Southend United 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers – Reaction
(Southend won 7-6 on penalties)
Brian Jeeves and Rowland Lyons reporting from Wembley Stadium
Talk about leaving it late! A goal down in the final minute of extra-time – looking dead, buried and facing up to another season in the basement division. But in a moment crystalised by loanee, Joe Pigott, Southend United pulled themselves off the canvas, swiftly shook themselves off and claimed promotion in the most dramatic fashion.
In truth, Wycombe Wanderers will feel aggrieved. They bossed this dramatic Wembley contest for large spells. But that old adage that possession is nine-tenths of the law means absolutely nothing if you fail to slay what stands before you and that proved to be that case.
Of course, Phil Brown is never short of a word, particularly when provided with the big stage. But the Blues boss was quick to hand the credit to his players on this occasion.
“Penalties an awful way to end the season,” he explained. “But, I raised the question when we got beaten 3-1 (at Morecambe) whether we could go up – and these players have pulled me through.”
“They showed great character and spirit to get themselves out of the Second Division this season – and when the chance fell to Joe Pigott – who we got in on loan from Charlton – he took it.
“But, there was a lot of pressure on the players out there today – and even for the referee today. When we went a goal down I thought we were losing our presence. But Timlin and Corr have been massive players for us this year, and those individuals were important to us in the end.”
“The play-offs were a great invention – probably not for the managers, but for the players. But, when it came to penalties Gareth and myself – opponents in the past – we agreed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Brown revealed: “I haven’t talked to any players about contracts for next season – just to keep them on their toes. But they fact we have got promoted is an easier job as we could have faced a rebuilding of the team and starting from scratch”.
Brown is optimistic about next season: “Two of the three promoted teams did well this season – it will be about us going the next step in the new season.”
Disappointed Wycombe boss, Gareth Ainsworth added: “It’s a devastating way to lose – but I’m immensely proud of my players. They’re down – but they couldn’t have given any more – no one can point the blame either them or myself.
“When you consider we were close to going out of the of the league this time last year – and the target was 55 points to stay up – getting this far has been a great achievement.”
Meanwhile, Blues midfielder Jack Payne said: “As I said three weeks ago at Morecambe, we had to use the hurt of that defeat as a positive – which we did today.
“But, it was a great finish from Joe as there was under so much pressure at the end. Today was the best win ever – I’m buzzing – and we will now have a short rest and go again next season.”