does terrible things to your heart, but no one gets to feel how I feel right now,” Ainsworth said. “I envisaged this earlier in the week. I could see us celebrating, but I still spent more time in the last five minutes looking at you lot than looking at the game.

“This is incredible. It ranks as the best thing I have ever done. We’re a small club from Buckinghamshire. Everyone had written us off. Fairy tales like this do happen. I am going to stay as high as I can for as long as I can.”

It was no time to dwell on the realities of a traumatic season in which Wycombe were so desperate to secure a reliable cash flow they were reduced to ringing clubs on the final day of the January window in a bid to sell their best players.

Wolves waited until an hour before the deadline before buying their top prospect, defender Kortney Hause, for £175,000. He is worth at least double. Goalkeeper Matt Ingram will be snapped up this summer, as will midfielder Josh Scowen, who interests Blackpool. 

Yet survival offers hope that a supporter-owned club of Wycombe’s stature can survive in a game which is becoming relentlessly elitist. They have a fighting chance of avoiding administration, that traditional friend of speculative saviours.

Wycombe have only five players under contract for next season. They have players on £100 a week; they sleep in a flat at the Adams Road ground to save money. Yet they possess the power of dreams.

The incestuous nature of lower division life has never been more perfectly expressed than on an afternoon when Northampton protected their status by beating Oxford United 3-1, and Rovers left the Football League after 94 years because of a defeat sealed by Colin Daniel’s first half goal.

Ainsworth still calls Oxford manager Gary Waddock, his mentor and predecessor, “Gaffer” by instinct and inclination. Torquay manager Chris Hargreaves had two interviews to succeed Aidy Boothroyd at North-ampton, whose assistant manager Alan Knill was in charge at Plainmoor for the first 25 games this season. Straws were grasped, and statistics recited as if they were scripture. One of the 992 travelling fans worked out that Rovers had not won on May 3 since 1930. By contrast Wycombe had won nine out of their last 11 matches on that date.

Torquay’s return to the Conference after five years emphasises the cycle of boom and bust. Hargreaves issued a rallying cry on the pitch before the game. “I cannot imagine being in this position,” he admitted. “I will fight with all my heart and desire to get back.”

He needs to find players with similar qualities. They were noticeable by their absence on an afternoon on which news travelled with the speed of light. Wycombe had the perfect start, the unmarked Sam Wood hooking the ball in at the far post in the sixth minute.

Within seconds, 213 miles away at Northampton, Ryan Williams gave Oxford the lead from a corner. The symmetry of the moment was not lost on Ainsworth, who leaped around the perimeter of the pitch with both fists clenched.

“There’s only one Gary Waddock,” chanted the travelling fans. Williams complicated the script by being sent off, and a sudden silence signalled the arrival a John Marquis equaliser for Northampton, who quickly built an unassailable lead.

“You’re going down with the Torquay,” sang the home fans with bewildering gusto. When Daniel put Mansfield ahead, the visitors had the ideal riposte: “You’re going down with the Rovers.”

Further goals by Steven Craig and Matt McClure ensured Wycombe finished with a superior goal difference of three over Rovers, and the choice of song on the public address system, was perfect. It was “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds.


Torquay (4-4-2): Rice; Tonge, Pearce, O’Connor, Cargill; Cameron, Lathrope, Mansell, Chappell (Stockley 46); Benyon (Craig 46)  Yeoman.

Wycombe (4-4-2): Ingram; Rowe, Stewart, Johnson, Pierre; Bloomfield, Scowen, Lewis, Wood; McClure, Craig (Morais 84).

Referee: Craig Pawson

Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine