By Tony Leighton
Whether or not it could be described as divine intervention, Wycombe Wanderers fans were doubtless thankful for the freak abandonment - on health and safety grounds due to lightning - of their team's August npower League 2 fixture against Bristol Rovers with the Chairboys trailing 3-1 and just 25 minutes remaining.
The game is set to be replayed at Wycombe's Adams Park this coming Saturday with both sides near the bottom of the table and with Chairboys player-manager Gareth Ainsworth, after seeing his team win their last two games to climb out of the relegation zone, also counting blessings.
"It's very rarely that you get a second chance in League games," Ainsworth told football-league.co.uk, "but we've got to put that match right and move a bit further away from the bottom two. We're certainly in better form than when the game was first played and another win would be great for morale as well our points tally."
Victory would take Wycombe five points clear of the drop zone and perhaps kick-start a season that began badly, six defeats and only one win coming in the club's opening nine games. Ainsworth took charge in late September, initially on a caretaker basis, and is gradually easing the Chairboys' problems.
Veteran winger Ainsworth, who was handed the managerial job on a permanent basis three weeks ago, said: "When I first took charge we had a lot of injuries, but I never concentrated on negatives - I saw that situation as giving youngsters a chance, I put a positive spin on everything and that rubbed off on the players.
"The youngsters have done well and with players coming back from injuries we've got good competition for places. We've turned over a few big teams and that's been great, but we've also struggled at times against lesser teams. We have to put that right, but I know what these players can do and there's no one in this league for us to fear."
At the tender age of 39, Ainsworth is on the cusp of switching from a playing to a managing career, the former including spells at Preston North End, Port Vale, Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers, while the latter began with caretaker spells in 2008 and again in 2009 at QPR.
"I'm seriously thinking about what to do in terms of my playing career," he said. "I've got no intention of hanging up my boots in the short term and it would be nice to get to 600 games [he is 14 short of that milestone], but I'll be 40 next May and the body takes a bit long to recover than it used to.
"If I can go on to replicate my playing career in management I'll be happy with that. I certainly feel that I'm ready to handle management - after the crazy situation I was in at QPR, who are a great club but where there were all sorts of things going on at the time, I think to myself that if I came through that then I can come through anything."
Coming through a tough scenario at Adams Park is Ainsworth's immediate aim and his is quietly confident that the Chairboys can play themselves out of trouble.
"We've got a lot to do to move up the table," he said, "but we've got a good work ethic at the club and the squad we've got is more than capable of staying in the League."
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