Sunday, 27 April 2014

Brighton 25/4/14

Going into this game, there was still a mathematical possibility that we could avoid relegation, albeit only really clutching at straws. I think most fans were resigned to relegation at this point though, and that was palpable in the stadium. There was no more worry - no more desperation. This was a game we were going to enjoy win lose or draw, in a superb new stadium and live on Sky. All I wanted was for us to give a good account of ourselves, and it was a chance for me to say goodbye and thanks for the memories to the squad that will no doubt will be unrecognisable come next season.

I took a half day from work and headed down to Brighton, arriving at around 4:30. I managed to park up on a side road only a few hundred yards from the stadium, which I think was blocked off shortly after I arrived with temporary barriers. But if you're already parked there, what can they do? :) Getting there early paid off!

Dick's Bar at The Amex

I met up with my good friend Matt and had a couple of drinks in the stadium bar, Dick's Bar. The bar was huge, and served pies and hot dogs as well as a good selection of drinks on draught. It was also clearly very popular, with a one-in-one-out system being employed the closer we got to kick off. The stadium itself was very impressive too - they have managed to avoid the usual boring soulless "bowl" design of most newer grounds, with one side higher than the other with an extra tier of seats and a curvy exterior. There was also great leg-room and fancy padded seats, not that we sat down, of course!

We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted with unreserved seating, and we were also allowed to stand for the whole game. We've been very lucky with that this season - there have been very few times where we've been told we had to sit down. I expected the rule to be enforced a lot more at this level.

Right from the off, the atmosphere from the Yeovil end was akin to a party, with relentless singing and jumping around with green balloons flying about overhead. Looking at our fans, you'd never guess in a million years we were all but officially relegated.

Brighton still have a shot at the playoffs and really needed a win if they were to continue with that hope. But for large parts of the game, they seemed to be wasting time with few ideas when they really should have been throwing themselves at us. We played well, especially in the first half with a thundering shot from Palazeulos hitting the crossbar and several chances just wide. We looked good going forward, and were defensively resolute with some cracking challenges particularly from Webster and the ever calm and collected Duffy. Brighton looked good on the break, but with no real end product or firepower, hitting the bar and missing open goal chances where it looked easier to score. The possession was fairly even for most of the game, with end to end play that would no doubt have been thrilling for a neutral. It's typical that we had to wait until the penultimate game to get a decent referee - who played advantage well and was fair and on the ball. There were a few poor challenges, each penalised correctly, but he let the game flow and was largely invisible - the sign of a good referee. We gave a good account of ourselves, especially in the first half, and held our own. But in the 78th minute, Brighton substitute Lua Lua broke the deadlock just minutes after his introduction with a cross-shot that bounced and beat Marek Stech. From there, Brighton were on top, sealing our fate with a goal in injury time making it 2-0 and continuing their dreams of the playoffs.

The Amex

But the game was largely unimportant. For the fans, it was a chance to have one last party away from home. It was a chance to sing our hearts out - incessantly. It was a chance to say goodbye to the players who so very nearly kept us in this league, dragging out our fate until the 45th game of the season. And it was a chance to give a standing ovation and rapturous applause to our outstanding management team who made sure that we weren't just in this league to make up the numbers. We may have finished bottom, but that's not the whole story. We've rarely been outplayed, outclassed or outdone in this league. And I have no doubt in my mind that we'll be back.

Me with previous guest blogger Lou
I want to wish Leicester and Burnley all the best for the Premier League and offer commiserations to Barnsley who had their fate sealed yesterday. You guys get to play us again next season!

So this is where I say goodbye. I hope you've enjoyed reading about Yeovil's Championship story through this blog, and I hope you have as fond memories as I have about the past 11 months and our achievements. Nothing can take that away from us - we are the famous, the famous Yeovil!

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Fat Lady Sings

*clears throat* 

"Oh mio babbino caroooooo....."

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post after today's home defeat against Huddersfield, signalling the end for Yeovil Town's single-season foray into the second tier of English football. While it wasn't entirely unexpected as we arrived at the business end of the season, knowing that it's now all but official (we need to win our remaining two games around 7-0 and that's if Birmingham don't win their remaining games) is absolutely heart-wrenching. 

I think back to that amazing day back in May last year, where thousands upon thousands of Glovers fans took over Wembley Stadium, rendering it a home game as Yeovil overturned Brentford, giving us our first ever season in the Championship. 

It's been a rollercoaster ride since then. Largely written off at the start of the season by every pundit, reporter and bookies, we were never expected to be anything other than the new whipping boys of the League. Even some of our own fans, ever the pessimists, wrote us off before the season had even begun. But not me, for a change. I was optimistic for once, and I like to think we proved a few wrong over the past nine months. 

We have had some cracking days along the way, visiting some world-famous stadiums and overturning some famous names in the process. Probably one of the highlights for me was the trip to Watford, where it was hard to see who were the League newcomers and who were the seasoned Championship stalwarts. The trip to Reading, where 8 man Yeovil held the Royals to a draw in an epic finale to great day out. In fact, every trip, whether we won, lost or drew was a real pleasure. Yes, getting absolutely thumped at Middlesborough and Huddersfield, and losing in the dying minutes at Derby was gutting, but visiting the iPro stadium and revisiting the Riverside and the John Smith stadium as a Championship outfit was a joy. 

It's the hope that kills you though and so many times in recent weeks, we climbed out of the relegation zone, rekindling the thoughts of "what if" even in the most stubborn of fans who refused to believe survival was ever possible. Today though is the final nail in the coffin, as we failed to overturn Huddersfield and give ourselves any chance of staying up. Mathematically it's still possible but the fat lady is halfway through her finale performance. 

I will be writing my final post for this blog on Friday after the Brighton game - my last farewell to this league and one last chance to enjoy being able to say with pride that I support a Championship side.

It has been a wonderful season, in spite of it's end, and I have spent it with some wonderful people. If not in person, then on Facebook and Twitter. Seeing the same old faces at away games that I saw when we were back in the Conference. We've seen nothing but success, on the whole, for many a season and for many - myself included - relegation is a new experience. And it is not a good one. We may not be back for a long time. We may bounce right back up. But believe me, we WILL be back. 

You can count on it :) 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Blackburn 18/4/14

My penultimate game of the season was also our penultimate away game up at Blackburn Rovers. I had been intending to do the Charlton away game last Tuesday but unfortunately I was off work ill and couldn't make it after all. Sadly, it ended in defeat after a crazy 10 minutes at the start of the first half after going into half time at 1-1. Winning, or even drawing at Charlton, would have made our chances of survival much greater, but as it stood at the start of yesterday, we were looking at needed at least 2 wins out of our final 4 games, and even then we would be relying on others to slip up. 

I got the same train from London to Blackburn that I got to Blackpool a couple of weekends prior, leaving the house around 7:15 and, after a change at Preston, arrived at Mill Hill station at 12:45. The journey was, thankfully, largely uneventful though the train was absolutely packed. It prompted Virgin Trains to make the accouncement that they wouldn't be serving hot drinks on the train in case we spilled them on each other. No words... 

Mill Hill station is a little closer to the ground than the main Blackburn station; around a mile's walk. We popped into the Fox and Hounds pub, just over the road from Ewood Park, and had a couple of pints with some fellow Yeovil fans. I was glad of their presence as the pub started to fill up - otherwise we'd have been the only Glovers in there! Not that the Blackburn fans were unfriendly - generally everyone seemed welcoming.

We made our way to the ground about 2pm, and met our friends before a pretty decent cheeseburger from the concourse kiosk. We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted, picking our customary 'top left of goal' spot. We were also allowed to stand for the whole game, in spite of numerous signs around the ground to the contrary, giving us a great view of Ewood Park. It's a beautiful ground, with a soul that is rare in football stadia in this day and age. Their fans however didn't live up to the atmosphere - remaining largely silent for the majority of the game. The Yeovil fans however were in fine voice, a particularly lengthly and loud rendition of "Green and White Barmy Army" ongoing for a good 10 minutes or so with no breaks. 

The game was, in truth, largely uneventful until the final 15 minutes with neither keeper being tested by any clear cut dangerous chances other than a few shots towards the end. Stech had a few routine saves to make, as did Robinson, but other than Rovers hitting the post (which Stech left, unnervingly, in the first few minutes), Rhodes heading straight at Stech and a few Yeovil shots wide of goal, neither side really threatened. Yeovil were steadfast in their defending with Duffy in particular working tirelessly. We had some lovely approach play, with Joe Edwards absolutely running his socks off to the point if near-exhaustion, but that final ball was sadly lacking and we had no real punch up front. Lawrence, as appears to be customary with him, took several touches too many at every opportunity and Hayter, though he worked hard, could do little with the balls lumped up field to him. Had we had a real finisher up front, for example Miller or, at a push, Moore, I think we'd have been out of sight with Blackburn looking lacklustre. 

The Blackburn fans were booing at full time after a frustrating game for them, with Yeovil closing them down well and stifling any chances of an attack. I think Yeovil were marginally the better side over the 90 minutes and I think we would have looked good for the three points had we been able to create anything of note, but a point away at an ex Premier League side pushing for the play offs is not to be sniffed at. 

Unfortunately though, a point really wasn't enough considering our position and the trip back home for me was rather flat, probably not helped by the very excitable toddler (I really dislike children!) on the train. It shows how far we have come that I was disappointed with a point away at Blackburn Rovers, but the realisation of our peril was starting to set in. Realistically now, we need to win all three of our remaining games but it's not entirely over yet and it's still all to play for. My next game is our last away game at Brighton, which has moved to the Friday night which is a bit of headache, but a night game always has a great atmosphere and a trip to a brand new stadium will be fun. I just hope we still have something to play for then after the Huddersfield game on Monday! 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Blackpool 5/4/14

After a couple of weeks hiatus, I resumed my unenviable task as the intrepid away days blogger this weekend. This blog has been hard to write for several weeks, for myself and my guest blogger Lou. It's been heartache after heartache - Leicester being one that really stings and still haunts me at night - dropping two points against the league leaders (now officially promoted) in the 92nd minute. So I think I can be forgiven for so very nearly rolling back over this morning after my 6:30 alarm went off. But boy am I glad I had the motivation! 

Today saw Yeovil travel the long old road up to Blackpool. I opted to take the train, to save myself a fortune in private company car mileage. My train left Aldershot at 7:34 and I happened to be sat across from a couple of Yeovil fans. Small world! I arrived in Blackpool at 12:25, to be met by my dad and our good friend Matt. We headed down to the seafront - which was a little brisk but not too windy or cold. We had a quick pint and a burger in the Wetherspoons, The Alfred and Lion, which is a very nice pub with a homely feel even though it's standard Wetherspoons chain fare. And you really can't argue with £7.99 for a double bacon cheeseburger and a pint of Strongbow :) 

We made it to the ground around 1:45 and got our tickets, and although we paid for a specific seat (the padded ones, lavish!) the stewards weren't bothering to check tickets anyway and we ended up sitting wherever we liked, just to the right of the halfway line about halfway up. Considering it was less than an hour to kick off by the time we took our seats, the ground was absolutely dead. Apart from Yeo fans, obviously, we bloody love getting in early :) 

Rumours were rife, on the internet, in the pub, and in and around the ground that on-loan YTFC striker Ish Miller had had a falling out with Gary Johnson and had been sent back to Forest. My heart absolutely sank. Where would goals come from now? Some Yeovil fans may not have rated his work rate over a whole game, but you can't argue the stats. His goals have kept us in the fight. Without them, we would have been down a long time ago. 

The team news filtered through after a while and it was true - Miller was dropped. At the very least. Lawrence up front with Hayter. Lawrence shows a lot of promise, but he is just a rookie kid. I was worried. This game was so massive - lose and we were all but relegated. 

After the 4-1 drubbing at home to Barnsley on Saturday - the worst we have played all season - we needed to come out brightly, and that we did. Apart from a great early save by Dunn, we looked good. A few early shots and some good tackles and blocks and we settled into our stride, piling on the pressure. Blackpool were rattled and look panicked, especially at the back and they seemed to resort to very "physical" tactics very early on - or perhaps that's their usual style? The referee should have given at least 4 bookings in the first half alone for poor challenges and clear manhandling. Perhaps we were going to be playing the officials yet again today too. But wait!

I couldn't see it myself but in a goal mouth scramble, the ref awarded Yeovil a penalty!  A few bodies were on the ground, and I wasn't sure if it was a foul but allegedly it was for handball, in the 16th minute. A penalty, to Yeovil. 

This was it, this was the chance - this is what we needed. We absolutely had to bounce back from Saturday and we needed to capitalise on our early pressure. A ref finally on our side? A bit of the rub of the green! Up stepped James Hayter. I love Hayter, have I mentioned that before? Well, I really do! Calm, collected and professional, he slotted home the penalty in the top left corner with the keeper floundering. Aint nobody gonna save that! 1-0 up and well in charge of the game. I was confident. But not too confident. This is Yeovil - we don't hold on to leads (*cough* Leicester *cough*)

Soon after the penalty, Liam Davis had a shot from range which forced a great save from the Blackpool keeper. Davis hit his shot like a bullet and was really unlucky to not see us go 2-0 up. We really needed that second - 1-0 is such a dangerous scoreline for us. It's far too easy for us to throw it all away. But Blackpool seemed to fall apart after our goal, with their confidence shot. Their pass-back to the keeper from the halfway line under no pressure spoke volumes. Our tactics seemed to be to lump it upfield to Hayter, who's 5'10" if he's an inch, and not the most sprightly. I worried that these tactics were going to be our downfall. After all - there was no Ish Miller. But the Blackpool centrebacks just couldn't deal with Hayter. He ran them absolutely ragged, especially in the first half. We went into half time 1-0 up, and to a chorus of boos from the Blackpool fans. They couldn't be that bad in the second half, surely? They were making us look good! 

Well no. This is Yeovil. We sit back on leads, we invite pressure and we seem to lose our shape in the second half of pretty much every game I've seen this season. Blackpool were the brighter immediately after the break, with so much space in midfield, but entirely out of nowhere we had some lovely build up play and Lawrence found the ball at his feet. 2-0 to the Yeovil after a class strike that really warranted cementing our lead in the 74th minute. 

Soon after though, in the 78th minute, Lawrence became the villain. Cheaply giving the ball away leaving Blackpool with a clear shot at goal, albeit 25+ yards out. Grandin scored an absolute wordly. Couldn't argue with that, Dunn had no chance and we'd left ourselves wide open. Was this it? With this the collapse I was so afraid of? 

I rocked slowly back and forth in my padded chair. The minutes ticked by painfully slowly. 84 minutes. Hours passed. 85 minutes, what? How was that only a minute?! Wave after wave of Blackpool attacks with us sitting in our own goal mouth. Even Lawrence was backmin our own area. The last few minutes were painful and we begged the ref to blow the whistle during injury time, heart in mouths. Finally, he blew and the Yeovil faithful jumped put of their seats and punched the air, hugged each other and let out a MASSIVE audible sigh of relief. We'd done the double over our first team in our Championship foray, and had, for now, kept the dream of staying up alive! 

My men of the match today were Hayter, for an unbelievable work rate and a cracking penalty, and Ralls who worked tirelessly from start to finish - always looking to create with some pinpoint through balls and working from box to box for the cause. 

Next up for me is Charlton away after we play Bournemouth at home on Saturday... currently still on the train back from Blackpool due home at gone midnight...

It ain't over til the fat lady sings - and I ain't singing just yet :)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Leicester 25/3/14

My lovely guest blogger Lou is back with her view of Leicester City in midweek...

So Tuesday 25th March saw Yeovil Town away at league leaders Leicester City. Due to a work lunch I had to drive to this one, not a bad journey, a quick drive by of the stadium to get my bearings and then I found a free on street parking space about 10 mins walk from the ground. Joining the thousands of Leicester fans streaming towards the King Power I was thinking to myself – this could be an interesting walk back if we did pull off a surprise result.

So to the stadium – one of the better away grounds I’ve been to – good facilities, prices weren’t too high and a healthy home crowd who actually seemed prepared to make some noise. The away fans are allocated a corner area of the stadium but the view of the pitch was great and the 245 travelling fans showed their intent to make themselves heard over the 27,000 home fans. As the teams came out onto the pitch I know that my definition of success was set at not being ripped apart by a team looking set for the Premiership next season.

From the kick off it looked as if Yeovil were definitely facing an uphill task with Leicester applying the pressure early with Vardy breaking through in the opening minutes only to strike a tame shot straight at Stech whilst looking for an offside flag which wasn’t shown. As Yeovil fans collectively breathed again the team continued to soak up the pressure. Then, 22 mins in, Tom Lawrence was upended whilst making a strong break and Joe Ralls stepped up to curl the ball passed Schmeichel to give Yeovil an unlikely lead. The team continued to play well and even had a chance to double the lead. Leicester did however look dangerous with shots from Mahrez and Drinkwater going wide of the target and Yeovil fans delighted to hear the whistle.

The second half also started brightly and Yeovil had further chances to extend their lead but failed to beat Schmeichel keeping the score at a precarious 0-1. Leicester continued to press and Stech pulled off a true worldy to deny a long range shot from James. On 85 minutes Yeovil fans were daring to believe – could this be the day we managed to seize some unexpected points to keep the relegation scrap wide open? Sadly, once again, it was not to be. In stoppage time Schmeichel came forward for a corner which was successfully cleared by Yeovil with the ball spilling upfield with the Leicester net gaping wide. The Yeovil players were too slow to respond and Leicester swept the ball back towards the Yeovil goal. Schmeichel had stayed up and it was the Danish keeper who met the cross with a thumping header which rebounded off the cross bar and was turned in by Wood with both Leicester players claiming the credit for rescuing the point. When the final whistle went there was a mix of relief, disappointment and disbelief amongst the Yeovil crowd with the fans applauding a valiant fight by the lads. The Leicester fans also stayed to celebrate their late equaliser and the stadium remained crowded well past the final whistle.

And then the walk back to the car ...

I decided to face things head on and introduce myself to some of the Leicester fans around me and ask their opinions on the match. The general consensus was that we were far from the worst team to visit but they were disappointed with their performance on the day. Our defence was described as well organised and resilient but the general feeling was that we lacked bite in attack. And so my walk passed with no problems, some good natured banter and a number of mentions for a certain Danish goalie.

The gloss was further eroded from the evening by the news of other results with Charlton and Barnsley both picking up 3 points in the fight to stay in the Championship. How was it possible that my feelings had changed from “let’s not lose too badly” to “we let that one go” in the space of 90 minutes? But that is why we turn out week after week.

Friday, 21 March 2014

QPR and Wigan

I have a very lovely guest blogger who has kindly done a write up of QPR and Wigan from their view in my absence at these games, a very warm welcome to Lou Hart! 

QPR 15/3/14

Today saw the Green and White Army head east to the capital for a clash with a QPR side hoping to bounce back to the Premiership following a season in the 2nd tier.

The South Africa Road Stand

The GWSC were kind enough to pick me up on the side of the A303 (pre-arranged!!) giving me an extra hour in bed, not that I got much sleep – maybe a touch of excitement setting in. A pretty good run up to London saw us arrive on time to catch the England match at O’Neils in Shepherds Bush punctuated with periodic blasts of “Allez Allez Oh”.

The 1,388 travelling fans then packed into the cramped upper tier of the School End of Loftus Road with the noise building before kick off. Before the match itself got underway there was a minute of applause for Alec Stock which was enthusiastically embraced by the entire stadium, in fact it was probably the most enthusiastic the QPR crowd got all afternoon.

It was a very different looking Yeovil to the team beaten at home by Ipswich on Tuesday night. Not only did the team look lively and completely up for the match but a Palazuelos injury during the warm up saw Ayling pushed forward into central midfield and Lanzoni starting at right back.

And our newest midfielder came close to opening the scoring – minutes in Ayling lobbed keeper Green only to have the goal disallowed for a foul by Hayter which frankly only the referee saw.

This should have warned us that it wasn’t going to be our day and so it proved. Ayling pulled another shot just wide of Green’s goal and Stech saved from Morrison as Yeovil refused to be intimidated by their opposition. Things did go wrong for Yeovil about 25 minutes in when West Ham loanee Ravel Morrison shot home past Stech from just outside the box. Goal music blasted out effectively masking the lack of response from the home fans.

Gary made an early substitution, bringing Dawson on for Holmes after only 30 minutes and this looked to be a good move with Dawson bringing power and running to the Yeovil right. However we were unable to make a dent in the score line. Despite their lead the QPR fans were very quiet and a loud away contingent continued to out sing them as half time came with a 1-0 deficit.

For a former Priemier League stadium Loftus Road was disappointing. Restricted views, a long thin seating area that spread the singing contingent wide apart and a tiny concourse where it was virtually impossible to move. It was also hard to catch up with other fans as the stewards (who on the whole seemed pretty relaxed where I was) were strict about only allowing you into the section printed on your ticket. Prices were high too.

So after that little break back to the action....

Yeovil again came out fighting but as has often been the case they lacked that extra bite in the final third and good build up play time and again came to nothing. Stats later showed that the Glovers only managed one shot on target in the entire match, easy to see why of our 29 points, 20 have come in games where we kept a clean sheet. Lawrence was unlucky not to make that 2 shots on target when he hit the woodwork on 57 minutes with a cracking shot that left Green watching and hoping. The woodwork at the other end also got a pounding as Jermaine Jenas hit the crossbar, the look of relief on Stech’s face was mirrored by the Yeovil fans just above his goal. It was not to last; QPR made us pay again when a great break down their right by Junior Hoillet lead to a cross which was met by Bobby Zamora to double their lead.

Undaunted the players continued to try to push forward and the fans continued to sing with some good natured banter being directed at the one QPR fan who seemed to be truly enjoying himself despite being almost lost under a ridiculous sombrero. The layout of the stand also lent itself to a blast of right side/left side although there did seem to be two left sides at one point there.

As time ticked away players again appeared in unfamiliar roles with Webster appearing to double as front man and centre back (impressive) whilst Miller played a wider role over to the right. Nothing was running for us though and into stoppage time QPR added a rather flattering third to their tally from the boot of Morrison to give a score line that didn’t quite do justice to Yeovil’s efforts.

So time for the visiting support to squash once again into the tiny concourse and file slowly towards the exit, lots of people commenting on the lack of space and possible implications in an emergency. Luckily we all made it safely back to the waiting coaches.

The packed concourse

Heading west into a rather glorious sunset most pinned their sporting hopes of the day on a French victory in the RBS Six Nations that was playing on the radio as we left the ground. However to cap a not so brilliant day the coach radio faded out with France edging towards the try line only to fail at the final hurdle, hand the title to Ireland and disappoint us once again.

Mission Survival continues at Wigan on Tuesday night. COYG.

Wigan 18/3/14

Just 3 days after the trip to QPR, Tuesday saw Yeovil away at another of last season’s Premier League clubs, Wigan Athletic.

A beast of a bus journey for a Tuesday evening did not put off 223 (well 3 turned out to be Bolton supporters who just like to watch Wigan lose!) of the Glovers faithful who travelled hoping to see the team cause something of an upset against an in form side, on an 8 game winning run, whose recent victims included Manchester City.

The journey was passed with general Glovers chat, a re-run of our last meeting with Uwe Rossler and a quick round of guess the score (I went 0-0). On finally arriving we drove straight past the entrance to the stadium before parking on a waste land up the road. Scrabbling down a small bank, heading round the back of the retail estate took us to the stadium and then onwards to the pub before heading to the match itself.

The fans returned to their usual formation (sit at the front, stand at the back) whilst the team lined up in a slightly unusual formation with Ayling taking his place in a 5 man midfield which frankly failed to give us any width what so ever and we looked poor both going forwards and in defence. Luckily Wigan didn’t look much better and a rather lack lustre first half ensued with only one real incident of note when Wigan were awarded a very soft penalty which was saved by Stech diving to his left and getting a strong hand to the ball which went out for a corner which Yeovil then went on to successfully defend.

Half time came and the Yeovil contingent spilled into the huge concourse of the DW and bought reasonably priced pies and beer to see them through the rest of the match. Rumour suggested before the match that Paddy Madden had travelled to watch his old team mates and I got to meet him during the break and wish him luck in his current league 2 campaign. Shame he declined an invitation to join the noisy bunch at the back of the stand.

The second half started with more of the same and it proved to be very hard to get an atmosphere going. The stadium was huge and open corners and an upward sloping roof let the wind in and the sound out and an unconvincing performance on the pitch did little to inspire.

On 56 minutes the evening got worse with Nick Powell nodding in a McArthur cross and there was no sign of where any Yeovil goal would come from. The midfield continued to be narrow and Miller seemed disinclined to chase any of the deliveries that landed in his vicinity. Then after 71 minutes Gary made the change that proved to be key; Moore on for Lanzoni, 2 up front and Ayling returning to his more familiar right back position. The difference was almost immediately apparent with Yeovil showing more width and more attack. 11 minutes later Miller hit home for the equaliser followed in quick succession by a second strike which sent the travelling fans into near delirium and some Wigan fans to the exits. Could it be that Yeovil would pull off a shock result? The game, however, was far from over and chants of “we are staying up” were abruptly silenced as Beausejour crossed from the left with McArthur slotting home to draw the home side level. Despair set in on 88 minutes when Beausejour sent in another cross which Byron Webster was only able to help into his own net.

Those who were at the Ipro were suffering from a severe case of Deja Vu but, unlike Derby, Wigan had left Yeovil a precious 7 minutes to save the day. The lads never gave up and 3 minutes into time added on the entire team, including Stech, went forward for a corner which was swung in hard by Lawrence to a packed box where Stech in his bright yellow kit distracted everyone and allowed Ayling to tap the ball home for his first ever league goal and a precious equaliser. Cue a return to delirium in the North Stand, tempered by a fear that a final Wigan attack could still rob us of that vital point. We hung on in there and spilled out into the freezing northern night our happiness somewhat tinged by news from the Valley that Charlton had snatched a late winner to stay above us.

So was it 2 more points thrown away or a point snatched back from almost certain defeat? For me it was a point well earned and my faith in survival is alive and well, let’s face it, pre-match I would have settled for a 0-0!

Next up Bolton at home and then another Tuesday night away day at league leaders Leicester City. COYG

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Reading 1/3/14

Reading is a nice local game for me, it's only about 20 miles away and if you know the local back roads, it's a really quick and easy journey. I left just after half 11 and arrived just after 12, parking up on Whitley Wood Lane just down the road from the stadium. It's free to park there - and only a short walk to the stadium. Why anyone would pay to park I don't know, but then again as I work in the area, I was more clued up as to where parking was available! I met up with my dad and headed over to the pub at the Holiday Inn, for a swift pint, to meet up with some friends and to watch the first half ish of the QPR game on the big screens. We then took a wander over to the stadium, which is seriously impressive.

All around the ground, there were kiosks for food, help and information points and activities for kids. This stuff doesn't cost a lot of money, but was clearly engaging the fans and was very well received.

We headed around to Gate 9 and after a quick frisking (oo-er) we used our barcode scanny ticket things to get through the turnstiles. The Yeovil fans were already very vocal inside - I think lubricated slightly by the concourse bar :) We managed to get a seat at the top left of the section we were given, our usual standard spot, and got an absolutely beautiful view.

I had a good feeling about the game - we were unbeaten in 3 games and Reading were typically very hit and miss. Before the game I had optimistically predicted a 2-1 win. But the game was far beyond prediction!

Reading started the brighter and for the first 20 minutes were the stronger, faster and hungrier team. We looked unsettled, panicked and off the pace. But, completely against the run of play, Alex McCarthy didn't deal with a cross and Shane Duffy headed home to give Yeovil the 1-0 lead. The stunned silence of the fans and delayed celebration said it all - how had that gone in, how were we ahead? Literally seconds before the goal The Royals fans were chanting "going down going down...."

Following the goal though, Yeovil were well on top and it was Reading's turn to look rattled and panicked. They had a few shots on target, and had the ball in the back of the net but it was disallowed for offside. A real let off for Yeovil and we went in with the 1-0 lead at the break. It slowly funneled through the fans that -  due to other results around us - we were actually outside the relegation zone on goal difference. For the first time in months! But this is Yeovil -  we don't do things the easy way do we?

Now, I haven't seen any replays so this is purely based on what I saw live in the stadium.

Reading started the second half resurgent and bright. Clearly, they had the proverbial rocket up them at half time, the usual "how can you be losing to Yeovil!?" talk. They had 5 corners in quick succession, thankfully resulting in nothing, but it epitomised the pressure we were under. I think the pressure was getting to our defence and Byron Webster apparently hauled back their forward in the box and the penalty was given. As I said, I haven't seen the incident again, so I can't really say whether it was harsh or not, but he was given a straight red. The penalty from Le Fondre was well taken and it was a brilliant save from Stech, far outstretched. We didn't repay Stech though, as we were scrambling around in the goal mouth and I think there goal was eventually given as an OG on our part, on 69 minutes.

So, 1-1, down to 10 men, with 20 minutes to go. What happened next was a farce, and I still can't entirely believe what happened.

Ralls was given a straight red for a challenge on the touchline. It didn't look like he got the ball -  fair enough. It was a booking, probably. But a straight red? The referee didn't initially look like he was even reaching for a card, but the baying crowd and being completely surrounded by the Reading players seemed to sway his decision. I sincerely hope we appeal the card because a straight red was incredibly harsh, certainly from what I saw live. I can't see it being classed as a goal-scoring opportunity on the touchline, and it certainly didn't seem malicious. But the replays will no doubt show the truth!

So down to nine men, and 15 minutes to go, and we are really hanging on at this point. There were few Reading chances on target where you thought they'd definitely score, but with the space they had to create and our tired legs, it felt like it was coming.

88 minutes, and a second yellow for Kieffer Moore for a foul which probably did warrant a yellow, took us down to 8 men. 8 MEN. Against top 6 Reading!! But our defending was absolutely sublime from this point - I never really felt, for all their pressure and lumping the ball forward - that they were going to score. The laughable 8 minutes added time played couldn't phase us. The Yeovil faithful were in good voice, willing the players on and being the 12th man, or maybe it's the 9th?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the final whistle blew and we had gained a hugely valuable point following other results around us, in spite of the referee trying to give them every opportunity to take the lead and injuries and of course, the sendings off. The final 8 were absolute heroes today - seriously I know that word is used so often but their defending, their resolve and their strength really was heroic today. I am counting this as a massive point - definitely a point gained in the circumstances, and I take heart from the thought that had we had 11 men, I think we genuinely could have walked away with the three points today.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Nottingham Forest 2/2/14

After Derby in midweek, who just had too much class for us, I travelled back up the M1 on Sunday for the Forest game. Forest hadn't lost in 12 games, so my confidence wasn't exactly running high. We'd sold Ed Upson in the week, and signed only one player in the transfer window - a Man United youth player. Ish Miller wasn't allowed to play, as part of his loan agreement with Forest, so all in all it wasn't looking like it was going to be a promising afternoon.

We arrived at about 1 o'clock and headed to The Trent Navigation pub. It's the other side of the water to the City Ground, and so was a little quieter than the closer pubs. We'd been there before and it had a great atmosphere so felt a return was in order. We sat outside with our drinks - thankfully there was a patio heater - and were soon joined by some Forest fans - lovely chaps who were full of nothing but pessimism regarding the possible result later that afternoon. We headed round to the ground and were in by about 2 o'clock, greeted by signs saying "unreserved seating". 'Hooray, we can sit where we want' we thought, but no. We had been given the tiniest part of the stand, with the back two rows blocked off, so trying to get all the mainstay standers together was difficult. We managed to get a spot right at the back, and were allowed to stand the whole game, in spite of there being a steward immediately to our left.

The City Ground is impressive, and full of wonderful memories as I'm sure every Yeovil fan knows. We were sat just to the left of where we were on that fateful night. Could we recreate that atmosphere and incredible result?

The answer to that is a firm no. But the final scoreline of 3-1 to Forest does not in any way reflect the game. For the first 10-15 minutes, it was all Forest. We could barely get hold of the ball and the marking was none existent. They then scored, after around 15 minutes, as Stech came out to collect and their forward just slotted through his legs. I think Byron Webster probably got the last touch, but it was going in anyway. We felt like we were in for an afternoon of more punishment, but the goal seemed to spur us on however, and the next 20 minutes were all Yeovil. We were playing some lovely football at times, with Hayter and Moore working well again and a couple of shots from Ralls and Hayter just wide and at the keeper respectively. On 25 minutes, big Kieffer rose like the cliched salmon above everyone else (unusually for him, normally he gets shorter when he jumps) and headed home to make it 1-1. Game on then, and we were looking lively. Both sides had their fair share of possession but I'd say overall, the first half was pretty even, if not slightly tipped towards Yeovil. That was until on 38 minutes, when Forest scored again, a rare blunder from Stech who should have dealt with the first shot better, only parried into the path Cox who made it 2-1. The goal was massively against the run of play of the previous 5 or 10 minutes and there was no way we deserved to be behind going into half time.

After the break, we looked defensively poor but bright going forwards. Ditto for Forest in some respects, with several shots for them early on in the second half, one hitting the post and the other well saved by Stech at the post. But when we ran at them, on the deck, they looked panicked. Which is of course why we took Hayter off, and put Byron Webster up front to play long ball. Hmmm. The new lad Lawrence, who'd been brought on just before half time, seemed lively and well up for it, and very eager to impress. He closed everything down and didn't give up on anything, chasing down passes he thought he could intercept. He seemed a little naive though, as a kid is likely to be in his first Championship game. Lundstram was the opposite - he didn't seem to want to run for anything, particularly in the second half, and consistently gave the ball away. Not long before full time we had a free kick on the edge of the area that, for some reason, Lawrence took and absolutely skied over the bar. That was the chance -  that was the draw right there. But into injury time and Forest made it 3-1 in a goal mouth scramble to make the result look like a comfortable one.

A word about McAllister - he is absolutely past it. Every tackle is either late, or he goes down in a heap injured. He's at least a yard off the pace, and undisciplined. And this is our captain!! There is no way he should still be getting picked, I would rather have Lanzoni play out of position at the back than McAllister. At least Lanzoni does the simple things, and doesn't constantly pass back to the opposition. Webster should be the captain, without a doubt.

My man of the match was Luke Ayling who dealt well with their wingers forward runs and attacked at every opportunity. He never gives up and you'll always get 110% from Luke.

The next match is Leeds at home, and we don't have an away game now until March the 2nd - at Reading -which seems a lifetime away. Until then, then...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Derby Away 28/1/14

After a very successful trip to Birmingham and a not-so-successful but heartening performance at Southampton in the FA Cup (so I'm told, I wasn't there because if the ticket 'fiasco'...) we travelled up to Derby for a Tuesday night game at the iPro AKA Pride Park. Having never been to Pride Park before, I definitely wanted to do this one, and took a half day from work. We arrived at Pride Park just after 6pm, after driving around for a good 10 minutes trying to find somewhere to park. Pride Park is an industrial and office park as well as having a retail bit and the stadium, yet they do NOT want you to park there. There were the usual £10 and £5 car parks but I'm tight and refuse the pay that to literally leave my car somewhere. So we found a housing estate on Pacific Way which seemed to be well used by other football fans and made the short walk up to the stadium.

Night matches always have that tangible atmosphere, I'm not sure what it is about them but something just feels really different. I felt quite confident about the game after recent performances and felt we could at least get something out of it if we held our own. We wandered round to the ticket office only to be told it was pay on the gate. We got to the gate, only to be told it was a barcode entry, and we needed to get a ticket. There was an away ticket sales booth, but there was no one there, and we had to wait 10 minutes for anyone to turn up - this was at 6:45 and counting down to less than an hour to kick off. The game was also being advertised as £26 around the stadium when we had all been told £23, but thankfully I managed to keep the extra 3 quid in my pocket. Piss ups and breweries...

We did finally get into the stadium and what an impressive stadium it is! Even with the wonky roofs and only being a little more than half full. We picked a spot top left of goal (of course), not that there was much choice with the small section they had cordoned off for us. Fans slowly started to filter in and it seemed we may even hit the 200 mark. Singing began in earnest and didn't stop for pretty much the entirety of the game. Derby fans were extremely quiet, until the end, of course.

The game itself... well. You couldn't make this stuff up really, though this is Yeovil so nothing surprises me any more :) For the first 10/15 minutes we were chasing shadows and couldn't get hold of the ball. Derby were very "professional" as per Birmingham, making the very best of every foul and conning the ref into free kick after free kick. But once we matched their pace and managed to keep more possession, we really started to hold our own. The first goal however was entirely against the run of play, with a low Johnny Lundstram shot from a good 20 yards out beating the keeper. Just moments before that Derby had hit the post, and a rare slice from Stech not dealt with my Ayling almost gifted them another clear sight of goal. Our confidence was running high after that though and just 9 minutes later on 34 minutes, Ish Miller slotted home at the far post from what seemed to be an impossible angle with a really classy finish at the near post. 2-0 up in the first half and our heads were up, and all we really needed to do was keep it tight, and more of the same for the second half.

Of course, Derby weren't exactly going to sit back in the second half, they were going to come at us. For large parts of the second half they almost had 4 or 5 up front, pushing us back. But we let them - we sat so deep into our own half we were constantly inviting them to run at us and made it impossible for ourselves to break. Especially as we switched to only one up front. Any chance to break was closed down by Derby without even a whimper. We gave away far too many sloppy free kicks and just could not keep possession.

Their first goal came just after half time, and it seemed only inevitable before they equalised. It took until the 87th minute though, and we were seriously hanging on by this point. We were absolutely dead on our feet. I think the first 20 minutes where we were literally chasing everything and trying to match their pace completely shattered us. A free kick carelessly given away by Upson gifted them a chance in the dying seconds and they made it 3-2 in 90+5 minutes of added time. The fact there had only been 4 minutes of added time announced made it sting all the more -  the whistle should have been blown long before. Stech wasn't at fault for any of the goals in my opinion, we just weren't closing down and seeing the game out like we should have. But we are Yeovil - we don't see games out. 2-0 is always a dangerous scoreline for us and we seem to have resorted to the Skivo tactic of putting as many men behind the ball as possible to protect a lead.

It was a long old trip back to Aldershot pretty much in silence as I was far too gutted to listen to any music or try to forget the game. On the way out of the stadium several Derby fans stopped us and said they were gutted for us and felt sorry for us - easy to say once you've beaten us in the last bloody minute. My man of the match was Ayling as he was always hassling them, going forward and tracking back, and always trying to create something. Special mentions for Miller and Lundstram too, for the goals. Moore was poor today and I don't think he knows how to jump. He seems to get shorter whenever he tries. I would have preferred to see Miller with Hayter today -  Derby just had far too much class for us without.

Now we have Forest on Sunday, another trip back up to the Midlands. Seeing as we're a bit of a bogey team for Forest I like to think we'll get something out of it, but after Derby who knows. I think that will be a major psychological blow for the lads and could take some getting over.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Birmingham City 18/1/14

After the abysmal showing at Huddersfield, I wasn't sure why, but I felt pretty good about the Birmingham game. We'd beaten Leyton Orient in the cup 4-0 at home, and had lost to Burnley 2-1 in the league. Birmingham hadn't won at home in a good few games, so I was optimistic. A relatively "local" game for me, I didn't leave the house until 10am, and made it just before 12 o'clock. Easy enough to find, and all around St Andrews there was ample free on-street parking. We wandered down into the city centre and found The White Swan for a quick drink and a cheese and onion cob (roll , for you Southerners and bap for the Northerners!) before taking a leisurely stroll back to the ground. The stewards were very well organised, with load of them prepared for checking our bags and directing us to our turnstiles. We were actually given a ticket in spite of paying on the day which I'm always grateful for - I like to keep my tickets on a corkboard at home as a memento of the trip.

On entering the ground it was very clear it was an ex-Premier League ground. A large concourse area with big screen TV's and very swish food outlets. We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted with no bother from the stewards and stood for the whole game.

On to the game, and initially the starting line up made me groan. Kieffer Moore starting? The new left back starting who hadn't played a competitive game since September? We heard before the game that Hoskins had recently undergone surgery and was going to be out for a few weeks. It didn't fill me with confidence. But how wrong I was!

Early pressure and possession from Birmingham made it feel like more of the Huddersfield-same, but it soon became an end-to-end affair. On 12 minutes, Hayter slotted home his first of the day from a pretty much gifted chance, to send the Yeovil faithful into uproar. Quickly after, the Brum keeper had to make a brilliant double save to keep us out. Kieffer Moore could have done better, but he certainly atoned himself in the remainder of the game. He was drawing defenders away from Hayter to give him space to  move and create, and in the 19th minute Hayter drived it home again, sending us into complete elation!

The new left back - Bakayogo from Leicester - got injured towards half time, off the ball, with what looked like him turning awkwardly and his knee giving way. He was subbed off which was a real shame because up to that point, he looked solid and confident and certainly not like a player who hadn't had any game time since September. His replacement, McAllister, also went down with an injury when it looked like he had pulled his back, and fell to the ground again off the ball. He too had to be substituted, replaced by Lanzoni.

Even with two enforced changes however, we looked to be in control in spite of the possession stats (only 33% to Yeovil). We were playing some lovely passing football at times with class build up and several good shots on target. Birmingham, for all their nice approach play and skill, had no end product and poor finishing.  Just before half time, Moore was brought down for a definite penalty, which on the radio they said could even have been a red card but the referee bottled it. The referee had a poor game, yet again we never seem to get the rub of the green from officials. Birmingham were very "professional" -  making the most of every challenge and diving at every opportunity. And they have the audacity to call us the cheats after the cup game!? There were no real moments when I felt like they were certain to score, but that may have been down to buoyant confidence :) Stech however did make some class saves, and I would say he was a contender for man of the match.

But for a change it's difficult to pick a man of the match because everyone played so well and not because we're picking from a bad lot. Initially Grant was on the fringes but came into it especially into the second half. Hayter was class and I felt he worked very well with Moore. Ayling made some fantastic challenges at key moments to stem their forward charge. Webster cleared pretty much everything lofted up to him and again made some class last-ditch tackles. Edwards and Ralls worked hard - seriously I cannot single out a fault today. Perhaps I am still on cloud nine or perhaps its the several beers!!

I was unable to get tickets for Southampton in the cup so unless more are released, my next game is the night match against Derby on Tuesday the 28th, bring it on!