Revolution in air as Wanderers get giants' measure

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The Independent Online

It may be that Chelsea breeze through the second leg in a fortnight and the natural order is reasserted, but nobody who was here last night will forget the greatest night in the history of Buckinghamshire football.

"I thought Charlton in the last round was a special night," said the Wycombe manager, Paul Lambert, "but this exceeded it. We've kept the tie alive and that's as much as we could ask for. The players were terrific. Chelsea are a top side, and the reason we matched them was our effort."

What was most impressive was the absence of any sense of inferiority. Steve Brown, Wycombe's assistant manager, had spoken before the game of how in 2001, when the club reached the FA Cup semi-final, they had paid for their caution against Liverpool, abandoning the positive approach that had carried them through the early rounds There was an evident determination to avoid the same failing last night.

Perhaps the aggressive policy cost them a goal, but it won them far more - not merely the plaudits that always attach themselves to those who show an attacking attitude, but also a draw that will echo through the club's history. Only in the nine minutes between Wayne Bridge's goal and the half-time whistle did Chelsea dominate. What was surprising was not so much that Wycombe equalised, but how deserved that equaliser was.

For almost 9,000 of the 9,771 fans there, the interminable pre-match traffic jams suddenly became worth it. Last night, there were scenes like nothing since Mao's Long March, albeit with added cars and stalls peddling commemorative scarves: the one route through the small-town dystopia turned into a snaking line of brake lights surrounded by an exhausted stream of trudging pilgrims.

By the nearest factory to the grounds main gate was parked a large orange articulated truck from Cacak, the Serbian town from which Velja Ilic led the demonstration that ended up unseating Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. It is doubtful that many noted the omen, but revolution was in the air last night, with most at Adams Park looking for an Easter rising - Jermaine Easter, that is, a player whose reputation has spread so far since he scored the quarter-final winner against Charlton that he was the subject of interest from the Romanian side Universitatea Craiova.

Last night's goal, neatly taken from Tommy Mooney's flick, meant that the 24-year-old has now got 19 for the season, and scored in every round of the competition. Lambert, though, while acknowledging the forward's contribution, was keen to stress he was not the only hero. "Mooney was outstanding for him last night," he said, "and there's a few of them could probably play at a higher level."

Lambert, of course, has played at the very highest level, winning the Champions' League with Borussia Dortmund 10 years ago. "I'm as proud as any of the players tonight," he said, and some of them were very proud indeed.

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