Gareth Ainsworth praises Wycombe players as dramatic finish denies Sunderland



Posted Sunday, January 09, 2022 by PA

Gareth Ainsworth praises Wycombe players as dramatic finish denies Sunderland

Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth praised his team for fighting to the end yet again following their extraordinary 3-3 draw against fellow League One promotion contenders Sunderland.

Chairboys captain Joe Jacobson pounced in the eighth minute of stoppage time at the end of an absolute thriller.

It is far from the first time Wycombe have earned points at the death this season, after previous dramatic finishes against Morecambe, Crewe and AFC Wimbledon.

This will definitely feel like one earned, however, as Sunderland, who were without seven players with Covid-19, were the better team in the second half and looked to have deservedly won it through Ross Stewart’s 92nd-minute goal.

Ainsworth, who had three of his coaching staff isolating due to suspected positive Covid tests, said: “Teams get this once or twice a season, but we seem to get five or six a season of these games, it’s crazy.

“But I’m saying that’s testament to this group of boys that I’ve got and the belief that we can put in them, and the hunger that they’ve got to go back in the Championship in front of the fans.

“Massive credit to the Sunderland fans – I have to give it – it’s a huge football club and they need to get back in the higher leagues, but the Wycombe fans, the Wycombe players weren’t overawed.

“We matched this team and 3-3 is a great game, it’s a great spectacle.

“People bill us as this long-ball team – yes, we get the ball into the final third, but once we’ve in that final third, there are no better players than Garath McCleary and Anis Mehmeti at times.

“Keep billing us whatever you want, but I’m really proud of the boys.”

In a match of almost unrelenting pace, Sunderland went ahead after three minutes when Stewart’s header from Dennis Cirkin’s cross hit the bar before going in off the legs of Wycombe goalkeeper David Stockdale.

The Chairboys responded well and equalised in the 13th minute when Mehmeti cut inside before finding the net from the edge of the area, via a slight deflection off Tom Flanagan.

Sam Vokes then put the hosts in front when he made the most of some hesitant defending from McCleary’s corner to nod in from close range.

However, it was 2-2 three minutes later when Elliot Embleton played in a terrific ball from the left that was cushioned in on the volley by Stewart from close range.

The Black Cats did most of the pressing after the break, with Stewart having a header cleared off the line by Jacobson and Embleton striking a stunning effort against the bar.

They finally went ahead two minutes into added time when Stewart ran onto Lynden Gooch’s through pass before rolling the ball into the bottom corner for his 17th goal of a superb season.

But there was still time for one last twist, as a McCleary corner was headed down by Chris Forino before Jacobson bundled it home.

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson was rightly proud of his team’s efforts, even though his feelings were tinged by frustration.

He said: “I’m really chuffed with the performance – obviously I’m disappointed to concede in the last 90 seconds and disappointed to concede three goals, but if we continue to play like that, then it’s wonderful to watch.

“Their goalkeeper has made some great saves, Jacobson, how he’s cleared that off the line I’ll never know, we felt we should have had a penalty as well (for a foul) on Gooch and had some good chances.

“Two contrasting styles made it a really interesting game – you were always on the edge of your seat because both teams could score in their particular way, implementing their strengths on the opposition.

“We had to come and deal with it. We’ve dealt with it for the majority of the game, probably apart from two set plays and unfortunately that’s the sucker punch that we conceded so late.”

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