04:04PM, Tuesday 14 July 2020
Wycombe Wanderers have been promoted to the second tier of English football for the first time in their history after edging out Oxford United 2-1 in a tense, tight, League 1 play-off final at Wembley this week.
There were jubilant celebrations at Wembley on Monday night as Gareth Ainsworth’s side battled for a precious – and potentially lucrative victory – over the Us.
Joe Jacobson kept his cool to sweep home the Chairboys’ all-important second from the penalty spot with just over 10 minutes to play. Anthony Stewart had grabbed the early advantage for the Blues when he headed home an early corner via a deflection off Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood.
Ainsworth’s side had to weather plenty of pressure from Oxford throughout the 90 minutes and it seemed their hopes might be dashed when Mark Sykes’ mishit cross found the back of the net early in the second half.
The ball lobbed over Ryan Allsop to get the Us back on level terms and they passed up several chances to take the lead before Fred Onyedinma was felled by Eastwood and Jacobson sent the keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 79th minute.
Ainsworth, who plays grassroots football for Woodley United and skipped band practise to lead the Chairboys out at Wembley was understandably overwhelmed at the final whistle. He’s lead the Chairboys from the trapdoor of relegation to non-league football in 2014 to promotion to the Championship in 2020, and he’s managed it on a shoe-string budget. They’ve one of the smallest budgets in League 1 and were tipped by many for relegation before the season started.
At one stage before the season was cut short they were pushing for automatic promotion, but they’d slipped to eighth in the table when the season was suspended in March. However, the league’s points per game method for calculating places saw them leap back above sides like Sunderland to third and gave them their shot at glory. It’s one they’ve seized with both hands having put out Fleetwood Town 6-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
Reflecting on their achievement Ainsworth said: “It's an amazing feeling. To take this club into the Championship is just surreal, it's beyond my wildest dreams.
"Today is just the culmination of all the desire and heart of all those boys out there on the pitch. They absolutely delivered and then some.
"It wasn't the greatest game we've played in the world. This was always going to be cagey. My goalkeeper has made two world-class saves, they really came at us and are a good side.
"But that was destined today. There are 25 individual stories that have ended in the Championship and I'm so proud of the boys. They've been amazing."
Oxford manager Karl Robinson added: "We've been done early on by a goal that you'd expect to come from the opposition.
"The longer the game went on, I thought we played wonderfully well and we missed some key chances as important stages in the game.
"All of the things that were out of our control didn't fall for us. We've probed and just not taken our chance. The mistakes that we made were small errors and unfortunately it's cost us.”
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