With two of the biggest games in the club’s history drawing ever closer, we take a look back at current Wanderers’ previous play-off campaigns.
The man who’s seen it all
Unsurprisingly, it’s a certain Adebayo Akinfenwa – who, with eight appearances across three campaigns in two divisions to his name, should be better prepared than any other Wycombe player for what they’re about to face. In AFC Wimbledon’s 2016 success over Plymouth, Bayo seized the ball from team-mate Callum Kennedy as they won a 101st minute penalty. And, of course, he tucked it away with the nonchalant precision we’ve become used to seeing when he’s had to deputise on spot-kick duty. “Hit me up on the WhatsApp,” was his now iconic come-and-get-me plea amid the post-match delirium of the Dons’ sixth promotion in 14 years – and we all know who did. It was a case of third time lucky in the final for the big man, having missed out on promotion to the Championship in his first season with Swansea in 2006 and to League One in his last at Northampton in 2013.
The good omen
One of the biggest concerns is can we squeeze two games out of Darius Charles in such a short space of time? We’ll certainly all be hoping so – and here’s why (other than the obvious reason): the Mango Man has made six appearances in the play-offs, won five, drawn one, kept five clean sheets, won both finals and set up the only goal in the first of them – at Old Trafford for a certain John Mousinho to secure victory for Stevenage over Torquay in 20. The other final? The aformentioned victory for Wimbledon, with whom he was on loan from Burton at the time.
The luckless one
If you check Sido Jombati’s 2014/15 record, you’ll see that his last game of the season came against Southend. Check the date, though. It was the regular season draw at Roots Hall. So he missed that thing we don’t talk about which happened that May. He’d have been hoping he could have made it third time lucky following his double post-season heartbreak with Cheltenham in 2012 and 2013. In the former, the Robins lost 2-0 to Crewe at Wembley; in the latter, they didn’t even get that far, edged out by the same scoreline on aggregate by Northampton – a tie repeated in the current League Two play-offs. If two games in four days prove a stretch for Charles, perhaps Sido could finally lift the curse – and more…
Won it in League One
Fred Onyedinma has twice been to Wembley – only on one of those trips, he sat on the bench for us. So he’s kind of got a 100% record in finals. Sure, he only came on as an 89th minute substitute to help Millwall see things out as they beat Bradford 1-0 three years ago, but he’s one of only two* men in the Wanderers squad who can say he’s been there and done what we’re dreaming of achieving a few weeks from now. Josh Parker is the other one, playing the full 90 minutes as Charlton broke Sunderland hearts in the most dramatic fashion just over a year ago. Two promotions from the same divison in two seasons with different clubs? Why not?
*Craig Mackail-Smith achieved the same feat with Peterborough in 2011, scoring in all three games, but as he’s not eligible to play for us in the play-offs (see EFL rule 55.1.4 here), I’ve left him out for the purposes of this piece.
Scored in the showpiece
David Wheeler’s corker for Exeter in 2017 – in the final of the League Two play-offs we missed by a single point – is a memorable one but wasn’t enough for champagne as the Grecians lost 2-1 to Blackpool in the end. They were defeated once again 12 months later, this time by Jack Grimmer’s Coventry – and the Scotsman curled in a beauty from 18 yards (with his left peg!) to put the Sky Blues 3-0 up as they returned to League One after just the one season in the bottom division. The most famous play-off final goal by a current Chairboy, though? A certain Wycombe legend’s final kick for his previous club…
And the rest…
Ryan Allsop and David Stockdale have both kept goal in some of the biggest games of their careers. Unfortunately, both have also fallen at the first hurdle: Rocky with Portsmouth in 2016 and Lincoln in 2018 (his final games before joining Wycombe), Stocko with Brighton the same year and Darlington in 2008.
Matt Bloomfield missed our 2007/08 League Two campaign through injury but was involved two years earlier as, under the temporary charge of Steve Brown while John Gorman took compassionate leave, we lost 2-1 on aggregate to Cheltenham in the same division. Mr Wycombe was back in 2015 and, er, yeah…
As for Joe Jacobson, he was there alongside Blooms but will look back most fondly on 2006/07 – his second professional season – when, although he missed the final as his loan expired, he helped Bristol Rovers up from League Two, playing his part in a 5-3 thriller with Lincoln en route. He tried to do it again with Accrington in 2011 – only to uncharacteristically see red as they went out in the semis.
Header photo: Jbmg40 via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.