Wycombe Wanderers’ Joe Jacobson has described the hurt he felt as he came within 30 seconds of netting the winning goal at Saturday’s League Two Play-Off final.
The 28-year-old defender had fired Wycombe to the brink of victory at Wembley thanks to a stunning extra-time free-kick, however his joy was short-lived as with just seconds of extra-time remaining, Southend grabbed a dramatic equaliser before going on to win the game in a penalty shoot-out.
Saying how he was “only 30 seconds away from one of the best days of his life”, he told Jewish News: “It was that close. There are very few times players will ever get the chance to play at Wembley and for me personally to score a goal – although it may be credited as an own goal – and to be 1-0 up with literally 30 seconds to go is a killer for us. To get that taken away from us that late on is cruel and then the penalties are a lottery.”
Describing the hurt he was still feeling 48 hours after the match, he said: “To be honest it still hurts, especially after watching the League One and Championship final. It brought back what could have happened, and how it ended so cruelly for us. But that’s football and soon enough, pre-season will come around, we’ll set our sights on a new target and go from there.”
As well as firing his side ahead, he also kept his composure to convert his penalty in the shoot-out. “Strangely enough I didn’t feel under any pressure,” he said. “I’ve taken a few in shoot-outs before, albeit not in a game of that magnitude, but for some reason I felt very calm. I didn’t know where I was going to go, but just thought I’d wait to see what the goalkeeper does, luckily he went quite early and I had half a goal to roll the ball into.”
Unable to look back at the game and his goalscoring exploits with any real fondness with the defeat still fresh in his mind, he said: “In the lead up to the game, everyone was having the same thoughts – “what if I score the winner at Wembley” – and I came pretty close to doing that. The feeling I got when I scored was incredible and something that I’ve never had in football before. But the way the game finished, it was soon forgotten about and doesn’t really matter anymore. I’m sure I’ll look back in the future and think what a great occasion it was for me, but at the moment it’s not at the forefront of my mind because of the result at the end.”
Disappointed with the result, but proud of being part of a team which only a year ago escaped relegation to non-League football on goal difference, he said: “At the start of the season, the gaffer came in and said we want to get rid of what happened last season, start fresh and have a real good go. All of the players in the squad have done what he’s said and play how he wants us to play. I think the club’s on the up. For the club to get to the play-off final is a massive achievement especially when you bear in mind our goal at the start of the season was to avoid relegation. It just wasn’t meant to be but speaking to the gaffer after the game, he was very positive and is now getting ready for next season.”
And looking ahead to next season, and to go one step further, he said: “We’ve proved this season that anything’s possible. I’m sure after the season we’ve just had the gaffer will want to improve on that again and the only way you can improve on getting to the play-off’s and then losing the final it to actually get promotion and I’m sure that’s his goal.
“With the size of the budget and club, I don’t think we’ll be up there as favourites, but we’ve got the backing of the chairman and gaffer who believe in us and gets the best out of us so anything’s possible and we’ll be hoping for a successful season again.”