Stockdale hailed as ‘best in League One’ after Wycombe make playoff final | League One

Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth hailed David Stockdale as “the best goalkeeper in League One” after the 36-year-old’s saves proved crucial in a stoic rearguard action to help his side to the League One playoff final.

Ainsworth admitted his side were outplayed by MK Dons in the League One play-off semi-final second leg, but praised his players’ resilience after they absorbed some heavy pressure.

The Dons had been the dominant team at Stadium MK on Sunday, trying to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg. However, they could only manage a Troy Parrott header in the first half as they fell agonisingly short.

It was jubilation, however, for the Chairboys, who will have the chance to repeat their promotion to the Championship from two seasons ago when they face either Sheffield Wednesday or Sunderland at Wembley a week on Saturday.

Ainsworth said: “I’m not going to say we were the better team. MK Dons dominated possession, dominated shots, but we’ve dominated blocks, we’ve dominated saves, dominated absolute resilience around the box and the experience in my boys told.

“We came with a plan to try and put the same pressure on them that we did at home. It didn’t work and Liam [Manning] changed his team a little bit, changed his tactics by putting [Theo] Corbeanu in to pin one of our full-backs in. That was tough for us to deal with and then [Scott] Twine floats everywhere, so we had to drop into a deep block.

“David Stockdale, what a cracking couple of saves he’s made. People write him off left, right and centre. He’s been unbelievable and, for me, he’s been the best goalkeeper in League One this season.”

Wycombe’s David Stockdale produced a series of stops to restrict MK Dons to one goal, with his side 2-0 up on aggregate from the first leg.
Wycombe’s David Stockdale produced a series of stops to restrict MK Dons to one goal, with his side 2-0 up on aggregate from the first leg. Photograph: Ashley Western/Colorsport/Shutterstock

Harry Darling hit the bar with a header with just over a minute gone before Parrott halved the deficit for MK Dons with a looping header from Hiram Boateng’s cross.

Stockdale made a terrific one-handed save to keep out Corbeanu before preventing Parrott from forcing extra time with almost the last kick.

The MK Dons manager Manning, whose side had finished just one point off an automatic promotion place, said: “The players will be devastated but I think when that emotion settles and you reflect and look back, I’m sure they’ll be proud about how we went about it.

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“It’s like a double hit, in terms of two disappointments. I said to the players: that’s sometimes unfortunately life, but that’s also the game and sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.

“You have to suck it up and come out tougher and harder and better the other side. That’s what we’ll definitely do as a club, as a group of staff, as a group of players. Let’s become better, let’s channel that frustration, that disappointment, that emotion into becoming even better and kicking on in the future.”

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