Gareth Ainsworth insists his Wycombe Wanderers side will start as underdogs when they attempt to crown a stunning turnaround in fortunes with victory over Southend United in Saturday’s League Two play-off final.
Wycombe looked set to slip out of the Football League 12 months ago, only to climb out of the relegation zone at Bristol Rovers’ expense on the final day of the season courtesy of a 3-0 win at Torquay United.
The Adams Park outfit are now one game away from promotion, but Ainsworth believes the pressure will be on Phil Brown’s Southend at Wembley.
Wycombe’s manager told BBC Three Counties Radio: “It’s been great to have a lack of pressure. We’re going into it as an underdog, hopefully to cause an upset.
“We’re against a real big boy of our league, but we’ve upset more than one team this year and I don’t see why we can’t do it on Saturday.
“It’s just brilliant to be here – the boys are riding the crest of a wave and seeing how far it’s going to take us.”
While Ainsworth has declared Southend favourites, it was Wycombe who finished higher in the regular season – a place above this weekend’s opponents in fourth.
Wanderers also recorded a 4-1 home triumph over Southend in December, prior to the return fixture at Roots Hall three months later finishing 2-2.
Southend boss Brown, who guided Hull City to promotion through the Championship play-offs seven years ago, said: “We played Wycombe Wanderers twice this season and they’re a decent side. They’ll be a formidable opposition on Saturday, that’s for sure.
“Ninety per cent of the team has been selected over the 48 games this season. The consistency level has been first class. With the 49th game of the season, I know my best team.”
Brown’s men missed out on automatic promotion on the last day of the campaign and needed extra-time to see off Stevenage in the play-off semi-finals after Barry Corr missed an injury-time penalty in the second leg.
“The scars of Stevenage and the 94th-minute penalty missed made it exciting,” Brown added.
“It’s nice to be involved in situations like that as long as you come through the other side.
“Stevenage is gone now and we look forward to Saturday at Wembley. The stakes are high and may the best team win.”