Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth paid tribute to Sunderland Football Club after a feisty encounter at Adams Park boiled over in the final minutes.
Wycombe had lost their previous four matches before the visit of the promotion high-flyers to Buckinghamshire, but the Chairboys scrapped and battled to a 1-1 draw after Duncan Whatmore’s ninety-fourth-minute strike for the Lads cancelled out Alex Samuel’s first-half opener for the hosts and sent the 2,800 travelling support into a wild celebration.
The match was marred by a mass melee late in the game involving both benches which resulted in both sides having a man sent off. Nathan Tyson for the hosts and Geoff Honyman for the visitors saw red after the incident and were soon followed early into the changing rooms by Wycombe’s Marcus Bean, shown a second yellow by referee Lee Swaby after a foul on Lee Cattermole.
Ainsworth often receives criticism for his team’s physical approach, but the affable Wycombe boss was all sweetness and light in his post-match press conference, offering nothing but praise to the manager and supporters of Sunderland FC.
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo Ainsworth said. ‘A point against Sunderland home and away is a message Wycombe are here to compete.’
‘Sunderland are a magnificent side, what a football club, their fans were awesome – what a following that is. That was a great point.’
Speaking about the Sunderland boss Jack Ross, Ainsworth added, ‘Jack is a great guy, I have a lot of respect for him.’
‘I’m pleased they got to Wembley and hope they get promoted because he has done a fantastic job.’
‘We have had some good battles.’
‘What he has done and as a human being in general, he is a great guy, he really is.”
Ainsworth insisted he didn’t know what happened during the flare-up at the end of the match as he was trying to get his players away from the trouble.
The Chairboys boss was not surprisingly delighted with teams performance, telling the Bucks Free Press. ‘We have some awesome players and hearts that beat like lions, and they were magnificent from the first whistle to the last.’
Wycombe host Accrington on Tuesday night while Sunderland visit promotion rivals Barnsley in a massive promotion six-pointer at Oakwell.
Ainsworth’s conciliatory words will not be much comfort to Sunderland who were thrown off their stride by Wycombe’s robust approach to the game.
Both sides will be awaiting the FA’s verdict on the referee’s report with interest and will hope the governing body will take no further action against the two clubs after the passionate encounter boiled over at the end.
Ainsworth is a disciple of John Beck and while he talks so well, his teams play hard and at the edge of the rules.
This is not a criticism he has done a fantastic job at Wycombe and for a club with the budget of the Chairboys to get a draw home and away, against a club with the resources of Sunderland is a massive achievement.
It might not be pretty, but Ainsworth will keep Wycombe in League One for another season.
Sunderland will be looking for a massive three points at Barnsley in a game that may well please the purists a good deal more than Saturday’s encounter.