After 111 days, pre-match coverage on Chairboys Central is BACK. Because we’ve got FOOTBALL to look forward to. First up ahead of this crunch north-south double-header, Martin Crane gives us a fan’s insight into the Cod Army.
Last time we spoke, Fleetwood were looking in good shape – and you proved that by beating us (even if we were by our own admission below par that night). With that in mind, in a purely footballing sense, how disappointing was it for the season to come to an abrupt halt? Do you think you could have made the top two? I certainly think that’s the case. Our form since January was unbelievable. I genuinely looked at our fixtures and assumed we would drop away, but we came through that run with six wins and three draws and were sitting top of the form table, two points off the automatic promotion places. Our run-in looked pretty favourable (on paper anyway) and we really felt like we were in the mix for a top two finish. It’s a strange feeling to be in the play-offs yet still feel like we’ve missed out!
It’s all change since the last time the Cod Army were in the play-offs. Nonetheless, what lessons do you think the current side could learn from that campaign? As you say, it is hard to compare as there are only three players left in the squad who featured in the play-off semis back in 2017. We lost 1-0 on aggregate to Bradford City that time round. One thing I will say, though, is that I felt fatigue played a huge part that season. We’d been on an incredible journey with a small squad and some of the players looked very leggy. That certainly shouldn’t be an issue this time around. That said, the form we were in counts for nothing now either.
All eight meetings between Wycombe and Fleetwood have ended either 1-1 or 1-0/0-1, with three wins for us and two for you. I think it’s fair to expect the first leg to be just as tight, but what will Joey Barton’s game plan be and who will be the key men to ensuring you go to Adams Park still in the tie? I think it’s fair to say that any game in the play-offs is going to be a tight, cagey affair. As I say, last time, we played Bradford and there was one goal over two games.
Our strike force is an obvious strength. I genuinely think that Paddy Madden is one of, if not the, best striker in the division, and Ched Evans will put the ball in the net if he gets a chance. Set-pieces will obviously be key in a tight game and I think whoever defends those better will come out on top. I just hope the crucial moment comes from a piece of brilliance rather than an individual error.
Barry McKay, Paul Coutts and Paddy Madden did the damage in our last meeting – with Harry Souttar looking every bit the man mountain he is. We were missing about half the 11 I’d expect to start these two matches, but would you expect those four players of yours to have the same impact? Who else will Wycombe need to be wary of? Glenn Whelan has been superb in the midfield since he arrived in January and provides vital experience, and Kyle Dempsey should be fit after being injured when we went into lockdown. Paul Coutts may find himself a little down the pecking order because of that but is great experience to have. Barrie McKay looked the real deal too and found some great form just before we locked down. Goalkeeper Alex Cairns is a superb shot-stopper and has become a key, experienced head in the side. The defence is what you would pinpoint as being inexperienced, but the back four of Lewie Coyle, Harry Souttar, Lewis Gibson and Danny Andrew looked extremely solid. I would be concerned if we lost one of that four for any reason, though. As I alluded to in my last answer, I wouldn’t swap our strike force for any other at this level.
Last of all, how do you see the games going and, if you’re brave enough, feel free to give us a score prediction! I think they’ll be tight and the longer it stays 0-0, the tighter it’ll become. I think there will only be a single goal in it. I’ll predict 2-1 and I will hope that is in our favour!