Smith starts his fight back

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The Independent Online
Despite the champagne Alan Smith cracked open for the press to celebrate his first game in charge of Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, the atmosphere in the smartly-appointed manager's office at Adams Park remained awkwardly reminiscent of visiting a friend recuperating in hospital after a serious accident.

Smith's accident was in the nature of his unsatisfactory departure from Crystal Palace at the end of last season. The scars are still evident from the deterioration of his relationship with the Palace chairman, Ron Noades, but it was more than just a brave face he was putting on after a disappointing first performance by his new team.

Crewe were as disciplined and positive as we have come to expect from Dario Gradi's sides and they will be kicking themselves for not taking all three points - especially after the 60th-minute sending-off of Wycombe's right-back, Jason Cousins, for a second reckless challenge in five minutes.

Wycombe lacked direction until, as so often happens, they were spurred into action after going down to 10 men. Mark Foran, their rugged centre- half, made a couple of determined tackles just as Crewe were threatening to run riot and, from a breakaway, Steve McGavin tempted the Crewe captain, Steve Macauley, into a rash challenge inside the area. McGavin got up to convert the penalty, cancelling out Danny Murphy's first-half header for Crewe.

Smith, understandably, was happy with the result, but the honesty that is his hallmark has not deserted him. "I think they want to do well for me but we didn't really seem to get switched on today," he said.

He was equally happy to discuss the big step down that he has taken over the summer, and it was obvious that the break had done him good. "It is really nicer to be in employment than hanging around waiting for somebody else to fail. On the football side I've got total control. I've been able to set up the whole youth team section, which is important to me. It's a magnificent area for kids.

"I have got job satisfaction, although I've got to say that when I was at Palace, up until when I became the manager, I had job satisfaction there, too. I loved working with the kids and the players and I enjoyed my time as assistant manager."

The immediate future is clear enough for Smith. He has a lot of work to do if Wycombe are to mount a realistic challenge this season. But his long-term commitment to life in the lower divisions is less certain.

"I don't know if it's a good idea to always say what your ambitions are," he said. "I respect what Dario Gradi's done at Crewe, though. I think it's best to earn respect in life. You don't always get what you want, but you make the best of what you've got."

Goals: Murphy (13) 0-1; McGavin (pen 72) 1-1.

Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Hyde; Cousins, Foran, Crossley, Hardyman; Carroll (Garner, 66), Soloman, Brown, Bell; Desouza (Howard, 82), McGavin. Substitute not used: Hemmings.

Crewe Alexandra (4-3-3): Gayle; Booty, Macauley, Westwood, Unsworth (Garvey, 76); Collins, Lennon, Whalley; Tierney (Edwards, 82), Savage (Adebola, 69), Murphy.

Referee: A Butler (Nottingham).

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