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Middlesbrough 0-3 Wycombe Wanderers: Chairboys' relegation confirmed despite win

By James LawBBC Sport
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth consoles his players
Gareth Ainsworth has been in charge at Wycombe for more than 10 years

Wycombe Wanderers' relegation from the Championship was rubber-stamped despite finishing the season with a convincing victory at mid-table Middlesbrough.

Gareth Ainsworth's Chairboys started the day three points from safety but their vastly inferior goal difference meant they needed to beat Boro by a huge margin, hope that Sheffield Wednesday won at Derby and Rotherham failed to beat Cardiff to pull off a miraculous escape.

While that sequence of events was never likely, Wycombe dominated at the Riverside Stadium and comfortably led at the break through Fred Onyedinma's clever dinked finish and a scruffy strike from Garath McCleary.

Boro looked well off the pace and the visitors scored a deserved third when Jason McCarthy headed in to ensure they went down to League One with their heads held high.

Wycombe finish their first-ever Championship campaign 22nd, above fellow relegated sides Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday and just a point from safety, while Neil Warnock's side end the season 10th.

The Chairboys went into the game knowing they were not going to score the 12 goals needed at the Riverside to give them a chance of survival but they threw everything at it, Onyedinma getting to Ryan Tafazolli's defence-splitting pass and lifting over onrushing keeper Jordan Archer.

Admiral Muskwe's powerful strike was tipped behind before some great centre-forward play from Uche Ikpeazu allowed McCleary to find the net despite stumbling as he shot.

The hosts made two half-time changes and switched to a 3-5-2 formation but it made little difference to a dismal display and McCarthy applied the finishing touch for Wycombe's third from close range after Tafazolli headed Joe Jacobson's corner goalwards.

Boro youngsters Hayden Hackney and Jack Robinson came on for their home debuts and boss Warnock was booked for dissent, as Wycombe's first-ever victory over the north-east side proved to be in vain.

Down with a fight

Wycombe reaching the Championship last season was arguably one of the biggest underdog stories in English football.

Ainsworth's side were eighth when the 2019-20 League One season was curtailed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but rose to third on points per game.

They then overcame Fleetwood and Oxford United in the play-offs to win promotion to the second tier for the first time ever.

A 38-year-old Adebayo Akinfenwa and 36-year-old Matt Bloomfield were among the Chairboys playing in the second tier for the first time, with the club having far and away the smallest budget in the division.

And it was a rude awakening - taking Wycombe until their fifth game to score their first Championship goal and their eighth match to register a point.

A run of just one win in 17 games between November and February - including a 7-2 thrashing at Brentford - left them 12 points adrift at the bottom and at risk of sinking without trace.

But one thing Ainsworth's Wycombe side does not lack is fight.

They recovered from two down to win 3-2 at Huddersfield in February and ended the season with six victories in 11 matches to impressively delay confirmation of their inevitable relegation until the final day of the campaign.

A lack of quality in both boxes has ultimately led to the Buckinghamshire side returning straight to League One but they are a well-run club who have not spent beyond their means.

If they can keep players such as Josh Knight, Curtis Thompson and top scorer Ikpeazu at the club there is every chance they will be at the right end of League One next season.

'One more game and we would've survived'

Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth told BBC Three Counties Radio:

"I always said if anyone finishes below Wycombe in this league they've got to have a look at themselves because we were really up against it this year, but we've fought and fought.

"We were outstanding today. We needed 12 or 13 goals and we had enough chances to get that as well, which is ridiculous, but I'll take 3-0 away at the Riverside.

"We were so close but next time we'll get over that line, believe me, because we've learned as a club - I've got things wrong this season but I've always given my best and done what I thought was right.

"I can't wait for next season because we are going to make another mark in League One.

"One more game and I think we'd be surviving but there's only 46, we knew that, and we didn't get enough points."

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock:

"I'm not going to knock them today. We were poor today but overall, to finish 10th after where we were when we came in, I think it's been a fabulous achievement.

"I haven't got to think about today, really. To finish 10th, I'm delighted. Now we just need a bit of luck with the recruitment and with the players coming back from injury.

"If that all goes well we'll have a very good chance of finishing higher than 10th next season. I don't think you can promise anything because I don't think anybody knows what your recruitment will be."

Line-ups

Middlesbrough

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 13Archer
  • 17McNair
  • 4Hall
  • 27Bola
  • 29SpenceSubstituted forAkpomat 45'minutes
  • 16Howson
  • 22SavilleSubstituted forRobinsonat 89'minutes
  • 3JohnsonSubstituted forMalleyat 45'minutes
  • 33CoulsonSubstituted forCoburnat 76'minutes
  • 18Watmore
  • 14BolasieSubstituted forHackneyat 89'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Bettinelli
  • 10Akpom
  • 34Hackney
  • 40Kokolo
  • 45Coburn
  • 46Malley
  • 47Robinson

Wycombe

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 31Stockdale
  • 5Stewart
  • 6Tafazolli
  • 3Jacobson
  • 26McCarthy
  • 18ThompsonSubstituted forBloomfieldat 90'minutes
  • 24AdeniranBooked at 45minsSubstituted forWheelerat 74'minutes
  • 23Onyedinma
  • 19McClearySubstituted forHorganat 74'minutes
  • 9IkpeazuSubstituted forSamuelat 83'minutes
  • 15MuskweSubstituted forMehmetiat 83'minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Grimmer
  • 7Wheeler
  • 10Bloomfield
  • 11Kashket
  • 17Horgan
  • 25Samuel
  • 27Obita
  • 32Anderson
  • 33Mehmeti
Referee:
Martin Atkinson

Match Stats

Home TeamMiddlesbroughAway TeamWycombe
Possession
Home54%
Away46%
Shots
Home5
Away16
Shots on Target
Home0
Away5
Corners
Home6
Away6
Fouls
Home11
Away15

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Middlesbrough 0, Wycombe Wanderers 3.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 0, Wycombe Wanderers 3.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Josh Coburn (Middlesbrough).

  4. Post update

    Anthony Stewart (Wycombe Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Substitution

    Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Matt Bloomfield replaces Curtis Thompson.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Middlesbrough. Jack Robinson replaces George Saville.

  7. Substitution

    Substitution, Middlesbrough. Hayden Hackney replaces Yannick Bolasie.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Marc Bola (Middlesbrough).

  9. Post update

    Jason McCarthy (Wycombe Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Post update

    Hand ball by Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers).

  11. Substitution

    Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Anis Mehmeti replaces Admiral Muskwe.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, Wycombe Wanderers. Alex Samuel replaces Uche Ikpeazu.

  13. Post update

    Attempt missed. Josh Coburn (Middlesbrough) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Yannick Bolasie with a cross following a corner.

  14. Post update

    Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Uche Ikpeazu.

  15. Post update

    George Saville (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Curtis Thompson (Wycombe Wanderers).

  17. Post update

    Josh Coburn (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Fred Onyedinma (Wycombe Wanderers).

  19. Post update

    Attempt missed. Uche Ikpeazu (Wycombe Wanderers) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Daryl Horgan with a cross.

  20. Post update

    Offside, Middlesbrough. Marc Bola tries a through ball, but Chuba Akpom is caught offside.

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