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.