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!