Wycombe Wanderers v Crawley Town
Adams Park / League Two / 28th December 2015
I’d challenge anyone who attended Crawley 2-2 MK Dons back in the nascent weeks of January to have not come out liking Crawley Town. It was the ultimate rollercoaster of a game which involved a striker in goal performing heroics for an hour, constant attacking football, a fan throwing tea over a MK Dons player and a last gasp equaliser for the evil MK empire to break Crawley hearts. It was captivating experience and if you want to read more about one of the best games I’ve ever been to (honestly) you should check out the blog of that day, which you can find here. However, the thing that really shook me that day was how taken I was with Crawley Town – a club I had very negative perception of beforehand to be honest.
Swansea City are the love of my life. No doubt. That will never change. Yet, since moving to the north and starting this whole Lost Boyos adventuring on the side of following the Swans, you can’t help forming attachments to certain clubs – without the need to use the word ‘fan’. As I have said on these pages before, I have and never will have a second team – but undoubtedly there are clubs out there who through the people you meet and get friendly with you can’t help backing them: Crawley Town are very much one of these – in fact they are the only southern team of such clubs, so I suppose they are officially my ‘Favourite Club in the South’. Well done Crawley.
Following that day in Crawley, there were adventures with the club for me to Colchester and Walsall – both crazy games, but for contrasting reasons. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2015 is apparently the year of the Sheep, but as far my side of Lost Boyos goes it has definitely been the year of the Crawley And so it seemed fitting that my penultimate game of 2015 would be left to Crawley to provide me with entertainment again – this time at Adams Park, the home of Wycombe Wanderers.
I had spent Christmas back home in the valleys and after spending Boxing Day watching hometown club Merthyr Town at the magnificent Penydarren Park (you must visit some day), I was up for more of an adventure a couple of days later. I actually began my journey to Wycombe the evening before, as I headed over to Bristol to visit my mate Ed and to delve into all those wonderful pubs on King Street. The next morning I was up bright and early proudly wearing last season’s yellow Crawley away shirt, which Craig had bought me, and my Crawley scarf; throw in the red jumper, colourful flat cap and red Sambas and I did think to myself that I looked a bit too colourful (days later, on seeing the photos of the day, Gibbo said I looked like a CBeebies presenter). As I headed through Bristol in my Crawley attire, the taste of Bombay Sapphire gin was still tingeing my mouth (we’d been drinking that back at Ed’s flat until the early hours), but I was soon at Bristol Parkway for the train to High Wycombe.
I’d arrived into High Wycombe not really sure what to expect from the place, but I had plenty of time to have a nose about with me arriving into the Buckinghamshire town 5 hours before kick-off. Admittedly, there’s not too much to see in those 5 hours, but it’s all pleasant enough and the hilly, rural surroundings did at least remind me of my valley roots a bit. I had arrived early enough for the all the pubs to still be closed, but there’s always one establishment you can count on in such times – we all know what’s coming here: Wetherspoons.
There are apparently two Spoons in town, but I settled for just visiting the more interesting looking Falcon in the heart of the town. Punk IPA was purchased and a very good Wetherspoons was enjoyed – it actually felt a bit like a normal pub and not just a generic bar; this contrasted to my next stop: O Neill’s. Deciding to find something different, I left Spoons and found everywhere still closed, so I ended up in O’Neill’s – into a chain I’m not a great lover of really. It was a bit shit in there today too. Move on.
Next, I ended up in the Antelope – a quite quirky place (I’d define a pub with a ping-pong table as quirky anyway) just off the main street. It was still only around midday, so the place was hardly abuzz – unless you include the 3 dogs that were sweeping the room. Pleasant enough, but the next stop was the winner on the day.
I’d spotted the Bootlegger as soon as I exited Wycombe station and as it was at the station where Craig had arranged to pick me up to take me to the ground, I figured this would be the best place to finish my walk through of Wycombe. Plus, the pub had come with recommendations from others and I’m never one to turn down a pub recommendation. Fortunately, Bootlegger lived up to the hype. It really is superb. A huge bar with an extensive range of ales on sale and in a very nice bar too. Plus, I had the tough choice between watching Bolton v Blackburn on one screen or Grimsby v Lincoln on the other; since one of my best mates these days is the inflatable Harry the Haddock I obtained from Grimsby, I felt I should watch that game.
Whilst I had been enjoying the drinking establishments of Wycombe, Craig and his car of Crawley fans were battling traffic coming up from Sussex, as were the supporters’ bus and the team bus. And so with no chauffeur to Adams Park, I headed over to the taxi rank at the station and hopped on in. Now if there’s one lesson I’ll take from my trip to Wycombe it is that you should avoid taxis. The ground is roughly a 10 minute drive away, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the meter as it seemed to jump 50p every couple of yards. I was relieved to see Adams Park come into view – I was less pleased with the price being asked of me.
The location of Adams Park is a bit odd, but also it is the main draw of the place. The ground is accessed by heading through an industrial estate, but you soon find yourself in a rather rural setting with Adams Park flanked by rolling hills on three sides. It looks great, especially from within the ground. From the outside Adams Park isn’t exactly eyecatching nor is it really an eyesore either. In terms of football grounds in this country, Adams Park is still relatively new with it being opened in 1990, although there were some talks of a new ground being built a few years ago – talks that were eventually quashed. It looks like Adams Park will be the home of the Wanderers for the foreseeable future, which is something I’m happy about.
I headed straight into Scores, the adjoining bar to the ground, and with pretty much every Crawley fan still stranded in traffic, I covered up my Crawley shirt not to stand out like a sore thumb (and also to avoid the embarrassment of Wycombe fans approaching me to ask about the team and me having to confusingly explain to them that I am in fact a Swansea fan). I was graced with the company of legendary groundhopping blogger Russ ‘The Wycombe Wanderer’ Cox – and he was good company at that too. However, word was soon getting to me that Crawley were beginning to turn up and so I departed Russ and his fellow Wanderers and head outside for the tent bar put up for away fans (it looked like it had seen little action today).
Craig and his height was easily spotted through the crowd now arriving at the ground and so I was soon reunited with one of the chief Lost Boyos companions of 2015. He was completely mesmerised by the double-sided programme he had bought for today’s game though; well, the reason it was double-sided was because it wasn’t just for today’s game, but also for their upcoming game with Morecambe (another one on my ‘soft spot’ list). I was more interested in the bar, so that’s where we headed next – to give those poor bar staff, who had had very little to do all afternoon, something to do.
The night before Craig had texted me asking, ‘Do you have another flat cap?’ Obviously, I did. I knew it wasn’t for him, as I actually got him one ages ago (although we’ve since decided that that flat cap is some sort of devil flat cap, as any time it has been to a game, the result never goes the way of the team we are favouring). It turned out that the cap was for his little 5-year-old sidekick Matthew to wear; clearly, a big Lost Boyos fan wanting to be part of the #NoFlatCapNoParty brigade. He did look pretty cool in it too. But enough of fashion – it was game time.
Clearly looking like some pyro-wielding ultra, my bag was checked on heading through the turnstiles – a bag only containing the necessities for the previous night’s stop over in Bristol. Of course, a Right Guard deodorant is a lethal device in a football stadium and so that was duly confiscated. I’m still not over its confiscation, as it was a big can and still quite full too. Damn you Wycombe stewards…damn you. £22 later (and a deodorant can lighter) and I was into Adams Park’s Dreams Stand – where today’s away support was housed and where things wouldn’t prove too dreamy for the away team.
As mentioned previously, it is when inside Adams Park when the ground really does look at its best with the hills backdropping the place beautifully; I could even see a man riding his horse around the hills in the distance – undoubtedly trying to find a vantage point to steal some free League Two football. The most impressive structure in the ground is the brilliant looking two-tiered Frank Adams Stand with the rest of the ground being a single-tiered affair. Not too much of interest to report really, but I was quite envious of the home fans behind the goals opposite us with their standing terrace; not that we would be sitting down anyway as we headed up to stand towards the top of the away stand.
Soon the teams were out on the pitch, but more interesting things were going on around me, as Craig was laid out by one of his fellow Crawley fans, Ben, who decided to launch his arms out to start singing only to floor Craig with his fist. He said it was an accident anyway. There were high expectations for the game today from Carol, Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance, purely because I was in attendance. It does seem that whenever I take in a Crawley game ‘shit goes down’ on the pitch. Not today though.
There had been a small handful of half chances early on, but it took just 7 minutes for Wycombe to take the lead – although a lot of it was Crawley’s own doing. A header back from Crawley defender Sonny Bradley lacked any pace and immediately Wycombe’s by Max Kretzschmar run onto the loose ball, before firing past the Reds’ Welsh keeper Callum Preston. Instantly I thought to myself that this could be a repeat of that car crash Crawley performance I witnessed when I saw them hammered 5-0 by Walsall, but this time the team did seem to keep their heads.
The game was becoming very scrappy, although I still felt that Crawley were edging it. They just seemed to lack that bit of quality further up the pitch and I know Craig will not like me saying this, as he loves the guy, but I was finding ex-Swansea boy Gwion Edwards very frustrating. I once saw Gwion score a wonder volley for Swansea U21s against Merthyr Town in a preseason friendly, but every time I’ve seen him in a Crawley shirt I’ve found him remarkably underwhelming; despite me wanting him to do well so much with me being a compatriot of his and him being a former Jack. His crossing today was poor and letting the Reds down (sorry Craig).
There wasn’t much else to report in the second half besides Crawley’s wastefulness. I will say again though that I thought the away fans were in decent voice all things considering.
Half-time: Wycombe Wanderers 1 – 0 Crawley Town.
There was no alcohol on sale at half-time for us away fans (as far as I could tell anyway) so the interval was spent taking the usual array of thumbs up photos. Little Matthew did look a bit like some kid I had adopted posing alongside me in his flat cap; maybe he can takeover the job of Lost Boyos-ing in the future when I retire from it, especially as he has the right name too.
The second half was fairly similar to the first, although Crawley were definitely upping the ante a bit now. Gwion Edwards almost defied my critique of him by sending a shot goalwards only to be denied by a brilliant, probably goal-saving, block from the Wycombe defence. The subsequent corner also saw Crawley denied by a block again with this time Lee Barnard’s shot being blocked. I recalled him in his goalscoring pomp for Southampton and Southend, but judging from the reactions of the Crawley lot around me, he’s not exactly setting the world alight down in Sussex.
The 66th minute saw the entrance of Lost Boyos cult hero Matt Harrold much to my delight, although I was a bit disappointed to see him head to his usual sport up front instead of going in goals; for you see, it was Harrold who would be the striker who would perform the goalkeeping heroics against MK back in that January game mentioned at the start of this blog. Such was his heroics that day that a new Lost Boyos award was invented in the annual end of season award blog: The Matt Harrold Hero of the Year Award; unsurprisingly, he was the inaugural and currently only winner of this prestigious prize. He didn’t have quite the same impact in this game today though.
Wycombe looked resolute and Crawley got very little from them in the closing stages – despite me repeatedly saying that Crawley would go on to win it; that probably came from me wearing one of my supposed ‘lucky flat caps’ – the one I had worn when I saw Crawley win 3-2 at Colchester. Crawley were the ones starting to make a mess of it though with Preston not claiming a cross properly and it almost leading to a Wycombe second.
As the board was going up to signal for six minutes of injury-time, I was beginning to say “There’s plenty of time for Crawley to grab a late equaliser here,” but I didn’t get halfway through the sentence before Wycombe made it 2-0. A Garry Thompson cross was floated over to Sam Wood at the far post, who easily headed past Preston to seal victory for the Chairboys.
Full-time: Wycombe Wanderers 2 – 0 Crawley Town.
Not exactly a thriller and definitely the most uneventful Crawley game I’ve been to.
Back to Craig’s little Fiat (or ‘Paddy’ as it is better known) with little Matthew, mother Claire and Alison too. Traffic was rather gridlocked going down the one road out of the area, but soon we were heading towards the town centre and I was happy enough as I knew I could fit in one more beer in Bootlegger before heading back to my Christmas HQ in South Wales.
Goodbyes were said in the Wycombe train station car park and little Matthew just looked so damn cool in his flat cap I said he could keep it – a Lost Boyos first. I’m sure he’ll sell it on Ebay in years to come when he realises its true value. Then I was straight back in Bottlegger with ale in hand enjoying my final hour in Wycombe watching the football on TV. However, it seemed that I got my train times a bit muddled and in fact I only had about half hour, so the pace of my drinking hastened and I was soon back out the door and on Wycombe station ready to leave.
Thanks to the ever arduous British rail network, my train would not be going straight back to Cardiff and instead I ended up at Oxford Parkway, where I had to hop on a bus crosstown to Oxford Central. On arriving there I found myself with 40 minutes to kill and inevitably I ended up in a bar…a really weird bar: Wahoo. It seemed a sort of weird nightclub/bar mix and its tackiness reminded me of Koolers – the semi-beloved, infamous nightclub back in my hometown Merthyr Tydfil. Most annoying though was the fact that a bottle of Punk IPA cost £4.50!
Following my Wahoo visit, I was back on the train to Cardiff to finish the evening. Swansea had been playing at Crystal Palace that afternoon, so on spotting some Swans lads I know, I had to go through the awkward conversation of explaining why I was wearing a Crawley away shirt and had a Crawley scarf around my neck. They were forgiving though – I think people have just got used to my football travel hi-jinx these days.
Overall, it had been a good outing. Wycombe was decent as a place, I loved Bootlegger and I was a big fan of Adams Park too. Only the game itself had left me with anything slightly bad to say about the whole day. I’d even had a supplementary 40 minute night out in Oxford as an added bonus to the day (although I’m not sure a Wahoo visit should be described as a ‘bonus’). Once again though, spending time with the Crawley faithful was a pleasure and once again cheers for the kind welcome and all that. I’m sure me and Crawley will cross paths again in 2016.
Highlights: Good Wetherspoons, The Bootlegger pub, Adams Park is great, nice club bar in Scores, spending time with the Crawley lot again, providing child with flat cap.
Low Points: still hate O’Neill’s, Wycombe taxis are expensive, not a great game.
See all my photos from my day at Wycombe here.