Apr 28 2012 By Yann Tear
Wycombe Wanderers 3-4 Notts County
TWO GOALS in the final minutes spelled agony for the Chairboys.
They are down, with Walsall's point at home to Huddersfield sealing their fate.
Wanderers looked all set to take it the final day, but a failure to close out a game that had looked to be theirs has ended their association with League One after one season.
Stuart Beavon's 25th goal of the season – a tidy effort worthy of winning such a gripping contest - had re-ignited hopes of pulling off a great escape.
But with a minute remaining, Dele Adebola's header brought County level for the third time in the match, before a terrific Alan Judge strike in injury time broke Wycombe hearts.
It will be of little consolation that Wycombe played their part to the full in game of high drama, and no little quality and gave play-off chasing County the toughest of afternoons.
Gary Waddock said in his programme notes that his only wish was that his side might take their relegation fight to the last day, even if that meant a horrible fixture at promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday.
And it looked as if the gods were smiling on this penultimate day of the campaign as Wycombe sought a first win in seven games. But even a draw would have left them grasping at straws.
The Chairboys could hardly have asked for a better start – taking the lead after 40 seconds, when Matt Bloomfield drifted in from the right and hit a swerving left footer which deceived Stuart Nelson.
It looked for all the world as if it must have taken a deflection, but the swirling wind may have caused the County keeper to badly misjudge the ball's flight.
The euphoria was short-lived. Within two minutes, Daniel Bogdanovic had equalised for the Magpies – striking low to Nikki Bull's left from 12 yards after a ball in from the right from full-back Kieron Freeman had squirmed past Adebola to wrong-foot retreating defenders.
But with 15 minutes gone, Beavon drew a silly foul from Damion Stewart of the edge of the area and Grant Basey confidently tucked the resulting spot-kick low to Nelson's left.
Wanderers kept pressing, with Beavon firing off another couple of shots at Nelson, but the half ended with the teams all square - Judge rifling in a shot from the left edge of the area that beat a disappointed Bull at his near post.
That moment ruined a great script that had been brewing – with relegation rivals Walsall and Leyton Orient both trailing. But in the end, the afternoon took several turns for the worse.
Wycombe were gutsy throughout, but in truth might easily have trailed at the interval.
They got lucky when Adebola almost converted another low cross from Freeman – stretching but not connecting. Later, Stewart hooked a shot goalwards at a corner that a well placed Marvin McCoy had to head off the line
The Chairboys' hopes were dealt a blow before that second equaliser when Ben Strevens hobbled off with less than half an hour played, bringing Gareth Ainsworth into the fray far sooner than Waddock would have wanted.
It needed fine reflexes from Bull to deny Adebola a goal three minutes into the second half – the striker climbing high to nod a Freeman cross goalwards from close range. Bull then did well to keep out another strike from Judge on the hour as County grew increasingly dominant.
But Wycombe restored their advantage on 68 minutes with a goal of sublime quality, when a superb back-heel from Bloomfield opened up the space for Beavon to race into and tuck home with a calm finish from the edge of the six yard box.
The heart in mouth moments never went away, though, in the remaining 20 minutes. County had the ball in the Wycombe net again, only to be pulled up for an offside. Bull blocked a Jeff Hughes drive and later pawed away an effort from sub Lee Hughes.
They were never that comfortable, but the spirit always looked like it might just carry them over the line. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Line up: Bull; McCoy, Doherty, Johnson, Basey; Bloomfield, Lewis, Eastmond, Strevens (Ainsworth 27); Beavon, Grant (Dunne 84). Subs not used: Foster, McClure, McNamee.