It was difficult to gauge which manager had more at stake. David O'Leary faced the embarrassment of his Aston Villa side becoming a Premiership scalp in a competition which represents the last trophy they won and may prove their best route to success. The Irishman knew that and deployed his strongest available team despite facing Chelsea this Saturday.
But for the Wycombe manager, Lawrie Sanchez, there was the possibility of relief from the rut of just one victory from 16 league games. A win would also, of course, have rekindled memories of the FA Cup exploits of two years ago.
Wycombe never got close. Just as the club with the makers of Viagra on their doorstep needed to stiffen their resolve, they wilted. Instead it was 100 per cent pure Colombian. A hat-trick by Juan Pablo Angel left them flaccid and Villa somewhat chipper.
Beforehand Sanchez sought refuge in this being a cup tie, but afterwards there was just resignation. Although not the resignation some Wycombe fans called for. "We have done the best we could under the circumstances," he said. "We were just outclassed." Indeed they were, to such an extent that O'Leary could - with justification - state that his players should have scored more.
Wycombe - 23rd in the Second Division, having conceded 20 goals in eight League games - had hoped for the financial windfall of a £100,000 television fee but Sky chose to divert their cameras elsewhere. It was a sound choice. If it was upsets they were after then the Premiership side - shorn of their three first choice centre-halves and forced to field Dion Dublin in that position ("we got away with that," said O'Leary ruefully) - quickly moved to defuse such sedition by scoring twice in the opening half hour.
The first followed the home side's best passage of play but from a rapid break Angel's low cross was confidently swept in by the teenager Peter Whittingham for his first senior goal. The striker then proved his own re-discovered brio by thumping home a clever ball from Gavin McCann. It was Angel from the angle. In truth, Wycombe played into their visitors hands. They attempted to deploy an expansive, open game - engineered by Darren Currie, who has a shock of blond hair like his uncle Tony but not the same skills - and it left them constantly vulnerable.
Nine minutes into the second half and Angel had scored two more. For the first he was played on-side by the dozing Danny Senda and, as he scooted into the penalty area, Roger Johnson nudged him. Angel picked himself up to score from the spot. Wycombe - by now nursing a sense of grievance - were undone again as Steve Williams, booked for his protests, spilled a shot from distance by Ulises De La Cruz and Angel slid in. By now, the Villa fans were conga-ing with delight at a rare away win.
Currie blazed over Wycombe's best chance although Villa were far more profligate. Lee Hendrie, Marcus Allback and the substitute Darius Vassell were wayward before the England striker was tripped by Chris Vinnicombe. With Angel off, Vassell drove in the penalty. What was left of a disappointingly small crowd began to drift away. Wycombe's chances had long since departed.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Williams; Senda, Johnson, Rogers, Vinnicombe; Thomson (Harris, 62), Currie, Simpson, Brown (Bulman, h-t); Bell (Cook, 75), Holligan. Substitutes not used: Talia (gk), Roberts.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; De La Cruz, Delaney, Dublin, Samuel; Hendrie (Ridgewell, 75), McCann, Barry, Whittingham; Allback (Moore, 75), Angel (Vassell, 62). Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Hitzlesperger.
Referee: A Butler (Nottinghamshire).Reuse content