7 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 14 July 2020 ** Sport Jacobson seals Wycombe’s historic win League One play-off final at Wembley By Jason Burt 1 Oxford United Wycombe Sykes 57 2 Eastwood 9 og, Jacobson 79 pen On a shoestring budget and wearing his lucky red snakeskin boots, Gareth Ainsworth led Wycombe to the Championship for the first time in their 133-year history. To add to the colour of the occasion, even if it was behind closed doors, Ainsworth – a frontman in another sense with his own band – had to cancel his Monday jamming session to fulfil this League One play-off final against Oxford United. “I think the Cold Blooded Hearts will definitely be coming back soon,” Ainsworth later said of his band. “But it’s rock’n’roll time and this is Wycombe Wanderers’ greatest hit by a million miles.” By then, the longest-serving manager in English football, closing in on his eighth year in charge, was soaked, through a mixture of rain and champagne as he peeled away from the celebrations. “I might be over the limit already with the alcohol that is soaking into my skin,” Ainsworth said, while out on the pitch his players stood – phones in hand, taking it all in. “Do you know what? Why should they leave,” Ainsworth said. “How many times do you get to Wembley and win.” They certainly did, with Ainsworth also paying tribute to the “absolute legend” Martin O’Neill, who had brought Wycombe into the Football League as Conference champions back in 1993, and had texted him to wish him good luck. “It calmed my nerves,” Ainsworth said, while admitting that, for a club who started pre-season with just nine players and with widely tipped for relegation, it was “surreal” to now be heading for the Championship. It was all the more remarkable as Wycombe had finished eighth in a curtailed League One, but were elevated to third on points per game. It was cruel on Oxford who were by far the superior side, but were undone by errors and failed to take a host of chances. Their manager, Karl Robinson, hinted that it might mean the break-up of this young team as he questioned his future. “Where we go next season is something I will have to take a look at in the next few days. This is as low as it gets,” Robinson said. “We have to make that decision on what is right for individuals. I have got to speak to a few people as to what direction we go as a club.” It had felt like they were going to the Championship, but mistakes cost them, with keeper Simon Eastwood, a hero in the semi-final shoot-out against Portsmouth, scoring an own goal and giving away the decisive spot-kick. For Wycombe, the key contributions came from 33-year-old Joe Jacobson, who delivered the corner from which they scored – with Anthony Stewart’s header hitting Eastwood’s leg and ricocheting in – and struck that winning penalty. Oxford dominated possession and drew level when Mark Sykes was released down the right, before overhitting a cross that swirled over the head of goalkeeper Ryan Allsop and landed in the net. If that was fortunate then they were unlucky when James Henry tried to find Matty Taylor when through on goal, instead of shooting, and Allsop produced two fine saves to turn away Rob Dickie headers. Then came the pivotal passage of play as Marcus Browne turned his back on an under-hit back pass with Allsop hammering it forward, Elliott Moore ducking under it and Fred Onyedinma running through, with Eastwood clattering into him. Jacobson scored from the spot. “The game sometimes is not fair,” a crestfallen Robinson said, as Ainsworth claimed it was “destined” his side would go up. It was certainly some story. Oxford United (4-3-3) Eastwood; Long (Forde 80), Dickie, Moore, Ruffels; Sykes, Gorrin (Kelly 46), Brannagan; Henry (Agyei 79), Taylor, Browne (Woodburn 89). Stevens (g), Mousinho, Mackie, Hanson, Atkinson. Gorrin. (4-3-3) Allsop; Grimmer, Charles, Stewart, Jacobson; Bloomfield (Pattison 46), Gape, Ofoborh (Thompson 62); Wheeler, Samuel (Akinfenwa 62), Onyedinma (Freeman 90+3). Stockdale (g), Kashket, Phillips, Jombati, Parker. Thompson. Robert Jones (Merseyside). Subs Booked Wycombe Wanderers the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: “The practice of signing athletes up to lifetime NDAs is questionable and I’d ask, if everything is above board, why has this overbearing provision been put in place?” The use of legal performanceboosters was at the centre of the scandal to engulf Mo Farah’s disgraced former coach, Alberto Salazar, who was banned for four years in October for doping offences. Salazar denies any wrongdoing and has lodged an appeal against his ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. UK Sport did not respond to requests for comment last night, but said in a previous statement that its ketones project had received “independent ethical approval”. It added: “Any research funded by UK Sport investment includes a participant-consent form. Athletes are not put under pressure from UK Sport to take part in any research project or to provide their consent, and may withdraw at any time. “UK Sport is fully committed to developing a high-performance culture – but UK Sport will never seek to win medals at any cost. UK Sport resolutely refutes any accusation that Olympians were used as ‘guinea pigs’, and finds this allegation both misleading and offensive.” Subs Booked Referee Grass-roots game could return this week – with strict guidelines tocols for the 102,000 grass-roots teams and 1.4 million affiliated players across the country. Clubs could then apply that guidance to their own setting, with no pressure to return immediately or move on from the small group training that has been permitted over the past month. Decisions could simply be taken at an individual team level according to each circumstance. The main changes will relate to what happens before and after matches, as well as pitchside, although players would also be encouraged to minimise unnecessary on-field contact. This will mean being asked to apply common sense where crowding can occur. Names and contact details will also be expected to ensure that players can be part of the national test-and-trace scheme if they were deemed to be a “close contact” of an opponent or team-mate who tested positive for coronavirus shortly after a match or training session. Other recommendations will include: avoid pre-match handshakes; no spitting; players encouraged to arrive changed and comply with guidance for shared travel; players and referees to avoid unnecessarily handling the ball; ball to be disinfected during breaks; group goal celebrations tempered; social distancing between players and the referee; coaches, spectators and assistant referees to socially distance on the sidelines. From July 25, new government guidance will apply for indoor sports facilities and, depending on the setting, this will also increase the potential options for players wishing to get changed before and after matches. The Government published its “return to recreational team sport framework” last week and the challenge for individual sports is to show that they can return in a sufficiently safe way without the widescale Covid-19 testing that is available to professional footballers. Jeremy Wilson No handshakes, no spitting, regularly disinfected footballs and socially distanced spectating all form part of proposals that could mean grass-roots football restarts this week for adults and children. Following the Government’s announcement last Thursday that recreational team sports could return, the Football Association has submitted detailed plans for how the grass-roots game can sufficiently mitigate risk to resume matches and contact training. Those plans are awaiting approval but, after the resumption last weekend of recreational cricket, there is hope that football will follow this month and, potentially, even before this weekend. That would again allow contact training, friendly and competitive matches or even summer tournaments, which can be a crucial source of income for grass-roots clubs. After so much doubt about when grass-roots football might resume following last season’s curtailment in March, that would also mean planning to start a new 2020-21 season as normal in August and September. The FA has spent weeks working with medical experts on its guidelines and, subject to government and Public Health England approval, is ready to publish new proBy
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