The FA Cup, it’s a thing of beauty. Banana skins, cup upsets, giant killings and David verses Goliath's. These are all clichés used year on year for the oldest surviving cup competition in the world of football, but it wouldn’t be the same without them.
When the balls were drawn for the first round proper and Wycombe Wanderers were to play Hayes & Yeading away from home, a mixture of fear and anticipation rushed through the veins at the potential, proverbial banana skin that lay in wait. Fear of defeat, but anticipation for future rounds. By 16:55 on Saturday 6th November, these emotions had been undoubtedly justified.
A non-league outfit such as Hayes & Yeading should never be taken lightly in the early rounds of the FA Cup. The hunger and desire to prove themselves and compete against the best drives them on, as they face more accessible opposition at this stage.
Wanderers’ manager Gary Waddock was aware of the threat, as he named a strong starting XI - the same side that defeated Gillingham in the previous outing. It was clear he did not want a repeat of last season’s first round exit, and looks to emulate the famous FA Cup run of ten years ago, when the Chairboys reached the semi finals.
Ironically, in the wake of Wycombe’s memorable FA Cup run, their current goalkeeper Nikki Bull was on loan at Hayes from Queens Park Rangers. But he was now manning the posts for the opposition, looking to send the non-league side out of the Cup.
Bull was made to work for his part in the drama, as Hayes & Yeading piled continuous pressure on the Wycombe goal, but Bradley Pritchard and Andy Yiadom were particularly guilty of misfiring in front of goal.
And so the inevitable happened, as Wanderers took the lead, against the run of play, when Stuart Beavon scrambled the ball home from close range after 61 intense minutes. Cue a temporary sign of relief.
The non-league side, forty league places below the Chairboys, were not giving up lightly though, and their hard work prevailed less than ten minutes after falling behind, when Bradley Pritchard slotted home a Peter Holmes cross.
Wycombe reacted immediately, but Gareth Ainsworth’s effort came back off the post and the game looked to be heading to a deserved replay back at Adam Park when experience prevailed. Ainsworth proved he is every bit the captain when he prodded home a last gasp winner, deep into added time, to save Wycombe’s blushes.
The result was harsh on the battling Hayes & Yeading, but the Wycombe faithful will be dreaming of reaching the 3rd round, to themselves be that potential banana skin.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.