Green and White Goals

Scunthorpe 3 Yeovil Town 4 – Saturday 1st October 2005

Most Yeovil fans who were alive at the time will have no problems remembering the incredible 4-3 top of the table clash against Scunthorpe in February 2005. The Glovers were 2-1 down at the break, but managed to turn it around in the second half thanks to a Lee Johsnon free kick, a header from Rory Fallon who still had directions to the ground written on his hand having only signed on loan that afternoon, and of course the incredible 35-yarder from Arron Davies that sealed the deal.

However, what some may not remember was that the next time we played the Iron in October of the same year also ended 4-3 to the men in green and white, this time having to come back from 2-0 down.

The meeting took place in League One, with both teams having been promoted from League Two in 2004/05. At the time of the match, both sides were in mid-table. Yeovil had recently lost Gary Johnson as manager, with this being Steve Thompson’s third game in charge (of this spell). He won his first game at home to Port Vale, but then the following Tuesday the Glovers surrendered a 1-0 half time lead to lose 4-1 away at Southend. Although a poor performance at the time, especially in the second half, Southend would go on to win the league with their strike force of Shaun Goater, Freddy Eastwood and future Glover Wayne Gray bullying a lot of defences that season.

It looked like it might be another one of those days, as Yeovil were 2-0 down inside the first 20 minutes. The hosts boasted a potent strike force of 19-year olds Andy Keogh and Billy Sharp, both of whom would go on to play in the Premier League. The Yeovil defence was at sixes and sevens, with Liam Fontaine struggling at left back and Nathan Jones having a severe off day in midfield. Although he would go on to be our captain and one of the most consistent players under Russell Slade, his first season’s performances were much more up and down and this one was definitely a down. After Sharp and Keogh both scored, Jones was hauled off after 25 minutes as, without much to lose Steve Thompson re-organised his attack, bringing on Matt Harrold to partner Bastianini up front and putting Jevons on the left. As great a player as Phil Jevons was for us, he did occasionally present a bit of a selection headache – if you partner him with a target man, you have no pace up front and a possible shortage of goals. If you partner him with a quicker man, you have no height. It was less of an issue in League Two, as Davies and Gall could both join from midfield, but in League One we were seeing a lot less of the ball. As time went on, Jevons was increasingly played in midfield with Harrold and Davies providing the best combination of physical presence, pace and finishing as a partnership. Arriving as a 21-year old from Brentford in the summer of 2005, Matt Harrold started mostly from the bench at the start of the season and it was this game that saw him come of age as a Yeovil player. He only stayed one season at Huish Park as he was not a part of Russell Slade’s plans after the arrival of Wayne Gray and Lee Morris, but would go on to have a long Football League career at the likes of Wycombe, Bristol Rovers and Southend.

Gary Johnson had put a lot of faith in Bastianini to bring both physical presence and goals, but he took time to settle and was not really a physical player. Although he will probably go down with many Glovers fans as an expensive mistake, he did have his qualities and was involved in all four goals at Scunthorpe, providing direct assists for three out of them. He probably felt the pressure of being the main man and who knows, if any of his attempted lobs from the half way line had gone in instead of fractionally over the bar, his career at Yeovil might have been a very different one.

Crucially in this game, Bastianini missed some early chances to the frustration of his team mates, but became much more productive when being less selfish and creating chances for others, playing excellent balls to Harrold for both of his goals.

With the score still at 0-2, the home side got in behind the Yeovil defence again only for Skiverton to slide in with a perfectly timed tackle from behind inside the area – mis-time that, and we could well have been 3-0 down and down to ten men, but it became the turning point of the match.

The comeback started with Jevons’ ball to set up Way in the 26th minute, and Jevons himself lashing home a loose ball to level the scores before half time. Scunthorpe were rattled and were much more timid after half time, allowing the Glovers to take a 4-2 lead. With 25 minutes still to go, there was still time for them to pull one back, with Sharp scoring his second from close range after a goalmouth scramble. The game became end to end and very bad tempered – both Skiverton and Way were ordered off the field to receive treatment despite having been fouled, as both had to have blood-stained shirts replaced and Skiverton re-appeared with a Terry Butcher-style bandage on his head. Very late on Keogh slid in a rebound and the ground erupted as it took quite some time for both fans and players to register that it had been disallowed for offside. There was more incident in injury time, as substitute Wayne Corden picked up the ball unmarked on the edge of the box and crashed his shot off the crossbar, it landed inside the area but Yeovil were able to clear and hold on for the win, sending us from 21st up to 15th in the table.

The following week the Glovers completed their third consecutive game against fellow promoted sides at home to Swansea, which they also won 1-0. The result took us up to 8th and finally gave us some breathing space after a very difficult start to life in League One.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Kevin Amankwaah, Liam Fontaine, Terry Skiverton, Efe Sodje, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Nathan Jones (Matt Harrold, 25), Arron Davies, Pablo Bastianini (Paul Terry, 73), Phil Jevons. Subs not used: Steve Collis, Adam Lockwood, David Poole

 

Yeovil Town 1 Newcastle Utd 2 – Saturday 4th August 1990

Yeovil finally completed their long proposed move to a new stadium at Houndstone in 1990, after discussions had begun as early as 1985.

As we all know the old Huish ground was sold to Tesco, land was purchased from the army and the new stadium became one of the first to open after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, with no pens or fences in sight.

At the time, the Glovers were experiencing a relatively prosperous time on the pitch under the old school management of Brian Hall, having won the Isthmian League in 1988 and finishing 7th in the Conference in 1990. They finished that season winning the Bob Lord Trophy and signed off their time at the historic old ground with a 1-0 win against Telford, with the last goal at the ground being scored on a scorching hot day by Neil Cordice.

The opening match at Huish Park took place on Saturday 4th August against Newcastle United. The Glovers lost 2-1, but did at least score their first goal at their new home on that day, thanks to a smart finish from Andy Wallace. At that time Newcastle were in the second tier, experiencing a few years in the doldrums before their revitalisation in the mid-90’s under Kevin Keegan. Keegan arrived in 1992, leading them to promotion to the Premier League the following season where they would soon challenge Man Utd for the title in 1996 and 1997. However a team slightly less illustrious than the one that would contain the likes of Alan Shearer, David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla were the visitors to Huish Park, with veterans Mark McGhee and John Anderson scoring the Magpies’ goals, before Wallace reduced the arrears in the second half.

The first competitive game took place on 18th August 1990, a Conference fixture against recently relegated Colchester. The Glovers won 2-0, with goals from Mickey Spencer and Peter Conning. Colchester’s stay in the Conference was a short one, finishing 2nd in 1991 and winners in 1992 – with 94 points, but only goal difference ahead of Wycombe. The Glovers were mid-table in their first few years at Huish Park, peaking at 4th in 1992/93.

The attendance for the Newcastle game was 5,093, which stood as a record until the visit of Hereford in the second round of the FA Cup in 1992 brought in over 8,000. This was beaten when the marginally more attractive fixture of Arsenal in the following round set a new record of 8,612 which stood until the home terrace was expanded and covered, attracting 8,868 against Rushden in 2001.

Yeovil Town 2 Bury 1 – Saturday 17th April 2004

Not many players make the kind of instant impact that striker Dani Rodrigues did when he arrived at Yeovil in April 2004, and his first game was one that all who were there will probably always remember.

Although the Glovers found themselves able to adjust well on the whole to League Two, finding themselves 3rd at Christmas, they experienced a difficult run of form after the FA Cup match against Liverpool, winning only four of the next 16 games which saw them slide down to 9th and out of the play-off picture. With Jackson and Gall both unable to find the net after Christmas, Edwards injured and Stansfield out of favour, goals were getting harder to come by. Gary Johnson brought in loan strikers Lee Matthews from Bristol City and Andy Bishop from Walsall with mixed results, but he was not happy with them and neither stayed long. With fives games to go and hopes of reaching the play-offs fading away, he signed out of contract Portuguese striker Dani Rodrigues (no relation to Hugo), who was a free agent at the time.

Dani had started his career in the Portuguese second tier at Feirense, before coming to the UK for a brief loan at Bournemouth in 1998. However, during this loan Southampton had spotted his talent and poached him from their south coast neighbours, signing him on a permanent contract at the age of 19. In his first full season he was top scorer for the reserves and after a couple of appearances for the Saints’ first team, was sent out on loan to Bristol City but broke his ankle, and after breaking the same ankle again before reaching full fitness was released by Southampton in 2002. Signing for Walsall, he stayed for a year making only one substitute appearance. He spent a season in Greece at top flight club Ionikos, which is where he joined us on a short term contract at the end of March 2004.

His debut came as a substitute in the home match against Bury on 17th April 2004. The mid-table Shakers had nothing to play for, but took a surprise lead just before half time through Dave Nugent. Early in the second half Gary Johnson shook things up, bringing on Rodrigues for his debut in place of Adam Stansfield on 49 minutes.

Rodrigues made one of the most spectacular debuts it is possible to make, scoring with an incredible overhead kick just five minutes after coming on, which will stand for many as one of the best goals ever scored at Huish Park. He topped that off by scoring a much less spectacular deflected second goal to put Yeovil ahead just four minutes later. The Glovers held on, as the arrival of the Portuguese striker propelled them into the final strait of the campaign. They won their next two games away at York and again at Southend, as two more goals from Rodrigues in a 2-0 win at Roots Hall pushed the Glovers into the play-off places with two games to go.

Yeovil just fell at the final hurdle, as defeat at home to promoted Hull despite Dani’s namesake Hugo scoring his only goal for the club, was followed by a late win at Lincoln on the last day, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Dani missed the last game through a minor injury, so it was down to substitutes Stansfield and Edwards to get the goals along with Gavin Williams. While many Glovers fans were keen to retain Dani’s services going into the 2004/05 season, there were some doubts about his extensive historical injury problems, as well as our ability to offer the kind of money he would be looking for. In the end, he signed for Bournemouth, who were in League One at the time and were able to offer the money and contract that we could not. He spent two years at Dean Court, where he scored 7 goals from 60 appearances. Yeovil instead signed Phil Jevons, who all things considered worked out fairly well as he was top scorer for the next two seasons.

After that Dani became slightly nomadic again, playing for the New Zealand Knights in Auckland before returning to the south coast again for Eastleigh and Dorchester, and then moving to Cyprus and playing for a number of clubs there. He was never really prolific at any of the clubs he played for, moving fairly frequently, so unfortunately was not able to fulfil the promise he had shown early in his career. Even though his appearance stats for Yeovil may read Played: 4; Goals 4, he will always be remembered for that one spectacular goal in April 2004.

Team that day: Steve Collis, Adam Lockwood, Colin Miles, Terry Skiverton, Hugo Rodrigues (sub. Andy Lindegaard, 52), Paul Terry, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden, Kevin Gall (sub. Nathan Talbott, 90), Jake Edwards, Adam Stansfield (sub. Dani Rodrigues, 49). Subs not used: Ryan Northmore, Kirk Jackson

 

 

 

The signing of a 21-year old Gavin Williams from Hereford in June 2002 was arguably the key that turned Yeovil into not only Conference title contenders, but eventual champions by a comfortable distance. After scoring six goals and ten assists in the title-winning season, he would go on to be the player of the season in Yeovil’s first Football League campaign. At a time when the Glovers found goalscoring the most difficult part of the step up, he was the club’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 9 assists, including a spectacular solo effort against Kidderminster and a last minute winner in the last game of the season against Lincoln.

In the following season that would eventually see Yeovil crowned champions of League Two, he sustained a wrist injury in the second game that saw him miss the early part of the season. He returned in dramatic fashion, scoring a late penalty to secure a 1-0 win at home to Swansea, annoying the opposition with his customary Cardiff ‘Ayatollah’ celebration even though it was not in front of the away fans (this time). Knowing it would wind up the opposition fans, he was well known for his eye for mischief.

Gavin scored two goals and four assists from 14 starts that season, before being sold to Championship side West Ham for £250,000. His other goal was in the memorable game against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, which saw the home side have two men sent off but still come back to draw 2-2. It was an excellent move which was started in his own half and then finished off with a curling shot by the Welsh wizard. It was always eventful with Super Gav around, such as the time he had a penalty saved against Shrewsbury on the day Yeovil went top of League Two in 2004 – it was ordered re-taken for an infringement, but the re-take was saved again, the only time I think I have ever seen a penalty missed twice (or saved, to be fair). His last action in his first spell for the Glovers was to be (rightly) sent off in the away game at Lincoln in November 2004. Although it was his only straight red for us – his other dismissal against Torquay in 2004 coming for two bookings – let’s be honest he came close to a few others as he was a player who liked to tread that fine line when it came to discipline, and as we all know he loved to wind up the opposition players and fans.

Gavin’s first goal for West Ham came in the 2-1 defeat at Leeds in February 2004. West Ham were on their way to promotion from the Championship, and once they became a Premier League club he found it difficult to break into the team, making only one appearance in the League Cup. He was loaned out to Ipswich in November 2005, making the deal permanent for £300,000 during the transfer window.

He remained at Ipswich until 2008 when, finding his first team opportunities limited, he linked back up with Gary Johnson for a second time, signing for Bristol City where he joined his former team-mates Lee Johnson, Michael McIndoe and Chris Weale.

Towards the end of his time at Bristol City, we were unexpectedly reunited with Super Gav when he was brought in on loan by manager Terry Skiverton in 2010 – we have covered his second debut before, as in typical Gav fashion he got one goal, one assist and a red card all in just over an hour. He scored five goals in that loan spell, and came back for another loan in 2010/11 before re-signing permanently at the age of 31 at the start of 2011/12. During that season, he was reunited for a third time with Gary Johnson, returning as manager in January 2012, and went on to make a further 28 appearances in the League One promotion season in 2012/13. He scored several more spectacular goals in those latter spells, including that game against Hartlepool, away at Oldham, at home to Scunthorpe which was unfortunately lost in the fog, and then his final goal for us was probably the best of all, at home to Oldham again.

Gavin left us for the final time in the summer of 2013, following promotion to the Championship. After a brief spell at Woking during which he scored five goals, he packed up football for good in December 2013, calling time on a career of 558 games and 92 goals.

Or so he thought.

Following the death of his father, Gavin’s contract with Woking was terminated by mutual consent so that he could return home to Merthyr. He had no intention of getting involved with football there, but Merthyr Town manager Garry Shephard called him to ask if he wanted a game, and kept calling and calling until eventually he said yes. In 2014, he became assistant manager, stepping up to manager from 2016 to eventually calling it a day in 2021. He saw the club through some very difficult times financially, and at one point was told he had to make a 70% cut in the playing budget before the next game. Despite some players offering to play for free, he did not feel it was fair to ask them to do that as he could not guarantee their future wages, so for one game against Chesham he was forced to field not only youth team players, but also members of his office staff. With a 15-year old in goal and one of the office workers at centre half, Merthyr lost 13-1 in a game that has gone down in the club’s history.

There is an an article on the Wales Online site which goes into the situation and is well worth a read.

There is also footage of a goal the player-manager scored in the FA Trophy against Cinderford in 2016 which, even at the age of 36 evoked the Gavin Williams we all knew from his time at Yeovil.

 

Yeovil Town 1 Fulham 0 – Monday 15th November 1993

To celebrate the return to Yeovil Town of green and white stripes for the first time in almost 30 years, we’re taking a look back at when the striped shirts of Yeovil were enhancing their FA Cup reputation in the early 90’s.

After the move to Huish Park in 1990, Yeovil found themselves embarking on a number of FA Cup runs despite the turmoil off the pitch. In 1991/92, they beat Walsall 1-0 in a replay after drawing 1-1 at Huish Park. The following season saw the epic run to the third round, despatching League sides Torquay and Hereford before bowing out at home to an Ian Wright hat-trick against Arsenal.

This was possibly what tempted the Sky TV cameras to come to Huish Park for the First Round tie against Fulham in November 1993. Sky had taken over coverage of the newly re-branded Premier League along with some FA Cup ties in 1992, so they were still the new kids on the block. This would be the first time that Yeovil were shown live on television, in front of over 6,000 fans. Fulham were on their way down at the time, in Division Two (now League One), from which they were relegated at the end of the season to play in the bottom tier for the first time in their history. After three years in the basement division, they were purchased by Harrod’s owner Mohamed Al-Fayed who led them back up through the divisions, appointing Kevin Keegan as manager along the way and taking them back to the Premier League in 2001.

In a slightly turgid game low on chances, Andy Wallace popped up with an inspired solo goal to settle the tie in injury time. Besides Wallace, the team at that time contained such well-remembered players as Paul Wilson and Mickey Spencer. Yeovil’s player-manager at the time was Steve Rutter, although this would be one of his last games in charge as he stepped down at the end of the year and was replaced by the returning Brian Hall. Despite the success of a 4th placed finish and FA Cup tie against Arsenal in 1992/93, the squad was ageing and there was no money to replace them. The return of Brian Hall was not enough to turn the team’s fortunes around and the Glovers were relegated from the Conference in 1994/95.

Although his last games for Yeovil came at a difficult time for the club on and off the pitch, Andy Wallace would end his time as one of the club’s top scorers with 61 goals from 298 appearances, a few places below his team-mate Mickey Spencer, who with 104 goals from 281 appearances is still at No. 5 in the list of post-war goalscorers for Yeovil Town.

Yeovil Town 2 Hereford Utd 2 – Tuesday 21st April 2009

It’s always a special moment when your goalkeeper scores, as it’s usually when you are in desperate need of a goal and are throwing the kitchen sink forward in a last ditch hope of getting something out of a game. Whether it’s Paul Robinson for Leeds, Jimmy Glass for Carlisle or Alisson for Liverpool, it’s usually fairly dramatic. And when it’s the locally born lad returning to help his home town avoid relegation by scoring in injury time against their old rivals, it doesn’t come much more dramatic than that.

Yeovil have had their share of scoring goalkeepers down the years, as Tony Pennock not only scored a penalty in the 4-0 win over Chertsey in 1997, he also saved and then scored a penalty in the FA Cup First Round shoot-out the following year. Back in 1991, David Fry famously scored from his own half with a wind-assisted goal in the 7-2 demolition of Slough Town. Former loan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic scored a similar goal in the Premier League for Stoke in 2013.

Following the sacking of Russell Slade in February 2009, it took some time for rookie manager Terry Skiverton to steady the ship. Following a run of three points from eight games, the Glovers were able to get back on track thanks largely to a trio of loan signings from Spurs in the shape of Andros Townsend, Jonathan Obika and Danny Hutchins. In addition came former player and legend Chris Weale, who left for Bristol City in 2006 but came back on loan to help out in 2009. Yeovil-born Weale had come up through the youth and reserve teams at Yeovil, making his Conference debut in the 2-1 win against Boston in February 2001, just after his 19th birthday. He made over 200 appearances between 2001 and 2006, winning the FA Trophy, Conference and League Two. He memorably pulled off a blinding save in the first minute of the FA Trophy from future team mate Kirk Jackson, and saved a penalty from Conference top scorer Paul Barnes in the 4-0 demolition of Doncaster on the day the Glovers sealed the Conference title. In the League, he also saved a penalty in the 1-0 win over Kidderminster in 2004.

All four players made their debuts at the same time, in the home draw against MK Dons. This began a run of 11 points from the next five games, as Weale kept an impressive five clean sheets in his first five games. This run took Yeovil up to 16th and almost to safety, but they just needed a few more points to get them over the line. Potentially winnable games against Cheltenham and Hartlepool were both lost, leaving the Glovers hovering above the relegation zone and running out of games.

With just three games to go, the visit of old rivals Hereford seemed like a home banker. Experiencing a brief spell out of their depth in League One, they were bottom of the league and heading for relegation. A win would be enough to mathematically secure league status for Yeovil. However things didn’t go to plan as a first half goal from Myrie-Williams put the Bulls ahead and another after the break from Guinan put them 2-0 up. As the lowest scorers in the division, Yeovil were up against it. Luke Rodgers did pull one back on 78 minutes but it didn’t look like it would be enough, until in injury time the Glovers got a corner and Weale decided to go up for it. He could not get to the resultant ball in, but it did end in a shot from Peltier that was saved by the keeper, resulting in another corner. Last chance saloon, and Weale stayed up. Rising like a salmon, he smashed a header home for the equaliser, resulting in the kind of pile-on usually only seen in primary school playgrounds.

He had secured a point that, while not making Yeovil mathematically safe on the night, would turn out to be enough – it put the Glovers on 50 points, and in the end Northampton would occupy the last relegation place with 49, so effectively you could say Wealey’s goal did save Yeovil from relegation. As soon as the match re-started the referee blew his whistle, and we’d scored with literally the last kick of the game.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Danny Hutchins, Nathan Smith, Aaron Brown, Lee Peltier, Kieran Murtagh, Danny Schofield, Paul Warne (Andy Welsh, 62), Andros Townsend, Jonathan Obika (Luke Rodgers, 73), Gavin Tomlin. Subs not used: Wagenaar, Alcock, Maguire

 

Marcus Stewart’s Top Five Goals for Yeovil

To celebrate the return of Marcus Stewart to Huish Park 14 years after his departure – that can’t be right, can it? – we are celebrating some of his finest goals in green and white.

In his career Stewart played in the Premier League for Ipswich and Sunderland, and in 2000/01 was the second-top scorer with 19 goals for Ipswich. Born in Bristol, although he spent the early part of his career at Bristol Rovers, he actually grew up as a City fan which played a part in him choosing to sign for them after leaving Sunderland in 2005.

He arrived at Ashton Gate at the age of 32, and eventually came to us courtesy of our former manager – Gary Johnson had arrived at Ashton Gate in September 2005, and after sending Stewart out on loan to Preston towards the end of the 2005/06 season made it clear that the veteran striker was free to find another club even though he was still under contract.

Although Yeovil had started better than expected in 2006/07, new manager Russell Slade clearly felt the need to add to his striking options of Wayne Gray, Arron Davies and Lee Morris, who was still working his way back to full fitness. With Matt Harrold starting the season but moving to Southend right at the end of the transfer window, this left room in the budget for Slade to bring in the experienced striker.

Stewart was an immediate hit, grabbing five goals and four assists in his first 11 games. Initially signed on a maximum three-month loan, he was then unavailable for the month of December as the Glovers awaited the opening of the transfer window with the hope of signing him on a permanent deal. As a temporary replacement, Slade signed Leon Best on loan from Southampton, who would also go on to be a spectacular success. As expected, Stewart signed permanently when the window opened, and his first game as a permanent Yeovil player was in the televised game against Huddersfield on 5th January 2007.

Marcus scored 9 goals and 6 assists in the memorable 2006/07 season. Almost all of his goals were crucial – he scored late equalisers away at Blackpool and Chesterfield early in the season, and towards the end scored the only goal in 1-0 wins over Swansea and Rotherham plus of course, the most memorable goal of all against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Marcus also played 40 times in 2007/08, scoring 5 goals and 3 assists. He left at the end of the season for Exeter, where he played for another three seasons before retiring in 2011. One of his last ever games was against Yeovil, in the 3-2 win for the Glovers at St James’ Park in March 2011. His last game as a professional was against his first club Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, ending his playing career where it had begun.

Marcus Stewart’s Top Five Goals (in no particular order):

Brighton, 26 September 2006 – Marcus scored this spectacular goal early in a 2-0 home win over Brighton. It was part of a run of four consecutive wins which took the Glovers up to 2nd in League One.

Tranmere, 1 September 2007 – this excellent solo goal gave us a second half lead, but we frustratingly dropped points to an injury time equaliser, which would be a recurring theme that season.

Torquay, 11 November 2007 – a first half goal gave Yeovil the lead in an FA Cup match that was televised on the BBC. At the time Yeovil were in League One and Torquay were in the Conference, and we were faced with the unusual prospect of being on TV in the hope of being on the receiving end of an upset. Unfortunately, despite taking the lead in the first half, they got their wish.

Carlisle, 5 April 2008 – A familiar story, as a brilliant Stewart goal gave us the lead in a game that was ultimately lost in injury time. There is also a version with hilariously biased local commentary which suggests that the goal is a fluke that takes a lucky deflection.

Nottingham Forest, 18 May 2007 – Marcus unforgettably scored the equaliser to complete the comeback from 2-0 and 3-1 down, to draw 3-3 and take the play-off semi-final to extra time, which of course the Glovers won.

Welcome back Marcus!

Yeovil Town 4 Hereford United 0 – Saturday 1st March 2003

March 2003 was crunch time in the chase for the Nationwide Conference title. Although Yeovil had led the way since the end of September they were not having everything their own way and behind them Doncaster, Chester, Morecambe and Dagenham were all waiting for them to slip up. In recent matches, the Glovers had to grind out a win against a Farnborough side stripped of their best players following Graham Westley’s defection to Stevenage, and dropped points away at relegation-bound Nuneaton. In addition they had needed very late goals to squeak through FA Trophy matches against Morecambe and Northwich. In February they had mainly played lower to mid-table opposition but March promised to be much tougher with three matches in a week at home to Hereford, away to Halifax and then away to Woking, who were resurgent and a much tougher proposition following the arrival of Glenn Cockerill as manager. A lot of opposition fans seemed confident that the Glovers would drop points in at least two of these games.

Following the win at Farnborough, Yeovil were 12 points clear of Doncaster having played two games more. They faced an extremely tough run-in with Doncaster away, Dagenham away and Chester at home all to play in the last four games. Despite their cushion at the top, the Glovers would hope to be well clear ahead of that run-in to avoid an extremely tense finish. There was also the potential fixture pile-up caused by a two-leg FA Trophy semi-final if we could negotiate the quarter final against Burscough. For their part Donny fans were very confident that they would win their games in hand, beat us at Belle Vue and the lead would be down to three points which Chester or Dagenham would take off us. It would all be so simple! The problem is Doncaster fans, that games in hand are not any use unless you win them, as we had found to our cost two years before. For much of the second half of 2000/01, once they lost the lead Yeovil were around four points behind Rushden with two games in hand. The problem was, the two games in hand were against Doncaster and Hereford, and both were lost along with the Conference title. Never count your chickens, Donny fans.

Of course, it had to be old rivals Hereford who put the final nail in the coffin of our title hopes in 2001, and they were very bullish about their chances of doing the same thing again. Games against Hereford always had an extra edge to them, attendances were usually boosted and there was a lot riding on this one. To add to the spice, Yeovil included former Bulls Michael McIndoe and Gavin Williams, while former Glovers Jamie Pitman and Ben Smith (as well as future Glover Michael Rose) were in the Hereford side. Ben Smith was part of the team who’d missed out in 2001, then left at the end of the season as he was out of contract and there was no manager to offer him a new one. He must have wondered how life could have gone had he stayed and it had been him rather than Lee Johnson who won the FA Trophy, Conference and then League Two titles. They were very similar players and Johnson was clearly intended as Smith’s replacement in the summer of 2001. Smith would go on to have a spectacular season in 03/04, scoring 13 goals in 28 games from midfield, although Hereford ultimately lost the title by a point despite scoring 106 goals and were then knocked out of the play-offs on penalties, which is a shame.

By this point Kevin Gall had established himself in the team following his move from Bristol Rovers and this was the first Conference game in which he and Kirk Jackson were partnered from the start, so they were still a new strike force. The Yeovil line-up had a very familiar look to it of Weale, Lockwood, Pluck, Skiverton, Johnson, McIndoe, Williams, Jackson and Gall. The only absentees were Nick Crittenden, who was unavailable but on the way to recovery following an operation on a groin injury, and Darren Way who was suspended for one game for an accumulation of yellow cards. One vital difference between the teams of 02/03 and 00/01, was squad depth. While both sides had a strong starting XI, there was very little on the bench in 2001, as Colin Addison only had a bench of about half a dozen kids with an average age of 20. When Patmore was injured and Smith lost form, there were no back-ups. In 2001, Crittenden would have had to play on with the injury, but Gary Johnson had the luxury of El Kholti in reserve with the additional option of Andy Lindegaard. He also had cover in the form of Collis, O’Brien, Aggrey and Grant, who between them had most positions on the field covered. The only real lack of cover lay in central midfield, where only O’Brien and at a push McIndoe could cover Johnson and Way, who that season played almost 100 games between them.

February and March are critical months as that is when injuries, suspensions and loss of form can start to pile up on top of postponed fixtures. It is an important time to strengthen, which Gary Johnson was able to do, bringing in Neil Mustoe to cover in central midfield and Kevin Gall as a striking option. Defender/ midfielder Jason Blunt also arrived on the same day as Gall, but after one substitute appearance decided to sign for Doncaster instead, and was in the side who got stuffed 4-0 at Belle Vue in April. Unlucky Jason! Mustoe, signed from Gloucester City, made only two appearances, covering Darren Way’s absence against Hereford and Margate, and to be fair did not impress in either. He was way off the pace of the rest of a team who were a well-oiled machine and far above Conference standard by that point.

The game began as a tense affair in front of 6,487, only slightly less than the 6,674 who had turned out against Doncaster in October, including 700 or so expectant Hereford fans. The first half was very even, but the deadlock was broken when following a Johnson free kick, Skiverton headed back across goal for Lockwood to nod home from close range. The decisive moment occurred just before half time, when a tussle for the ball with Hereford’s Danny Williams on the ground turned into a brawl, with John Grant charging in elbow first right in front of the referee and rightly receiving a red card. It was difficult for the fans to see what had gone on with virtually every player being involved, so there was a great deal of tension when Skiverton was called over – only to receive a yellow card when many might have expected the referee to even up the numbers. In this instance the referee was correct as Grant led with his elbows and the rest was all handbags, although that was difficult to tell from the crowd and Skiverton had previously been sent off during a very similar incident against Halifax.

To be fair to Hereford they did play exceptionally well with ten men in the second half and created a number of chances. They gave Yeovil as much of a game as anyone did in the second half of the season, with the exception of Halifax who were up next. However class eventually told, as on 77 minutes McIndoe dispossessed Williams and fed Gall, who expertly curled around Matt Baker from a difficult angle. Less than 30 seconds from the re-start and Gall returned the favour, going on a run down the right and crossing for Jackson to smash home from close range. 78 minutes, 3-0 against ten men, job done. There was some icing on the cake, as in the 90th minute Grant was brought down by Tony James when clear through on goal, earning a straight red. He might have got a bit of the ball, but he also scythed right through Grant to get it. Up stepped former Bull McIndoe to make it 4-0. It had taken most of the season for Yeovil to realise that McIndoe is an expert penalty taker, as previous to then (and the previous season), Crittenden had mostly taken them, with mixed results. But McIndoe rarely misses, and did not do so against his former club. By this point Gavin Williams was off the field, having already been booked and showing the kind of enthusiasm that might have brought a second, so he was taken off as a precaution.

To emphasise the gulf in class, Yeovil were able to pass the ball amongst themselves to cries of ‘Ole!’ from the crowd, putting together a move of 32 passes, only ended by an offside flag. During that move every single Yeovil player had at least one touch on the ball, including the goalkeeper. It was clearly time for a new challenge!

4-0 might have given a slightly flattering look and mis-represented how long Hereford were actually in the game for, but nobody who was also at Huish Park on 1st May 2001 was going to care about that. The 2-1 win in 2002, courtesy of a last minute goal from Yeovil-born Andy Lindegaard while Hereford players were feigning injury in a bid to waste time, was a good measure of revenge, but a 4-0 win in front of almost 7,000 on the way to the Conference title including a goal from a former Hereford player was much, much better.

The Glovers would end up getting seven points from their three tough fixtures, fighting back from 2-0 down to beat Halifax 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Kevin Gall, and drawing 1-1 at Woking with ten men, after Adam Lockwood was sent off and Darren Way perhaps lucky not to follow him. The lead was nine points, with only one more game played than Doncaster but 15 ahead of Chester who were falling away badly but were still kind enough to beat Donny when the two sides met, denting their hopes even further. Doncaster lost their other game in hand and ended the season 17 points behind the Glovers.

As a footnote to this story, Neil Mustoe might not have impressed much during his two appearances for Yeovil but he did play, and score, in the 1995 FA Youth Cup Final for Manchester United. It was not that United youth side (Beckham, Giggs etc had graduated, although Phil Neville was still in the side), but interestingly in the Spurs side they faced that day were future Glovers Sam Winston and (blink and you’ll miss him) Simon Spencer, who made a grand total of one substitute appearance in 1998 under Colin Lippiatt. Also in the side were future Southend captain Kevin Maher and future FA Trophy final loser Simon Wormull, who signed for Stevenage after spending a season or two in Rushden’s reserves.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Colin Pluck, Neil Mustoe (Roy O’Brien, 75), Lee Johnson, Abdelhalim El-Kholti, Michael McIndoe, Gavin Williams (Andy Lindegaard, 75), Kirk Jackson (Kim Grant, 83), Kevin Gall. Subs not used: Stephen Collis, Jimmy Aggrey.

 

Yeovil Town 4 Chertsey Town 0 – Saturday 3rd May 1997

Following their move to Huish Park in 1990, Yeovil found themselves in a desperate financial situation. Escalating costs between the time the deal to sell Huish to Tesco had been agreed and the time the new stadium was completed left a severe shortfall, the true extent of which was not known until Gerry Lock departed as Chairman in 1991. Having to reduce costs meant that Yeovil were not able to be competitive in the Conference, although there was a brief renaissance in 1992/93 under player-manager Steve Rutter who took the Glovers to a Third Round FA Cup tie against Arsenal which saved the club financially, and also to fourth in the Conference, the club’s highest ever finish until Colin Addison’s run in 2001. While the FA Cup run enabled the club to survive off the pitch, the stress of managing an ageing squad under such difficult conditions caused Rutter to step down the following season. This led to the return of Brian Hall, whose second spell as manager was not a happy one, leading to some unpleasant scenes on match days.

Hall was sacked in January 1995 and eventually replaced by former Spurs, Chelsea and Rangers player Graham Roberts, who at the age of 35 was playing for Conference side Stevenage. He was initially restricted from playing for his new club as Stevenage retained his player registration and were demanding an extortionate fee for it. Roberts was unable to save the club from relegation but his recruitment was part of a longer term plan as he immediately began a process of moving on some of the older players and bringing in his own team. In contrast to the cautious approach of Brian Hall, Roberts’ aim was to play energetic football and score lots of goals to bring the crowds back, as they dropped well under 1500 as the club unsuccessfully fought relegation.

Relegated to the south-east dominated Isthmian League – then sponsored by the unfortunately named ICIS sportswear company – by the start of the the 1995-96 season only one player from Brian Hall’s tenure remained, and that was defender Chris White. Players like Paul Wilson, Mickey Spencer and Andy Wallace were all gone. In came a lot of players with connections to the south east such as Mickey Engwell, Graham Kemp and Steve Browne. Two of Roberts’ first signings in the Isthmian League era would in time become legends for the club – goalkeeper Tony Pennock and striker Warren Patmore, who would go on to score 140 goals between 1995 and 2001. In Roberts’ first season he also signed Giuliano Grazioli, who scored 16 goals in 13 games on loan from Peterborough. Yeovil’s form stuttered in the middle of the season but they ended strongly, finishing fourth with 80 points. Crowds had also increased significantly, from 1500 at the start of the season to well over 2000 and for some games pushing 3000 by the end, as entertaining football and plenty of goals were back on the menu.

The last game of the season was a spicy affair marred by crowd violence, as the Glovers lost 1-0 at home to Enfield. Enfield were in a title fight with Hayes and thought they had won, but a late goal from Hayes ensured the West London club won the title by a goal difference of 1.

The following season, the core of the team remained and to them was added among others Paul Turner, Tony Pounder and Lee Harvey. We were also able to take advantage of Bath’s own financial worries by poaching Jerry Gill and Rob Cousins from them. Bryan Moore stepped down and was replaced by John Fry, who had recently sold his business interests and been serving as a board member and chief executive for several years. Fry’s focus was to consolidate the club financially off the pitch, to enable the team to move forward on it. At the time some fans mocked Fry’s ‘five year plan’, but to be fair he took over in 1996, and the team were promoted for the first time in its history in 2003, coming very close in 2001 and winning the FA Trophy in 2002, so he wasn’t actually that far out.

There is not much footage of that season, but one video that does exist is the 3-0 win over Kingstonian, including a long range goal from Gill and a superb lob from Warren Patmore.

The title quickly became a two horse race between Yeovil and Enfield, and the London side drew first blood with a 3-0 win at Southbury Road in November. With the two teams neck and neck, Yeovil made the crucial signing of Howard Forinton in January. Having been released by Oxford United, the 21-year old striker had only been at rivals Oxford City since the start of the season, but had done enough to convince the manager to splash out a then-club record fee of £17,500 for him. It was without doubt Forinton’s 26 goals in 24 games that fired Yeovil towards the title, and to demonstrate that his debut goal was the winner in a 1-0 win over Hitchin.

The Glovers only lost one league game after the signing of Forinton, but there was still the matter of Enfield to overcome. As the season wore on, it became clear that the game between the clubs at Huish Park on 25th March 1997 would be a vital one. A bumper crowd of around 5,000 was expected, but what was not expected was that 10,000 people would turn up, forcing a delay to kick-off and the gates being closed with some season ticket holders locked out. The stewards had to improvise, with the Enfield fans being moved along the away terrace to accommodate more home fans, resulting in a recorded attendance of 8,007. The atmosphere was electric, particularly when Yeovil got off to an unbelievable start, taking a 2-0 lead inside the first ten minutes with goals from Engwell and Turner. The visitors did come back into it, and thanks to a very dubious penalty were level at 2-2 at half time. Yeovil did have chances in the second half, but overall the game was high on atmosphere but low on quality, and it ended 2-2. This was one game that Forinton didn’t score in, not aided by the fact that due to defensive injuries, Patmore had to play at centre half while Forinton was partnered up front by Dean Birkby.

The club was understandably caught out by 10,000 people wanting to watch a league match in the sixth tier of English football, but learned from that and went on to take a very cautious approach towards all-ticket matches which would ensure the same issue would not happen again.

With Enfield safely negotiated, it was just a case of Yeovil holding their nerve for the remaining ten games. Forinton and Patmore kept banging in the goals, as the Glovers went on a run of six consecutive wins to put them in with a chance of securing the title away at Essex side Heybridge Swifts. They were followed by an HTV camera crew and several hundred away fans with red flares, although they were all disappointed as the game ended 0-0. They would have to do it all again a few days later, making an almost identical journey to Bromley the following Tuesday night. This time the Glovers got over the line, with two more goals from Forinton giving them a 2-1 win, securing the league title with a game to go.

The season ended up with a party atmosphere, as over 6,000 turned up to celebrate promotion with a 4-0 win over relegated Chertsey, the goals coming from Forinton (twice), Turner, and the unusual sight of Tony Pennock stepping up to take a penalty! It wasn’t the only penalty Pennock would take, as he also took one in the successful shoot-out against West Auckland in the FA Cup in 1998.

The club ended the season with some more silverware, in the Somerset Premier Cup against Bristol City. The win was sealed by goals from departing heroes Gill and Forinton, who had been sold for a combined £100,000 to Birmingham City. From memory Forinton’s goal was a rocket into the top corner which deservedly capped his Yeovil career of 26 goals in 24 games, but as that game was not recorded it can only live in the memory. Forinton’s career was beset by injury, but he would return on two occasions as the Glovers pushed for promotion – unsuccessfully in 2001, but then successfully in 2002.

 

Yeovil 1 Telford 0 – Saturday 5th May 1990

On 5th May 1990, Yeovil played their last game at the old Huish ground with a 1-0 win over Telford in what was then called (and is still by some) the GM Vauxhall Conference. The Glovers finished 7th that season, and under manager Brian Hall contained such well known names as Mickey Spencer, Mark Shail, Paul Wilson and Andy Wallace. The last goal at Huish was scored in that game by Neil Cordice with an excellent volley. Yeovil were able to celebrate with a trophy which was presented on the final day, having beaten Kidderminster over two legs in the Bob Lord Trophy, also known as the Conference League Cup. The competition was axed in 2001 but the trophy itself, which resembles the FA Cup, is currently awarded to the winners of the Conference Play-Off Final.

Huish was not the first home of Yeovil Town, as the Glovers moved to the town centre ground from Pen Mill in 1920. Also known as the Huish Athletic Ground, it was home to tennis in the summer and greyhound racing until the late 1940’s. The club brought with it the main stand from Pen Mill, with the rest of the ground being flat until the Queen’s Street terrace was constructed in 1923, and the following year the Brutton’s End terrace was added. The Queen Street terrace was originally covered, and indeed split due to the weight of fans standing on it during an FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday in 1939. After the war, more developments were made with the terrace roof being removed and a cover put over the North Terrace. Work on that terrace along with the installation of floodlights was completed in 1954.

It does seem that many of the earlier ground developments were made in advance of big FA Cup ties, including Bristol Rovers in 1924, Liverpool in 1935 and Crystal Palace in 1963 which saw the completion of a new grandstand. The building housing the main stand also housed a supporter’s bar and boardroom. In addition was the unusual sight of the ‘Director’s Box’ which stood in the corner next to the Queen Street terrace from 1935 until 1983. The highest attendance at Huish was of course 17,123 against Sunderland in 1949, surpassing the 14,329 against Sheffield Wednesday ten years earlier. Over the years the stadium capacity was reduced as more safety measures were introduced and 9,717 against then top-flight QPR in 1988 was also a sell-out.

Discussions began to move to an out of town location at Houndstone as early as 1985. The prospect of levelling the sloping pitch had been raised many times in the past and been deemed too expensive, although it later become one of the main things Yeovil were known for. However as Football League ground regulations were increased it became a barrier for Yeovil’s hopes of promotion. In addition the deteriorating main stand was facing costly repairs and the location of the ground, with a dual carriageway running behind the Queen Street end since the late 1960’s, meant that developing the ground to meet Football League requirements would be costly if not impossible.

It was decided under Chairman Gerry Lock that if the Glovers were to be promoted, they would need to move. The sale of Huish for £2.8 million was agreed and construction at Houndstone began, but was delayed by a public enquiry that lasted from 1987 to 1989. Despite hoping to move in the summer of 1986, construction did not begin until 1990. In that time, escalating costs would see expenditure on the new facilities far outstrip income from the sale of the old ground. This left the club with a looming financial crisis which would not come to light until some time afterwards. Initial plans were for both terraces to be covered, but these had to be scrapped to reduce costs. In the end, the home terrace was eventually extended and covered in 2001, at a cost of around £1 million while the away terrace remains uncovered.

Crowds did not increase enormously after the move beyond the initial surge – the average league crowd in Yeovil’s last three seasons at Huish was around the 2300 mark, although this was an improvement over the severe doldrums of the early and mid 1980’s when it was nearer 1100. The average in the first season at Huish Park was 2639, followed by 2103 and back up to 2615 in 92/93. The only season that has seen average crowds below 2000 was during relegation in 1994/95, which could not be said for the old ground.

The extent of the financial problems did not come to light until after Gerry Lock, who had overseen the move, was removed as chairman in 1991. Under new Chairman Bryan Moore the extent of the financial situation became known, with debts of between £500,000 and £750,000. Assets had to be sold, with the irony that the construction of a stadium which would enable Yeovil to take part in the Football League had led to a team less able to achieve it as assets were sold and costs reduced. Collection buckets at Huish Park became a common sight from 1991. There was an unexpected temporary reprieve under player-manager Steve Rutter, as the Glovers finished 4th in the Conference in 1992/93 and secured a home FA Cup tie against Arsenal which arguably secured Yeovil’s future off the pitch. Indeed, although Conference finishes were mediocre apart from that season – 14th, 15th, 21st and then 22nd – it was FA Cup runs that kept us going, with bumper crowds against Walsall (1991), Fulham (1993), and old rivals Hereford (1992) which boosted the finances.

However on the pitch, the reprieve was temporary due to the financial situation and the Glovers were unable to compete as they finished 21st and then 22nd and were relegated to the Isthmian League in 1995. Bryan Moore stepped down as Chairman, and was replaced by John Fry, with Graham Roberts being appointed as the new manager after an unsuccessful second spell from Brian Hall, the man who had been in charge five years earlier when the club moved to Huish Park.

After two years in the Isthmian League, the good times eventually did return, as under Graham Roberts Yeovil won the Isthmian League with 101 points, enjoying an epic tussle with Enfield including the memorable 2-2 draw in front of 8,008, before beating Chertsey 4-1 on the last day to be presented with the championship trophy. On 16 August 1997, the Glovers celebrated their return to the Conference with a 2-1 win over Stevenage Borough with goals from Owen Pickard and Warren Patmore, as Yeovil’s drive towards the Football League began again.