Green and White Goals (Page 2)

Yeovil Town 4 Cheltenham 1 – Sunday 26th December 2004

Christmas is usually a time for festive local derbies, but for a long time it was also associated with one thing – the Boxing Day Curse. When I first started going to Huish Park in the 90’s, as far as I was concerned any Boxing Day fixture was a write-off, we never won. My first true exposure to the severity of The Curse came in 1999 with a long trip to Forest Green to see Yeovil get absolutely thumped 3-0 by the Conference new boys. The salt in the wounds was rubbed in by a goal from one David Norton, who had arrived at Yeovil in the summer, got injured, presumably decided he didn’t like the treatment room, and moved to Forest Green when he’d got fit, scoring against us in one of his first games for them.

It was at this point that I learned about The Curse, as Yeovil had not won on Boxing Day since a 2-0 win over Farnborough in 1987. That was during a stint in the Isthmian League (then named Vauxhall-Opel), and in 20-odd years in the Conference between 1979 and 2003, Yeovil only won twice on Boxing Day, both away – 1-0 at Forest Green in 2000 and 3-1 at Weymouth in 1983. In fact 1983/84 was a pretty good year as the win at Weymouth was followed with a 6-3 win on New Year’s Day, with two goals each for Brown, Finnigan and Doherty.

In what you could call the ‘Conference Years’ of 1979-2003, Yeovil played 21 times on Boxing Day and won only three, losing 12 times – that is relegation form in any division. By contrast, New Year’s Day form was generally much better, playing 19, winning 10 and losing only five. Not quite promotion form, but probably playoffs. Although in later years the Boxing Day fixtures tended to be away from home with the New Year’s Day game at Huish Park (apparently at the club’s request), it was not always the case that Yeovil lost away and won at home – against Weymouth in 1988/89, the Glovers lost the home match 3-2, but won away 2-0.

This seems to have been mostly a Conference problem, as in the Southern League days of the 1970’s Yeovil were unbeaten on Boxing Day and won seven out of nine fixtures between 1969 and 1978 (1979/80 being the first year of what is now called the National League).

Depending on where Christmas fell, there would occasionally be games on the 26th and the 27th. Not usually against the same team, as New Year’s Day tended to provide the return fixture, but in 1969/70 Yeovil managed to beat Bath twice in 24 hours, with a 2-0 win away on the 26th and 2-1 win at Huish on 27th! There were occasionally no league games on New Year’s Day due to the FA Cup, which historically had its Third Round day on the first Saturday in January, although these days it tends to be the second. The games against Cardiff in 1999 and twice against Arsenal all led to New Year’s Day league games being postponed.

With Weymouth and Bath both relegated, when Yeovil returned to the Conference in 1997 there was a bit of a shortage of ‘local’ rivals, the first season being played at Cheltenham some 80 miles away. From 1998/99 we got Forest Green for a few years, which is slightly closer but doesn’t feel like it, especially after a 3-0 defeat. The curse definitely felt real then, as even Gary Johnson’s all-conquering team of 2002/03 lost there, almost losing by two goals for the only time that season, until Skiverton’s injury time consolation made it 1-2. It was our only defeat in the second half of the season.

Into the League then and things didn’t start much better, with a dismal 2-1 defeat at home to struggling Kidderminster in 2003. In atrocious conditions which probably should have seen the game abandoned due to heavy water on the pitch, Kevin Gall did equalise to make it 1-1 but not only did the Glovers go on to lose 2-1, but also had to put up with John Williams gloating at the Yeovil fans, as he would do again when he dived for a penalty in the reverse fixture, but Chris Weale had the last laugh in that one as the Glovers won 1-0.

In 2004, and back to playing Cheltenham again, even though Yeovil were in very good form and closing in on leaders Scunthorpe, it was a case of ‘here we go again’ when the visitors took the lead through a deflected shot from Martin ‘Disco’ Devaney. It all turned out alright in the end though, as goals from Gall and Jevons put Yeovil ahead at the break and late goals from Davies and Terry gave the final score a comfortable look. This was a time when Yeovil were on fire, and it seemed like no matter how many goals the opposition scored, Gary Johnson’s men would just score more. Just a couple of days later, they would go in 2-0 down at Cambridge, but come back in the second half to win 5-3. It would be their best run of form of the League Two winning season, winning 13 out of 15 league and cup games (not including the Somerset Premier Cup) and losing just once, down to ten men at Lincoln. In that period, Yeovil  scored 41 goals (an average of almost three a game!) and conceded 19; conceding over one goal a game, but still winning almost all of them. If you wanted to see goals in 2004/05, you watched Yeovil.

In the Conference and below, the festive tradition is to play the same local team twice on New Year’s Day and Boxing Day. This is not the case in the League, as the Boxing Day game tended to be local-ish (Charlton, anyone?), but the NYD game could be anyone. There no longer seems to be any evidence of a curse since that defeat at home to Kidderminster, with Boxing Day (4 wins from 15) and New Year’s Day (3 wins from 11) being about the same. Of course much of these years were spent in League One where the games were much harder so we would expect to win less often than in the Conference. The 3-1 win away at Brighton in 2006, followed by another win at Crewe a few days later came as a pleasant surprise as Russell Slade’s men found form over Christmas and pushed for the playoffs.

The 4-0 win at home against Wycombe in 2009/10 was one of the most comfortable and enjoyable Boxing Days I’ve had at Huish Park, and there haven’t been a lot of good ones! After that though, we went on a dismal run of five Boxing Day defeats in a row including consecutive 3-0 defeats by Bournemouth and an injury time loss at home to Charlton. There were no wins at all until 2017, with a 2-0 win at Cheltenham being our last Boxing Day win in the Football League. The return to the Conference brought a 6-2 win over Torquay in 2019, followed by an absolute hammering at Plainmoor that we won’t talk about. 2020 didn’t happen so that’s fine. This would appear to mean that the 6-2 win over Torquay was our first win EVER at home in the Conference on Boxing Day.

So has the curse returned? Only time will tell. I won’t be putting money on Yeovil to win at Torquay that’s for sure, but New Year’s Day will probably be okay.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Paul Terry, Michael Rose, Terry Skiverton, Colin Miles, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Kevin Gall, Andrejs Stolcers (sub. Andy Lindegaard 80), Bartosz Tarachulski (sub Scott Guyett 88), Phil Jevons (sub. Arron Davies 68). Subs not used: Steve Collis, Adrian Caceres

Telford 0 Yeovil Town 5 – Sunday 13th October 2002

Results at the start of the 2002/03 season were a bit mixed, due mainly to the blow of losing Adam Stansfield to injury so early, and the unexpected problems Demba was having adjusting to the English game. Howard Forinton was re-signed on a short term contract, as Alford, Demba, Grant and Forinton were all rotated to varying degrees of success. Gary Johnson was possibly not happy with their fitness as in most games either one or both strikers were substituted. There were also the ongoing issues with formations and Tonkin, who missed a couple of games through injury and then went AWOL prior to his move to Stockport in September. After that things settled down a bit, as the absence of a specialist left back enabled Yeovil to stick with the 3-4-1-2 that Johnson seemed to prefer.

The away game at Telford in October came at a potentially difficult time – Skiverton was suspended, and Demba was also unavailable. Colin Pluck was sent off early on for a misunderstanding / violent conduct depending on which way you look at it, leaving O’Brien and Lockwood as the only remaining defenders. Michael McIndoe dropped into defence in what was initially a 4-3-2 with Crittenden at right back and Way-Johnson-Williams in midfield, but later became a 3-4-2 with Crittenden getting further forward. Telford were no mugs, they had just turned full time and were expecting to go places with striker David Brown and (very briefly) former Glover Martin Barlow in their ranks.

It speaks to the manager’s and the players’ confidence then that despite being reduced to ten men on 16 minutes, Yeovil did not defend for a point and continued to play two up front. It was Andy Lindegaard’s first outing as a striker partnering Forinton, a role he would continue to play until the arrival of Kevin Gall and did so well, scoring six goals. He could easily have dropped into midfield leaving Forinton up front on his own, but did not. The numbers were soon level, as Telford keeper Paul Edwards was sent off on 21 minutes for a professional foul on Forinton. While the penalty was correct the red card was probably harsh and a case of evening up the numbers. Playing ten a side definitely suited Yeovil a lot more because it opened up a space for their passing game and Telford were left chasing shadows. The Glovers didn’t even defend at 1-0 up, within minutes of taking the lead it was 3-0 with further goals from Lockwood and Lindegaard, with Lindegaard creating a fourth for Forinton just before half time. Yeovil controlled the second half and Williams made it 5-0 with a deserved goal right at the end.

The win kept Yeovil four points clear at the top of the Conference, ahead of a very challenging set of fixtures which would see them play promotion rivals Doncaster, Chester and Dagenham in consecutive games, followed by League One Cheltenham in the FA Cup.

What was remarkable about this performance was that it could easily have gone wrong – in very difficult windy and rainy conditions, missing their defensive rock and their top striker, then being reduced to ten men within the first few minutes would have undone a lot of teams. But they kept their heads, McIndoe played at left back / centre half as if he had played there all his life. Lockwood went off late on to be replaced by Chris Giles, leaving Roy O’Brien as the only recognised defender on the pitch and yet the Glovers remained comfortable. McIndoe was man of the match, for the discipline with which he played out of position, with Williams running the show in midfield and Lindegaard creating all kinds of problems in his new role up front. That they not only had come through such a challenging fixture but won comfortably 5-0, indicated that this was a special group of players, who could deal with injuries, suspensions and the absence of a consistent striker and still come out on top.

Having just beaten Woking 4-0 and Southport 6-0, Gary Johnson’s young team were obviously on a roll and full of confidence. Despite the setback of conceding an injury time equaliser at Burton in midweek and the absence of their captain and top striker, they showed that they were able to adapt and not lose discipline, which is remarkable for such a young side – the midfield which played in most games was aged 21, 22, 23, 22 and 22. There was no old warhorse, the midfield general was Darren Way who was 22 and had not played a first team game for anyone before signing for Yeovil; even Captain Skivo was out for this game. The average age of the team against Telford was 23.6, and it was only that high because 33-year old Jon Sheffield had a stint in goal following Chris Weale’s red card against Northwich. Had Weale been in goal, the age would have been 22.5. The classic 2002/03 starting XI that we can probably all name averaged 22.3; the age of the whole squad was slightly higher (23.5) due to the presence of players such as Sheffield, Alford and Grant who were on the fringes of the team, indeed by the end of the season Sheffield was third choice behind Collis and Alford had moved on. Only Grant retained his place on the bench.

By comparison, the much-talked about young Yeovil side of 2021/22 averages around 24, both the starting XI and the squad as a whole. If Reid and Little play (both injured at time of writing), that average jumps up to almost 26, which hopefully puts the teams of 2002/03 and 2000/01 (First XI 22.5, squad 21.6) into some perspective. We really did achieve remarkable things with very young players.

One tried and tested way to build a Conference winning team is built around a few experienced ex-Football League pros towards the end of their career, a few up and coming youngsters and the cream of non-League signed from other clubs. Yeovil have historically avoided this route mostly for financial reasons, as even when we won the Conference we were not able to throw money around the way that Doncaster and Chester did. Gary Johnson, and before him David Webb, had to be a lot more canny in developing players who had either come through the youth system or been discarded by other clubs. Because those players won the Conference so comfortably and went on to become club legends established in the Football League up to Championship level with Yeovil and other clubs, it is sometimes easy to forget just how young that team was and how many were untested before they came to Huish Park. For many, Yeovil represented their first taste of first team football, so it’s worth looking at each played in that squad. These are the sixteen who made the most appearances in 2002/03, and their age at the start of the 2002/03 season.

1. Chris Weale (20) – Came through the youth team, made debut aged 18
2. Adam Lockwood (20) – Signed from Reading’s reserves, aged 19
3. Colin Miles (then Pluck, 23) – Had been around a few non-league clubs but not settled anywhere before signing for Yeovil at 22
4. Terry Skiverton (25) – Was established as one of the Conference’s best defenders for Welling, signing for Yeovil at 23
5. Darren Way (22) – Released from Norwich reserves, signed for Yeovil aged 20
6. Lee Johnson (21) – Released by Brentford after no appearances, signed for Yeovil aged 20
7. Nick Crittenden (23) – Released by Chelsea, signed by Yeovil aged 21
8. Michael McIndoe (22) – Signed for £25,000 from Hereford, aged 21
9. Gavin Williams (22) – Signed for £22,500 from Hereford aged 21
10. Kirk Jackson (26) – Signed for £20,000 from Stevenage aged 26
11. Kevin Gall (20) – Free transfer from Bristol Rovers aged 20
12. Roy O’Brien (27) – Signed from Dorchester aged 25
13. Abdou El Kholti (21) – Signed as a free agent, aged 21
14. Andy Lindegaard (21) – Youth team product, first appearance aged 19
15. Abdoulai Demba (25) – Signed from KV Oostende, aged 25
16. Kim Grant (29) – Ex-Charlton and Millwall, signed aged 29

Kim Grant was pretty much the only player with significant League experience, and he spent most of the season on the bench. Skiverton had definitely impressed a lot of people at Welling and was a great signing by Colin Lippiatt. Kirk Jackson was a very good Conference striker, fortunately the only person who didn’t seem to think so was the Stevenage manager, as he was out of favour there when we signed him for £20,000. The only players we really stole from a fellow Conference club were McIndoe and Williams both from Hereford, which is hilarious. Why on earth they let us have two of their best players so cheap, is unclear. They did however learn their lesson and resist our approaches for Paul Parry a couple of years later.

What Gary Johnson did – and to be fair, David Webb before him – was take a team without any experienced heads, containing many players who either had little experience or had not settled anywhere else, and moulded them into a team who would all fight for each other and for the manager. It takes more to win titles than just having the best players, they have to be able to overcome challenges and setbacks, and this team showed from early on that they were able to do that.

Team that day: 13. Jon Sheffield, 2. Adam Lockwood (sub. Chris Giles, 77), 14. Roy O’Brien, 5. Colin Pluck, 6. Darren Way (sub. El Kholti, 46), 8. Lee Johnson, 10. Nick Crittenden, 11. Michael McIndoe, 20. Gavin Williams, 23. Howard Forinton (sub Carl Alford, 71), 16. Andy Lindegaard. Subs not used: Chris Weale, Stephen Reed.

Bristol Rovers 0 Yeovil Town 1 – Saturday 13th December 2003

I grew up in an era when Yeovil didn’t really have any derbies. Bath and Weymouth were in lower divisions and had been for many years. We would encounter them occasionally in cup competitions, but those generally went our way and it was hard to feel much for them having never seen us play at the same level or suffer one of our many historical Boxing Day defeats to them. When I first started going to Huish Park in the 90’s we would get Forest Green or occasionally Cheltenham for our ‘festive’ fixtures, and it’s not really the same as a proper derby. The closest to that feeling I got was for Hereford, who had been Southern League rivals in the early 70’s (and promoted off the back of one decent cup result rather than league performances, let’s not forget that) but were relegated back to the Conference the same year that we were promoted, in 1997. That was the first year I saw an extreme police presence at Huish Park, helicopters circling the stadium and lots of gesturing from 14 year old lads outside the away end. We tended to beat them as well so that was always fun.

Everything changed with promotion in 2003, with the prospect of playing lots of other south west clubs – Plymouth, Swindon, Bournemouth, Torquay and of course the two Bristol clubs. Exeter suffered a very badly timed relegation so we would have to wait a few more years to play them. Most of these were fairly good-natured in my experience, but the real needle was saved for the Bristol clubs, and in particular Bristol Rovers. I don’t think there was any real hatred with most of those clubs because we didn’t have any history with them, but with Rovers it was different. Of course, we would play Bristol City a couple of years later and Gary Johnson would end up leaving us for The Big Club Up The Road (TM), coming back for a few former Yeovil players at the end of the season. Certainly there was no love lost when he left us for them in 2005, the 2-1 win over them which took us up to 2nd in League One with two late goals was particularly enjoyable, and the roar which greeted Wayne Gray’s second was probably the loudest noise I have heard at Huish Park to date.

However there could be a really unpleasant atmosphere when we played Bristol Rovers, especially in those first couple of seasons. We did play them in the LDV Trophy in 2001, when the top Conference sides were ‘invited’ to take part in the Football League Trophy. We took around 1100 fans, they stuck us in a corner, and we played fairly well to earn a 1-1 draw, with McIndoe scoring our goal but then missing a penalty in the resultant shoot-out. That gave us our first taste of the delights of the Memorial Stadium but it was dialled up to 11 the following season. At the Memorial Stadium you get shoved into a corner terrace with one of the worst views in English football (people complain about our terrace but at least you can see from it), if you’re not lucky enough to get one of the ’temporary’ seats. The Mem is a bit of a white elephant of a stadium as all of the various stands are different heights and widths and don’t run the full length of the pitch so you have a bit of green plastic seating here, half a terrace there. The main stand is sufficiently high that home fans can lob pasties and other projectiles at away fans – which I am sure they do not do and have never done. Certainly we’ve only ever had a warm welcome when we have been there, with dozens of friendly police officers escorting us to our vehicles, even if (as in our case) our vehicle was nowhere near the area they were escorting us to. It’s a charming ground. It used to be owned by the rugby club who no longer play there having moved to Ashton Gate (that must have stung), and although there has been talk of a new stadium for many years, nothing has materialised yet.

When we first played Rovers in the league they were at a low point. They finished 23rd in League Two in 2001/02, the last year that only one club went down. They only avoided relegation in 2002/03 with a late run of ten points in the last four games. So in 2003 they probably saw us arrogant upstarts, the annoying little brothers who they could previously patronise with a pat on the head, but they didn’t like it when we started playing at the same level as them, and turned out to be better. We won home and away in 2003/04 which I am sure only annoyed them more.

There was some additional needle in the dugout – in 2003, Rovers were managed by the very old school Ray Graydon, who was sacked shortly afterwards and replaced with a caretaker manager until the appointment of Ian Atkins in 2004. This was when the bad blood was probably at its height as there was no love lost at all between Atkins and Gary Johnson which stemmed from the time that Atkins was sacked at Cambridge to be replaced by Johnson in the mid-90’s. The two are about as opposite in their approach to football as it is possible to get – Johnson preferring to play attacking football on the ground, while Atkins would rather defend for 90 minutes and hoof it up to a big man. For a long time he was the manager clubs called when they were trying to battle out of relegation, like a lower league Neil Warnock. The Rovers fans already didn’t like us before Atkins was appointed, but he made sure to turn resentment up by a few degrees, leading to the night at the Mem in 2004 when the home side had two players sent off (and arguably should have been more) in a 2-2 draw. We won’t dwell on how that game ended as a draw, but instead enjoy this sublime goal from Gavin Williams. The return fixture was more one-sided, as Yeovil ran out 4-2 winners on their way to the League Two title. There were usually plenty of goals and red cards when the two teams played.

Speaking of sublime goals, there was just the one goal and one red card in the December 2003 meeting, with both going to Yeovil. In an admittedly fairly low quality game, a screamer from outside the penalty area from Nick Crittenden just before half time settled the match and sent Yeovil up to third. The Glovers were on a good run of 10 wins in 13 matches, including an FA Cup win against Barnet which set up a third round tie at home to Liverpool. It was certainly a good time to be a Yeovil fan and that might have been partly why Rovers didn’t like us very much, the little club was upstaging them. Rovers were a bit toothless, and never really threatened even after Jake Edwards was sent off for very foolishly retaliating to being stamped on by Ijah Anderson. Edwards had only just come on as a substitute, and would rule himself out of the upcoming match against Liverpool through suspension. Despite having a man advantage for almost 25 minutes, the home side didn’t do much with it and Yeovil came home with the points. Match-winner Crittenden did not play a huge amount in what would be his last season at the club, as Paul Terry tended to play on the right of midfield, but on this occasion was needed in the centre while Way was injured. Crittenden scored one other league goal that season, in the 2-1 defeat against Leyton Orient.

We didn’t like Bristol City either and I’m sure they didn’t like us, especially in 2006/07 when as it turned out we were both going for promotion from League One. But, what with them being TBCUTR (TM), perhaps we knew we probably wouldn’t be playing them that often and Rovers were the team we could really get in the mire with. Top end of League Two, bottom end of League One, was where we spent a number of seasons and so did they, as we often found ourselves at a similar level. Indeed, when we got to the Playoff Final in 2007, I arrived in London at the same time as loads of Bristol Rovers fans as I went up for the weekend and their final against Shrewsbury was the day before ours against Blackpool. They won, which meant we would play them in League One from 07/08 until 10/11 when they were relegated again. These games tended to be less heated, and the most memorable was perhaps the late comeback to win 2-1 in 2009 thanks to Terrell Forbes’ first ever league goal. The 2-2 draw at Huish Park the previous season was also a very enjoyable game. Rovers ended up being relegated to the Conference in 2014, where they would bounce back at the first attempt, via the playoffs. So in 2015/16 the two clubs met again, but unfortunately just in passing as Rovers won both games and were promoted that season. In 2020/21 they were relegated back to League Two so who knows we may play them again soon, and I hope we get to play them while Joey Barton is still in charge it is bound to be eventful.

Goodnight Irene is a dirge though, isn’t it? How that gets anyone going for a football match is beyond me. When I first heard it at the Mem I nearly fell asleep, I thought it was being played at half speed.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Colin Pluck, Terry Skiverton, Hugo Rodrigues, Paul Terry, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden, Gavin Williams, Kirk Jackson (sub. Jake Edwards 59), Kevin Gall (sub. Adam Stansfield 79). Unused sub: Steve Collis, Jamie Gosling, Lee Elam.

Yeovil Town 3 Southend United 1 – Saturday 20th November 2004

In our first couple of seasons in the league, Yeovil had some big games against Southend. In the first league meeting of the two teams in November 2003, it was the Lee Johnson show as the midfield maestro scored two goals and three assists in a 4-0 win. The return fixture was the penultimate away game of the season, when two goals from Dani Rodrigues kept Yeovil in the play-off race. In May 2005 of course, the two sides would meet in a top of the table clash with just two games to go, which will no doubt feature in a future throwback.

Southend’s visit to Huish Park in November 2004 was a critical time for both clubs. After a mixed start, Yeovil had briefly gone top of League Two with a 2-1 win away at Shrewsbury in September. However what followed was a run of just two points from five games, including defeat at Scunthorpe and the memorable night which saw a 2-0 lead given away against nine-man Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium. Dropping down to 8th, it was not clear whether the new signings of Jevons, Tarachulslki, Stolcers, Caceres and Rose would be enough to mount a serious title challenge.

In the opposition corner were Southend, who had started slowly after a disappointing season in 2003/04, only just avoiding relegation. With only two points from the first five games, from September onwards their form began to improve and by the time the two teams met they were into the playoff places, with four wins from their last six games. The Shrimpers had been boosted by the arrival of Freddy Eastwood in October, who would go on to score 24 goals in the season.

With the visit of potential promotion challengers in good form, it was a test of Yeovil’s mettle in front of just under 6,000 fans. The Glovers created several chances in the first half with Jevons hitting the bar, and the striker went one better just before half time, giving Yeovil the lead with a deft header from a Gavin Williams cross. Southend rallied in the second half and scored an almost identical equaliser, with former Bristol Rovers defender Adam Barrett heading in a free kick from captain Kevin Maher.

The game remained even before turning in Yeovil’s favour with just a few minutes to go. Gavin Williams, in one of his last games for the club before his move to West Ham, was pulled back in midfield by Maher, who was shown a very soft second yellow and was dismissed on 82 minutes. The resultant free kick was floated in by Lee Johnson and stabbed home by Scott Guyett for his first goal for the club. A minute after the restart Kevin Gall ran almost the entire length of the pitch with the ball and crossed for Bartosz Tarachulski to convert a diving header and give the scoreline a more comfortable look. A tough game against quality opponents who would be up there come the end of the season, had seen Yeovil come out on top.

After an indifferent run of form had seen the Glovers drop down to 8th, the Southend game perhaps gave a boost to the team’s confidence and signalled something of a return to form, as the win took them up to third in the table and began a run of 11 wins in 12 league and cup games over the festive period, which would take them to the top of the League Two table ahead of Scunthorpe early in the New Year of 2005. Southend would lead the table late in the season and also get to the final of the LDV Trophy at the Millennium Stadium. They were eventually promoted via the playoffs.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Paul Terry (sub. Andy Lindegaard, 77), Michael Rose, Scott Guyett, Colin Miles, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Gavin Williams, Andrejs Stolcers (sub. Kevin Gall, 77), Bartosz Tarachulski, Phil Jevons. Subs not used: Steve Collis, Roy O’Brien, Adrian Caceres

Yeovil Town 2 Nuneaton Borough 1 – Saturday 19th January 2002

From 2000-2002, Yeovil often found themselves battling the Huish Park pitch as much as they did the opposition. It was fine in the early part of 2000/01 when the Glovers won their first 11 league games in a row, but a wet winter led to several postponements and the pitch began to get boggy. In the latter stages of the season, a very large amount of sand was deposited onto the pitch to prevent it from cutting it up, turning it from a ploughed field into more of a beach. This was slightly embarrassing for the club as in March 2001, Huish Park hosted the first ever Conference match on Sky, as Yeovil despatched Hayes 3-0 in what would turn out to be one of only three home wins the Glovers would manage after New Year’s Day. It was impossible for the commentary team not to notice the state of the pitch which must have given a terrible impression of the standard of facilities in the Conference in general, and Yeovil in particular. As it happened, there was also scaffolding over the closed terrace as the (then) Westland Terrace roof was under construction, so Huish Park resembled both a beach and a building site.

Although there are many reasons why the team struggled for results after New Year 2001, the pitch could not possibly have helped. The two players who suffered most from loss of form were Ben Smith and Barrington Belgrave, whose games relied on keeping the ball on the ground and running at opposition. Belgrave had to play on as there were no replacements, scoring only one goal between Christmas and the end of the season. Smith was replaced by Marcus Jones, who lacked the same creativity and the goals began to dry up.

The state of the surface arguably got worse during the following season, which saw another very wet winter. Attempts to put in additional drainage wee not successful, as the pitch became bumpy and marked with long tracks where attempts to install new drains had failed. It was also very boggy in winter, as this game against Nuneaton shows – a lot of home games were played in these kind of conditions. It certainly took time for Gary Johnson to get a new squad playing the way he wanted them to, and the first season was often characterised by defensive mistakes and a difficulty in breaking down opposition when Yeovil had a lot of possession (solution: bring in Gavin Williams). However there was also a very marked difference in home and away form – the Glovers won 13 and lost only 2 away, which stands as a Conference record for fewest number of away defeats. Home however was often a struggle, with eight defeats and only six wins at home in the league all season, and there were fewer more goals conceded at home (30) than away (23). We did not keep a single clean sheet at home until the last week of the season, 0-0 against Southport and 2-0 against relegated Dover. Every other home win was 2-1 – Hayes, Leigh, Stevenage, Hereford and Nuneaton, so there were no easy games.

Once again, although the pitch was not the sole cause of poor home form in 2001/02 (away pitches were often rubbish as well), it could not have helped. Gary Johnson wanted to play flowing, attacking football and the pitch just made it impossible. However, because every home point had to be hard fought, it appeared to bring the players together and there was an obvious bond between them. The harder the games got, the more the players fought for each other. This can be seen in the obvious bond between Stansfield and McIndoe in this clip, with their amusing ‘hand grenade’ celebration for the first goal and the way Stansfield selflessly sets up McIndoe for the second.

There were a lot of obstacles to overcome in that season – injuries to key players like Skiverton, Way and Pluck, as shortages in both defence and midfield led to an all hands to the pump attitude. Steve Thompson, having not started for the first team in over two years, came out of retirement at the grand old age of 39 to muck in and actually play bloody well, belying his years to score against his former club Woking and getting three other assists including one for Stansfield in this game. McIndoe occasionally played in central midfield, and was arguably even better than he was on the wing, with his fierce new No. 1 haircut. A 19-year old loanee called Adam Lockwood came in as a desperately needed right back and made the position his own. Adam Stansfield came in from Elmore and never stopped running. Tom White played on through personal tragedy, and was immense. There were no passengers, everyone contributed. The never say die attitude so memorably characterised by the 5-4 win at Doncaster in the FA Trophy (itself only earned by a late Stansfield equaliser in the first game), resulted in a number of late goals which won points – late equalisers against Morecambe (1-1), Scarborough (2-2, from 2-0 down), Doncaster (1-1, twice), leaders Dagenham (3-3), and winners against Hereford, Leigh from 1-0 down, and here against Nuneaton (79th and 88th minutes). It could have been more, as on one memorable occasion, McIndoe scored an 87th minute equaliser against Doncaster and could have got a winner but his shot beat the keeper and literally got stuck in the mud on the goal line, allowing a defender to get back and clear. There were no easy games that season, except maybe the very last one at home to relegated Dover.

There was a definite fight, determination and togetherness in the 2001/02 team under often difficult circumstances, and they were rewarded with the FA Trophy win at Villa Park in May. Having played all season on an impossible pitch, it was with a sense of real anticipation and excitement that the Glovers returned to Huish Park against Woking in September 2002, after the pitch had been relaid over the summer. The return was triumphant, with the game won 4-0 and the rest is history, as the Glovers’ home form for the rest of the season read Played 16, Won 12, Drawn 4 Lost 0. Scored 42 Conceded 8. A marked difference from the previous season in every way imaginable.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Colin Pluck (sub. Tom White 53), Anthony Tonkin, Steve Thompson, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden, Michael McIndoe McIndoe, Kim Grant (sub Andy Turner 76), Carl Alford (sub Chris Giles, 61), Adam Stansfield. Subs not used: Steve Collis, Terry Skiverton

Rushden and Diamonds 1 Yeovil Town 2 – Saturday 4th November 2000

Going into the 2000/01 season, Yeovil were not anyone’s tip for promotion from the Conference, and even their 10-1 title odds seemed a bit generous. Big-spending Rushden, also known as Ca$hden and Diamonds, or Rushden Anne Diamonds, poor little orphan Annies for those using internet forums around that time, were 11-8 favourites. Following the merger of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds by Dr Marten’s owner Max Griggs in 1992, they had taken the next few years to spend their way through the lower reaches of the Southern League whilst building what was admittedly a very tidy stadium at Nene Park. Despite all the money they had spent, full-time Rushden had great problems in getting over the finish line against the mostly part-time Conference teams, losing out to Halifax in 1998, Cheltenham in 1999, and Kidderminster in 2000. When Yeovil played Rushden at Nene Park in March 2000, they were so confident that their fans sang ‘We’ll never play you again’, which made Matt Hayfield’s 86th minute equaliser and their subsequent collapse all the more amusing. To be fair, they were almost right.

That it took four attempts with twice as much money as anyone else to get promoted gives some indication that manager Brian Talbot was perhaps not the tactical genius he might like to think. His general approach was to buy up anyone who had played for Northampton, plus whoever was the best player in the Conference teams who beat them. On the eve of the 2000/01 season, he signed strikers Justin Jackson from Morecambe for £180,000 and Duane Darby from Notts County for £120,000. Even today that is a lot for the Conference, but 20 years ago it was silly money. Yeovil have been in the Championship and still never spent close to that on a player. Transfer fees in the Conference are generally not that common, as players move when they are either not wanted somewhere or are at the end of their contract. A club might splash out on one or two signings that they really need, or if a player is excelling at a smaller club and one of the big boys want him (like when we signed McIndoe and Williams from minnows Hereford for example), but that was the exception rather than the rule. Rushden could have put out a team entirely made up of players they paid substantial transfer fees for, and that team would have cost around £750,000. That they would spend £120,000 on a goalkeeper from Northampton’s reserves who couldn’t even get a game there, and that keeper would turn out to be Billy Turley, says all you need to know. Not only did they pay over the odds, but they paid large fees for players they probably could have got for nothing. It’s difficult to say how big their squad was as they had so many players on their books who never actually got into the first team, but it was at least 30.

In those days, most Conference teams were part-time, with the full-time ones generally being those who had just been relegated from the league and were looking to go straight back up (and almost invariably, didn’t). Yeovil had just turned full-time at the end of the 1999/2000 season but done it on a budget, and were forced to release players who would have lost money by turning full-time with them. Jamie Pitman, Matt Hale, and a number of potential signings from lower in the non-league pyramid refused full-time contracts because Yeovil were not offering enough money; we were not able to attract players we wanted from Dorchester. Having released a number of players at the end of the season in order to go full-time, Yeovil’s squad came together at the last minute and even when it did so, was incredibly small. New signings Nick Crittenden and Darren Way were signed a matter of days before the first game of the season. Yeovil went into the 2000/01 season with a squad of exactly 18 players, including products of the youth team with no first team experience. For the first few months of the season, the first team picked itself – Pennock, Piper, Tonkin, Skiverton, White, Way, Smith, Crittenden, Lindegaard, Patmore and Belgrave. Sometimes James Bent played instead of Lindegaard. The bench was, to put it very mildly, thin. Roy O’Brien and Paul Steele were very capable deputies at midfield / centre half respectively, and Bent / Lindegaard would alternate. Glenn Poole would go on to be successful left winger later in his career, but at 19 could not get into the Yeovil squad. Bradley Peters (19) and Gareth Risbridger (18) were the other two, with an 18-year old Chris Weale the reserve keeper.

Given that the first team picked itself, you can confidently say that at the start of the season, the average age of the first team was 22.5. There was a spine of experienced players in Pennock, Skiverton and Patmore, but even Skiverton was only 25. There was not a single player in the entire squad over 30, and only two over 25. The remaining seven squad members, with an average age of exactly 20, brought the average age of the entire squad down to 21.5. Because that team was so good, it is easy to forget how young they were – Belgrave and Lindegaard were both 19 at the start of the season, and Way, Tonkin and Bent were all 20. Even Ben Smith, who had been at Yeovil for almost three years, was only 21. Most of Yeovil’s players had been released from the youth teams of League clubs, or were picked up from local non-league football, such as Paul Steele from Chippenham, or Anthony Tonkin from Falmouth. The only player to have commanded a fee was Steele, for whom we paid the princely sum of £4,000. Michael McIndoe would join later in the season from Hereford for £20,000, although funds for other players needed to strengthen the squad were denied.

By contrast, Rushden’s squad of 30 had an average age of 25.5, and mostly included older players with a great deal of League experience, or the pick of non-league like Mustafa, Brady, Underwood and Jackson. Captain Ray Warburton had played 200 times for Northampton, and had just played in the League One playoff final for them in 1998 before being persuaded to drop two divisions to play for Rushden. Managing Rushden must have been easy, Talbot had his pick of players because money was no object. It was not uncommon for them to sign a player for a big fee, dump him in the reserves for two years and then move him on, just as they did when they poached Matt Stowell from under Yeovil’s nose in 1999, a move which seemed almost done out of spite as he almost never played for them.

A lot is made of age and experience in football, and some might say that Yeovil ‘bottled it’ in 2001, but another way to look at it is that a squad of 18 kids took a squad of 30 full time professionals right down to the wire, and over a season almost beat them. At that point, 2nd in the Conference represented Yeovil’s best ever season. Ultimately what it came down to was that when Yeovil players experienced loss of form or injury ins the second half of the season, there was no-one to replace them. Warren Patmore had to play on through a hamstring injury because there was simply no-one in reserve. Rushden experienced no significant injury problems, and even if they had, they had an army of experienced players in reserve. In Darby and Jackson, they had two very expensive, in-form strikers at the peak of their careers. If one of them had got injured, they had at least five other strikers in reserve (I count Sigere, Collins, Town, Sale and Essendoh). There were probably players in their squad who never even made the bench who would have got into Yeovil’s our first XI.

Despite all of this, we actually had quite a good record against them, and were unbeaten in the Conference at Nene Park. A memorable 5-1 win at Huish Park in November 1999 was a definite highlight.

The gulf in resources between the two teams was almost comical, and yet we gave them a run for their money. Rushden were unbeaten for the first 12 games of the season, but when they stumbled in October and November, Yeovil were able to capitalise. Yeovil were one point ahead at the top of the table when the two teams met at Nene Park on 4th November 2000. Although still very much the underdogs, Yeovil were in good form, unbeaten in 11 league and cup games and with no injury worries, had their best eleven available. We had lost manager Dave Webb when he suddenly walked out on the club for Southend in September, but it should be remembered that the Glovers were not top at the time, we actually went top with a 4-0 win against Dover with Steve Thompson in temporary charge, and most of the best results that season came under the much-maligned Colin Addision. The win at Rushden, the cup wins against Colchester and Blackpool and almost four months at the top of the Conference, all under Addison.

Brian Talbot had talked up the game by disrespecting his opponents in the media which in his usual brash style served to motivate the players and fans. Initially handed around 800 tickets which sold out almost immediately, Yeovil’s allocation was increased to 1200 as the Rushden areas of the 6,400-capacity stadium did not sell out. One of the big benefits of Nene Park is that away fans are given the best stand and can create a great deal of noise with great acoustics of the Airwair stand. It certainly is an impressive ground for away fans and I understand the famed Diamond Burgers were also very good.

In fairness, it was a tight game of few clear chances. Yeovil took the lead when Patmore played a delicate chip over the advancing Turley in front of the away end. As expected Rushden came back strongly in the second half and equalised when Justin Jackson seized on the rebound of a shot from Sigere that was saved by Pennock. Even though the travelling fans would have been more than happy with a draw that would keep them top of the Conference, there was a dramatic end to the match as substitute Jon Brady punched clear a header from Skiverton which would certainly have gone in. Brady was sent off, and it was left to Darren Way to convert the penalty in front of the home end which he did, to send the travelling fans into dreamland. A flare went up in the away end as Yeovil fans went delirious. I don’t think anyone had really expected us to go away to Rushden and actually win there, with all the resources they had they should have been miles ahead, although to be fair Yeovil had slightly the better chances and had more than one opportunity to extend the lead in the dying minutes.

Rushden’s form stuttered after the game, as Turley managed to get himself sent off twice in consecutive matches. Yeovil’s lead stretched briefly to seven points, but postponed fixtures and injuries after Christmas caught up with them and Rushden were eventually champions. Promoted to the League in 2001, they got to the playoff final in 2002, and were promoted to League One in 2003 but only spent one season there as Dr Marten’s ran into financial trouble and Max Griggs pulled his money out. With Daddy Warbucks’ millions no longer available, Rushden plummeted when they had to compete on a level playing field with everyone else. The two teams passed each other in 2004/05, as an ascendant Yeovil – including some of the same players, such as Skiverton, Way and Weale – brushed Rushden aside with ease at Huish Park. There was a huge gulf in the teams again, but this time it was in the opposite direction. Yeovil were promoted to League One, and although Rushden narrowly avoided relegation that season, they were relegated back to the Conference in 2006. For a few years they were a mid-table Conference side, experiencing a brief renaissance when managed Justin Edinburgh took them to a 4th placed finish in 2010. However their decline continued and they were expelled from the Conference in 2011 due to their financial situation. A winding up order was issued by HMRC and Rushden were liquidated over debts of £750,000, coincidentally the same amount as it had cost them in transfer fees to assemble their 2000/01 squad.

A phoenix club was created, and AFC Rushden currently play in the Southern League Premier Division (Central), a feeder league to the Conference South, so in theory two promotions away from playing Yeovil again. They do not currently have their own ground, having shared with several other local clubs since their inception in 2011.

The saddest part of this story is probably that Nene Park is no more. Following Rushden’s demise it was taken over by former rivals Kettering, who were unable to remain there due to the cost of maintaining the ground while the Poppies themselves were in financial difficulty after being relegated to the Southern Premier. The stadium lay empty for several years before being demolished in 2017, the same year that Kettering’s Rockingham Road was also demolished (although Kettering Town still exist). Both former stadiums are now retail parks.

Team that day: Tony Pennock, David Piper, Anthony Tonkin, Terry Skiverton, Tom White, Darren Way, Ben Smith, Nick Crittenden, Andy Lindegaard (sub. Roy O’Brien), Warren Patmore, Barrington Belgrave. Subs not used: James Bent, Glenn Poole, Steve Thompson, Chris Weale.

Bournemouth 0 Yeovil Town 2 –Tuesday 20th February 2007

With reputedly the lowest playing budget in League One, Yeovil’s run to the playoff final in 2006/07 arguably came as a surprise to everyone, including this supporter who was fully expecting a relegation battle under new manager Russell Slade. The Glovers’ budget had been reduced during the 2005/06 season following restructuring at board level, resulting in the departure of key players such as Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Phil Jevons and Chris Weale. Having only narrowly avoided relegation even with those players, the future looked bleak.

However, Russell Slade brought discipline, solidity and a counter-attacking game which surprised the opposition, particularly in the first half of the season. After a moderate start, the Glovers’ form was boosted significantly by the arrival of Marcus Stewart from Bristol City, initially on loan and later on a permanent basis. In his first 11 games, Stewart scored five goals and four assists. Four of those goals came in 1-1 draws which would have been defeats without him, the other a spectacular goal from distance which opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over Brighton. He was often deployed up front in a 4-5-1, with Arron Davies, Lee Morris and/or Wayne Gray as the wide supporting attackers. This run of form took Yeovil from 7th in the table up to 2nd following the memorable 2-1 win over Bristol City in November, and suddenly Yeovil had to be talked about as promotion contenders along with City, Nottingham Forest and the less fancied but more consistent Scunthorpe.

Having made significant progress with the signing of Stewart, the Glovers faced a problem when his loan spell ran out at the end of November. He could potentially sign permanently in the transfer window, but that would not be until at least 1st January, leaving Yeovil short for six games over the critical Christmas period, if not more.

Acting quickly, Slade signed young striker Leon Best on loan from Championship club Southampton until the expected return of Stewart in January. Best had come through the Saints’ youth ranks, and been on loan several times from his parent club before Yeovil, including Bournemouth at the start of the 2006/07 season where he scored three goals.

Only turning 20 shortly before his arrival at Yeovil, Best was an immediate hit, scoring on his first start against Rotherham in a 3-2 defeat. He struck up a very fruitful partnership with Lee Morris in Stewart’s absence – Morris scored the other against Rotherham, and in their first seven games together he and Best scored ten goals and five assists between them. Yeovil went on a run of 14 points in six games over Christmas, including memorable away wins at Brighton and Crewe, and a demolition of Huddersfield live on television on 5th January. The Glovers had gone on a very difficult run following the win over City that had propelled them up to 2nd and looked to have lost momentum dropping down to 8th in the table, but were galvanised by the arrival of Best and some of their best performances of the season came in the middle third when he was at the club. With two holding midfielders and often one up front, Russell Slade’s side were very difficult to break down and if they scored first it was very rare the opposition got back into it, but equally if they conceded first they often found it hard to break down stubborn defences and it was usually a case of ‘first goal wins’. Fortunately, Yeovil had become very good at getting the first goal. With Best arriving however, the goal threat increased and Yeovil scored a lot more freely, which also marked a change in formation following a serious injury to Paul Terry which meant a switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2. In the rest of the regular league season, Yeovil only scored three times once, in the 3-2 win at Huddersfield. With Best in the team, they did it four times.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and even though he had been brought in just to tide us over until the return of Marcus Stewart, by the time Leon Best left the club he had scored 10 goals in 15 games and helped propel Yeovil back up to 2nd. In the end many fans were sad to see him go and perhaps feared that without him, we would lose momentum again and our promotion challenge would fade. Despite five defeats in the final stretch however, the Glovers just managed to get enough wins at crucial times to maintain a playoff challenge and finish strongly in 5th, facing Nottingham Forest in the playoffs.

Best’s last game for Yeovil was away at his previous club Bournemouth, where an incredible 1600 Glovers fans travelled for a Tuesday night match against a team who weren’t even in the promotion race. In a game of many chances and some decent saves from Steve Mildenhall, Leon signed off his loan spell with a late goal to secure a 2-0 win.

He would return to Southampton and play a part in their run-in, scoring four goals and playing in the Championship playoffs. At the end of the season, he left Southampton for Coventry, also in the Championship. Although he was never as prolific in his later career as he was for Yeovil, he was sold for large transfer fees several times and ultimately played in the Premier League for Newcastle from 2010-12, where he was not first choice but did score ten Premier League goals, becoming one of the first Yeovil players of the modern era to play in the top flight (now there are too many to count of course, thanks mostly to the loan system). He was sold to Coventry for £650,000, Newcastle for £1.5 million, and Blackburn for £3 million. He ended his career with spells at Rotherham, Ipswich and Charlton, and played most of his career at Championship or Premier League level.

Team that day: Steve Mildenhall, Nathan Jones, Terrell Forbes, Terry Skiverton, Scott Guyett, Jean-Paul Kalala, Nicky Law, Chris Cohen, Arron Davies (sub. Peter Sweeney, 74), Leon Best, Wayne Gray. Subs not used: Anthony Tonkin, Anthony Barry, Martin Brittain, Marcus Stewart


Blackpool 0 Yeovil Town 1 – Sunday 10th December 2000

Tony Pennock will be fondly remembered by many Yeovil fans as the long-standing goalkeeper who was ever-present through years of recovery from Isthmian League winners, to consolidation in the Conference and finally Conference title challengers. Tony’s time was certainly one of great change, and he played for five different managers in two divisions. The team that he ended his time at the club with, narrowly missing out on promotion to the Football League under Colin Addison in 2001, was very different to the one Graham Roberts put together to challenge for honours in the Isthmian League (then sponsored by the unfortunately named ICIS) in 1995.

During Tony’s time, Yeovil missed out on promotion to the Conference in 1995/96, and then won the Isthmian League with 101 points following an epic battle with Enfield the following year. Yeovil became established under Graham Roberts, and then moved towards the top end of the Conference under Colin Lippiatt, enjoying an FA Cup run to the Third Round in 1998/1999. Unfortunately, Tony’s mistake in extra time of the replay in rolling the ball out too far was seized upon by Kevin Nugent to score the winner in the most cruel of circumstances. However I don’t think any Yeovil fans held that against him, and it was soon forgotten – as heartbreaking as that late goal was, the fact is that mistakes happen to every goalkeeper and sometimes they happen at critical moments, there is not one keeper who has not made a mistake which has cost a match. In the wider scheme of things Tony had been in good form and saved his defence on a great many occasions. He certainly developed enormously while at Yeovil – despite some league experience with Wigan and Hereford, continuing that prestigious line of players who have turned out for the Bulls before moving to Yeovil, he was still only 24 when he joined us and improved greatly during his time at the club. Not the tallest of keepers, he was always very agile and a great shot-stopper. However, especially in that first Conference season, he was perhaps prone to rushing off his line and would occasionally get lobbed for opposition goals. He was very quick off his line in this game against Morecambe, although that could be put down to the chaos going on in front of him, with all four defenders other than Rob Cousins either on debut, or only very recently arrived. In time, he did learn to control those instincts and become a better judge of when to come for a ball and when to stay at home, becoming a great keeper as a result.

Tony was certainly not afraid of the limelight, and enjoyed the attention and adulation of the fans. On the last day of the season in 1996/97 as Yeovil celebrated their return to the Conference, he memorably took (and scored) a penalty in the 4-0 home win over Chertsey Town. In the FA Cup run of 1998/99, the replay against West Auckland went to extra time and penalties, during which he saved a penalty and then scored the next one as Yeovil won the shoot-out to secure a tie against Second Division Northampton.

When the club turned full-time in 1999/2000 there was another exodus as many who were not willing or able to turn full-time were allowed to leave. Established players like Kevan Brown, Rob Cousins, Jamie Pitman, Matt Hayfield and Adrian Foster left the club and youngsters promoted from the reserves took their place. David Webb’s Yeovil took on a much more youthful look, as the likes of Anthony Tonkin, Andy Lindegaard and James Bent made their debuts while still teenagers. Although there seemed to be a fairly hard line taken as quality players were allowed to leave if they could not turn full time, exceptions were made for only three who were allowed to stay on in a part-time capacity – Warren Patmore, David Piper and Tony Pennock. Pennock and Patmore became the senior players of that very youthful side, as the only two men in the squad over 25. This showed the value those three in particular had to the team, as despite the undoubted quality of some of the departures, David Webb was able to make an exception for someone like Tony Pennock, and he was not a man known for his flexibility.

Despite the youth and inexperience of that side under David Webb, and later Colin Addision after Webb’s sudden departure, the young Glovers squad gave Rushden a run for their money in 2000/01 and went on a successful FA Cup run. Wins over Division Two Colchester and Division Three Blackpool led to an away tie at First Division (now Championship) Bolton, and a very late narrow defeat. Pennock played his part in keeping Yeovil in that one until very late, as well.

The second round tie at Blackpool was live on Sky, and would probably have been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch had the TV cameras not been present. Despite the atrocious conditions, the 1200 or so travelling Yeovil fans were buoyant throughout and were treated to an excellent performance from Pennock in particular, which was far more the Tony they knew than the Cardiff game had been. He was quite rightly recognised as man of the match by both fans and TV commentators.

The win over Blackpool was Yeovil’s 20th scalp as a non-league club, an FA Cup record which stands to this day.

Tony left along with a number of other out of contract players while Yeovil were without a manager in the summer of 2001, as the club had neglected to discuss new contracts during the season and would not offer extensions until a new manager was appointed. Sadly some of our best and longest serving players in Pennock, Patmore and Smith were able to sign for League clubs for no transfer fee, taking with them a huge amount of experience that it would take some time to replace. Goalscoring legend Warren Patmore in particular, arrived at Yeovil in the same summer as Pennock, they also left at the same time (for the same club). For around six years, Pennock and Patmore would have been the first names on the team sheet and played together almost 300 times.

After leaving Yeovil, Tony spent a brief time at Rushden and Diamonds where Brian Talbot showed his managerial know-how by keeping him on the bench behind Billy Turley. He soon moved back to the Conference with Farnborough, where he encountered another managerial ‘character’ in the form of Graham Westley, although he remained with the Hampshire side when Westley took the money from a lucrative FA Cup run and half the squad with him when he moved to Stevenage in 2003. As much as I would hate to question the man’s professionalism, I felt he could possibly have done better with some of the goals when Yeovil won 4-2 away at Farnborough on their way to the Conference title in 2003. The relationship with the away fans that day was still good despite his move to Rushden and I am sure it filled him with pride to see former team-mates such as Way, Skiverton, Crittenden and McIndoe find the success they narrowly missed out on two years before, not to mention his understudy Chris Weale in goal. Weale had made a couple of appearances in Pennock’s absence having only just turned 19 in 2001. Following Farnborough’s relegation, Tony played and then managed in Wales for a few years, before moving to Hull City as a goalkeeping coach.

Tony will always be well-regarded by anyone who saw him play, there was always good humour between him and the fans when we came up against him, which we did several times when playing for Farnborough in 2002 and 2003. He was virtually ever-present in goal from the time he arrived in 1995 to his departure in 2001, playing over 300 times, keeping around 100 clean sheets and scoring one goal (not including penalty shoot-outs).

Yeovil Town 2 Morecambe 3 – Saturday 27th March 1998

Colin Lippiatt arrived at Yeovil in 1997, initially as assistant manager to Graham Roberts. Previously, he had been assistant to Geoff Chapple during his very successful reign at Woking which saw them become one of non-league’s top clubs and win the FA Trophy three times. However he chose not to follow Chapple to to Kingstonian and came to Yeovil instead.

Following the infamous ‘faxgate’ scandal early in 1998 Graham Roberts was initially suspended, and eventually sacked. Colin’s first game in permanent charge was an eventful 6-4 defeat at Hayes, and his first home game was the following week, at home to Morecambe.

It was an eventful, if ultimately disappointing game, as Morecambe took a 2-0 lead thanks to some absolutely catastrophic defending, despite being reduced to ten men in the first half. Rallying in the second half, Yeovil brought the score back to 2-2 with goals from Pickard and substitute Sam Winston. However ten-man Morecambe scored another on the break to win 3-2. This was probably largely due to the number of players making their debuts, and the fact that a visibly frustrated Rob Cousins is the only regular member of defence, accompanied by the short-lived Terry Howard and even shorter-lived Colin Omogbehin, in his only appearance for the club. Perhaps due to the chaos in front of him, keeper Tony Pennock also appears to be playing as sweeper, as all three Morecambe goals are scored on the counter-attack.

It was a time of great change for the club. After a very low point in the mid-90’s which saw Yeovil relegated to the Isthmian League amid serious financial problems, Graham Roberts brought hope and entertainment back to Huish Park. Two seasons in the Isthmian League saw Yeovil eventually promoted with 101 points, ahead of rivals (and Roberts’ former club), Enfield. Over 8,000 fans would see the two teams fight it out at Huish Park in March 1997.

Graham Roberts’ teams were entertaining and there were generally a lot of goals when Yeovil played, although perhaps the standards of discipline could have been higher as there were plenty of red cards as well. Some of the older players who had come up with Yeovil from the Isthmian League were often off the pace and not of the standard needed to move the club forward. Indeed Graham Roberts himself often played – and got sent off – in that first season back in the Conference. He could also be a difficult person to get on with and in my personal view it is possible that by 1998 he had come to the end of the line and the Faxgate affair was a convenient reason to dispense with a difficult character with a ready made replacement already at the club. Roberts departed for Chesham United, and took some of those older, London-based players with him. Micky Engwell, Colin Fielder, Graham Kemp and Steve Browne all left at the same time as Roberts or shortly after. All had played in the Isthmian League but were well into their 30’s and perhaps not up to the pace of the Conference.

This left the new manager with a bit of a recruiting problem, and he brought some younger players in as well as some experienced heads that he knew from Woking. In came David Piper, Steve Parmenter and the Morecambe game also marked the debut of a mercurial floppy haired midfielder by the name of Ben Smith, who if memory serves won the man of the match award. Within a couple of weeks, Lippiatt had also recruited Kevan Brown and Steve Thompson, who while not spring chickens had plenty of life in them – many Woking fans were dismayed by the decision to release Brown, and Thommo would play on until 2002. Four of those five players would go on to make major contributions to Yeovil in the coming seasons.

One player who did cause a stir that day was substitute Sam Winston – on loan from Leyton Orient, Winston scored an excellent solo goal to level the scores at 2-2 and would go on to score in all of his first five appearances – four of which were from the substitute’s bench. However he did struggle to make that kind of impact over 90 minutes, and his initial promise was not fulfilled. Although some Yeovil fans were sad to see him leave at the end of the season, concerns over his fitness meant that he never did quite make it at Conference level, although he did go on to play for almost every non-league team in the Greater London area and scored a lot of goals for Boreham Wood in the Isthmian League. His peak was probably scoring twice for Kingstonian in their FA Cup win over Brentford in 2000, but the K’s were relegated that same season.

Colin Lippiatt’s time was marked by an increased professionalism and performances on the pitch, but also strong recruitment. He brought in the aforementioned Smith, Piper, Brown and Thompson, and the following season Jamie Pitman, Murray Fishlock (thanks again for letting us have both of those, Hereford), Matt Hayfield, Adrian Foster and of course in the summer of 1999, a 23-year old defender from Welling United by the name of Terence Skiverton. In 1998/99, Yeovil had their best season in some years, getting as high as 3rd in the Conference as well as going on an entertaining FA Cup run which would see Second Division Northampton despatched and Third Division leaders Cardiff taken to a replay and extra time following an entertaining sold out tie at Ninian Park.

One thing that Lippiatt did hold on to from Graham Roberts’ days was the 3-5-2 formation which was quite common at the time. A typical Lippiatt team would be Rob Cousins, Kevan Brown and Al-James Hannigan (later Skivo) at the back, Piper and Fishlock as wingbacks, then Jamie Pitman, Ben Smith and Matt Hayfield or Steve Stott in midfield, and Patmore up front with Owen Pickard or Adrian Foster. We were not quite top level but were becoming a very, very good side. A 5th placed finish in 1998/99 followed by some strong summer signings in 1999, led to hope of an even higher finish the following season. Expectations came back to earth with a bump with an opening day 5-0 hammering at Scarborough, which saw three up front and Skiverton left on the bench. The team recovered however, and briefly took top spot twice before Christmas.

Unfortunately, there was unrest behind the scenes again as there was pressure to turn the team full-time, which Colin was unable to do due to his other commitments. He hung on for a while, but rumours of full-time status being on the way persisted and the big man finally resigned over the dispute in October 1999. Steve Thompson took over as caretaker manager, until the club finally did turn full time with the arrival of David Webb in March 2000. That change would see another exodus of players, a whole new crop blooded from the youths, and a new era began.

Team that day: Tony Pennock, Rob Cousins, Terry Howard (sub. Tony Pounder), Colin Omogbehin, David Piper, Steve Parmenter, Steve Stott, Colin Fielder (sub. Lee Archer), Ben Smith, Warren Patmore (sub. Sam Winston), Owen Pickard.



Yeovil Town 4 Woking 0 – Tuesday 24th September 2002

When Yeovil mounted their first serious challenge for promotion from the Conference in 2000/01, it arguably came as something of a surprise. Although the club had turned full time towards the end of the previous season and released the majority of the part-time players, the remaining group was much smaller and less experienced than in previous years. The squad numbered less than 20 at the start of the season, and with an average age of just 21, included a number of teenagers with no first team experience. The First XI was great, but there was not much depth on the bench.

Despite this, the young team won their first eleven home league games on the bounce which was enough to mount a serious promotion challenge against high-spending Rushden and Diamonds and hold top spot in the Conference from October to February.

However, nothing lasts forever and the loss of form following the first home defeat against Southport in January was the result of several factors. Without doubt the main one was injuries and individual loss of form to several key players – the Glovers had a great starting XI but aside from Roy O’Brien and Paul Steele, both defenders, almost nothing on the bench. The second half of the season would see significant absences through injury to Anthony Tonkin, Tom White and Warren Patmore, and loss of form of Ben Smith and Barrington Belgrave. With severe problems up front, there was nothing in reserve and Patmore was forced to play through injury.

A second, very significant problem was the state of the Huish Park pitch. In good condition at the start of the season, an incredibly wet winter which caused several postponements, saw the pitch deteriorate dramatically. The heavy rain was not draining, which led to high water levels, the surface cut up horribly and after Christmas, regularly had to be covered with a heavy layer of sand just to make the surface playable. This severely hampered the Glovers’ pacey counter-attacking football and hindered the ball control of players like Crittenden, Smith and Belgrave, which probably contributed to their loss form and confidence. Belgrave’s goals dried up and Smith was eventually dropped, but without those two a lot of creativity went out of the team with no-one to replace them, as manager Colin Addison was unable to secure quality replacements either permanently or on loan. The Glovers’ season fizzled out and they finished second. Their home form, which had taken them to the Conference, tanked as the last ten home games saw only three wins, compared to eleven out of eleven before January.

Troubles continued the following season. An attempt to resolve the issue by installing new drains under the pitch failed as the drains collapsed, making the problem even worse as the pitch was virtually unplayable for much of the season. It was bumpy and uneven, with a tendency to get waterlogged and cut up, especially in the winter. The sand made an unwelcome return. This game against Hereford in March shows the pitch not even at its worst. Although of course it did take time to bed in a new group of players and develop the style and personnel that he wanted, Gary Johnson’s first season was much more successful away than it was at home – on the road, the Glovers won 13 and lost only twice, a Conference record. By contrast, they won only six league games at home as they struggled against the counter-attacking tactics frequently employed by visiting teams. The Glovers often enjoyed the majority of possession but had difficulty creating enough chances to score, and had to battle the state of the pitch as much as the opposition; it was just not possible to play attacking, passing football on. The fantastic solo goal scored by Kim Grant against QPR in the LDV Trophy is all the more impressive as he is clearly struggling to control the ball’s unpredictable movement off the surface.

With the playing squad more or less settled by the end of the 2001/02 season and only a couple of additions required in the shape of Gavin Williams and Abdoulai Demba, the major barrier between the Glovers and another serious promotion push was the pitch. Over the summer of 2002, it was dug up and re-laid at a cost of around £150,000. Understandably, the club took the slightly cheaper option of seeding the ground and letting it grow, rather than buying in pre-laid turf. This would cost less but of course take longer. The process was delayed by six weeks as a very wet close season delayed the seeding process – no point in seeding grass if it’s going to get washed away by heavy rain. The playing surface was also to be made significantly bigger, following the success in the FA Trophy Final on Villa Park’s expansive pitch. Behind schedule, the club had to turn to Plan B – playing the first few games 25 miles away at Dorchester’s Avenue stadium. The Avenue would eventually host the first five games of the season. Results were mixed, there were a couple of red cards and a lot goals were conceded, but Yeovil were ultimately undefeated, with wins against Nuneaton, Farnborough, Northwich and Halifax. Attendances were also good, never dipping below 2,000.

There was a sense of anticipation building that this could really be Yeovil’s year, which was also shared by the media as their first game back at Huish Park against Woking on Tuesday 24th September 2002, was also shown live on Sky Sports. It was a glorious late summer evening as the sun set behind the main stand. What followed was an impressive display of attacking, flowing football as the visitors were comfortably dispatched 4-0. A slightly cagey first half exploded into life with three goals in just over five minutes from Demba, McIndoe and Skiverton. The second half was more comfortable, as Forinton scored a fourth just before the hour mark and despite not adding to the scoreline, many further chances were created afterwards. What could have been a nervous evening after so much build-up, turned out to be a triumphant return. What’s more, the attendance of 4,003 was pretty unprecedented for an early season game. In 2001/02, the only attendances over 3,000 were late in the season when title challengers Boston and Dagenham came to town. Even in 2000/01, attendances did not pass 3,000 until after Christmas, despite eleven home wins in a row. There was definitely a feeling that something was about to happen at Yeovil and everyone wanted to be there. That crowd would turn out to be the lowest at Huish Park for a Conference match, as attendances would average over 5,400 for the remainder of the season and Yeovil swept to the Conference title, smashing records in the process.

Woking was just the beginning. Second in the table before the game, Yeovil went top of the league the following Saturday with a win away at Leigh RMI, and would remain there for the rest of the season. The next home game saw an even bigger win, the 6-0 demolition of third-placed Southport, thanks in part to a first half Demba hat-trick.

Team that day: Sheffield, Lockwood, Pluck (sub. Lindegaard), Skiverton, Way, Johnson, Crittenden, McIndoe, Williams, Forinton (sub. O’Brien), Demba (sub. Alford)


Bath City 1 Yeovil Town 1 – Sunday 27th October 2002

For many people, Yeovil’s historical rivalry with Bath City may be something of a distant memory, or may even not be felt at all as we have only met once in the last 20 years, in this FA Cup Qualifier in October 2002. Even though the two teams have played each other over 250 times (thanks Ciderspace), mainly in the Southern League and early years of the Conference, we have not met in a league fixture since 1995 when Yeovil were relegated from the Conference. Bath were then relegated in 1997, the same year Yeovil won the Isthmian League under Graham Roberts, and we have not played each other in the league since. We occasionally meet in the FA Cup or Trophy, and played each other an incredible nine times in the Somerset Premier Cup alone between 1985 and 1987, in a time when the final was two-legged and SPC matches could apparently go to replays and second replays (thanks again, Ciderspace).

Personally, I don’t remember a time when Bath were good and we lost to them on Boxing Day fixtures as it was a bit before my time. They only narrowly missed out on promotion to the Football League in 1985 after coming second when winners Wealdstone were not eligible for promotion – however, the Football League was still something of a closed shop then, there was no automatic promotion and they missed out in one of the last years that clubs were put forward for ‘election’ rather than promotion.

For my part, Bath were the annoying cousins up the road who occasionally provided us with players like Rob Cousins and whose few fans tried to come onto the Ciderspace forum and taunt us despite not being good enough to play against us, but they weren’t real rivals as they were always in divisions below us.

In October 2002, Yeovil were top of the Conference under Gary Johnson and were drawn against the Romans in the Fourth Qualifying Round. Although the FA Cup was very much not the priority in that season, defeat to our annoying cousins would have been too much to stomach, so the best case scenario would have been to comfortably despatch Bath and then play out a noble defeat to a higher league club in the First Round, in order to focus on promotion.

It did not quite go according to plan and Bath fans must have wondered how on earth we had got to the top of the Conference because it was without doubt the worst performance I saw that season and overall just a terrible game which we probably deserved to have lost. It was played in difficult conditions as that weekend the country had been battered by severe storms which put the game in doubt. It was also, presumably on police instruction, played at 12.00 on a Sunday lunchtime. I was living in Chesterfield at the time, so it was a long and treacherous journey south, driving slowly and carefully so as not to be blown over by the wind to avoid all the fallen trees.

And for all that, the game was not worth it, it was a pretty miserable day from start to finish. Visiting Twerton Park was like stepping back into the 1980’s. It is the only time I can remember being herded into a metal cage like livestock waiting to be taken for slaughter and honestly, if fans were treated like that all the time I would probably never go. Around 1400 Yeovil fans made the trip, but though it was a decent sized terrace, being surrounded by bars on all sides just made it impossible to have an unimpeded view of anything, it really was like a relic of a bygone era.

The game did not make things any better, as the Bath players were more fired up and Yeovil did not even resemble a team at the top of the Conference despite putting out a full strength team. Only Colin Miles was missing through suspension (not an uncommon occurrence) and was replaced by Roy O’Brien. Even though they were in the middle of a very difficult run of fixtures against Doncaster, Dagenham and Chester that would see them put in very strong performances and emerge unbeaten, Yeovil were not at the races against Bath and probably deserved to lose, until Adam Lockwood was able to capitalise on a comically sliced clearance to salvage an equaliser after the home side took the lead in the first half. Bath did have a player sent off late on, but Yeovil didn’t come any closer to scoring a winner so the tie went to a replay.

Fortunately lightning did not strike twice and in the replay despite being 0-0 at half time, Yeovil scored three times in the second half to win 3-1, sealing the win with a superb curling shot from Michael McIndoe in front of, 4,393. Former Glover Adrian Foster got the consolation goal for Bath. Yeovil went on to lose 2-0 to Cheltenham (then in League One) in the First Round, a very disappointing performance but in the grand scheme of things probably for the best, especially as it happened to coincide with the suspensions of Gavin Williams, Lee Johnson and Adam Lockwood, allowing them to return more quickly to the league campaign.

First Match: Weale, Lockwood, Skiverton, O’Brien, Way, Johnson (sub. Giles), Crittenden, McIndoe, Williams, Demba (sub. Alford), Grant (sub. Forinton). Subs not used: Sheffield, Lindegaard

Replay: Weale, Lockwood, Skiverton, O’Brien, Way, Johnson, Crittenden, McIndoe, Williams, Demba (sub. Alford), Forinton (sub. Lindegaard). Subs not used: Sheffield, Grant, Giles




Yeovil Town 4 Hartlepool 0 – Saturday 13th March 2010

Gavin Williams will without doubt be one of the most fondly remembered players in Yeovil’s history by anyone who saw him. He was a special player, able to turn a game with a moment of magic, but also with an element of mischief which no doubt wound up many opposition players and fans. Whatever was happening on the pitch, he was involved. He could create goals, score goals, and often trod a very fine line with some of his tackling, which would see him sent off more than once in his Yeovil career. Every game without fail he would place the ball outside the quadrant at a corner to get the opposition fans jeering at him. He was always sure to do the Cardiff City ‘Ayatollah’ celebration if he scored against another Welsh club, which Swansea fans in particular were not huge fans of. If the question was asked, ‘who plays the most practical jokes at Yeovil?’, the answer would always be Gavin Williams.

Gavin arrived at the end of the 2001/02 season, just in time to be presented before the FA Trophy Final at Villa Park. He joined a team that it had taken Gary Johnson most of the season to put together, but by the time he arrived the First XI more or less picked itself. The only areas for improvement were an attacking midfield player, as occasionally Gary Johnson’s team had struggled to break down defensive opponents, and a first choice striker to partner Adam Stansfield. These arrived in the shape of Williams and Demba, the only additions to the squad in the quiet summer of 2002, a period of unprecedented stability in the Yeovil squad. He took the No. 20 shirt, as the numbers 1-11 would be taken by those who started in the Trophy Final. From then on, the No. 20 at Yeovil would be associated with Williams the same way that the No. 14 was with Thierry Henry at Arsenal.

What made his arrival all the sweeter was that we had bought him at a steal of £22,500 from rivals Hereford, who swore they would never let the same thing happen again after we took McIndoe from them for a similar amount in 2001. It must have really hurt them to see two of their former players romp to promotion with their rivals in one of the best teams the Conference has ever seen, so that’s unfortunate.

Williams was a focal point of the team in 2002/03 playing in an advanced midfield role, scoring 6 goals with an additional 9 assists. Most of his goals that season were fairly spectacular, including arguably the goal of the season at home to Doncaster. Following promotion, he became the outstanding player in the 2003/04 season, and also leading scorer despite playing mostly in midfield with 13 goals and 9 assists.

If there was one potential problem with having Gavin Williams in your team, he did create a bit of a selection headache. Without the greatest pace, he was not a traditional front man, and he also wasn’t really a winger. He was an attacking midfielder, who would occasionally go wandering and leave space behind him for a counter-attack. It was clear from team selections at the beginning of the 2002/03 season that Gary Johnson wasn’t really sure where to play him at first, as he had been a striker at Hereford. In the first game, he was played up front with Adam Stansfield, with Demba left on the bench. Following Stansfield’s injury, he was played up front with Demba. From the third game onwards, Johnson changed the formation from 4-4-2 to the 3-4-1-2 that would be used most of the season, with Williams playing in the hole behind the front two. This gave him the freedom to play wherever he wanted without having to worry about defensive duties. This did raise the problem of where to play Anthony Tonkin, who as a specialist left back thrived in a 4-4-2 but was very uncomfortable on the left of a back three. This was resolved unintentionally, when he was poached by Stockport after only nine games of the season. This formation would last most of the season, and result in Yeovil scoring 100 goals as they won the Conference.

Unfortunately, playing three at the back didn’t really work in League Two. After an up and down start, reverting to a back four gave much more solidity and shape to the team after the introduction of Ronnie Bull on loan as a specialist left back, after which Colin Miles would play much of the season there as Yeovil reverted to a 4-4-2.

The problem arose again though, of where to play Gavin Williams, as there was one less place available in midfield. Following the departure of McIndoe over the summer, Williams played most of the 2003/04 season on the left, which allowed him to cut inside as he did to spectacular effect with his solo goal against Kidderminster. He also occasionally played as a withdrawn striker in a 4-5-1, most notably in the FA Cup game against Liverpool where he came closest of any Yeovil player to scoring that day, drawing a smart save from Jerzy Dudek from a long range shot.

The role Gavin often played for Yeovil would almost certainly be well suited to the modern game, given how many teams now play with only one out and out striker, with three attacking midfielders behind. The role he played was similar to the one Mason Mount or Jack Grealish currently do for England. In a way Gary Johnson was well ahead of his time, as although he took a man out of defence in order to maintain two up front, the switch from two attacking midfielders to three was arguably what allowed Yeovil to score so many goals in 2002/03 and unlock defences that they had occasionally struggled to get through the previous season, with almost exactly the same team. It was Gavin Williams that was the significant difference between coming third and winning the Conference by 17 points.

After a deserved career in the Championship including time at West Ham, Ipswich and Bristol City, he returned to Yeovil for the first of three additional spells in March 2010. The first of these was this game, at home to Hartlepool, which Yeovil won 4-0. In his time on the pitch, Gavin scored one spectacular free kick, created another goal by lobbing the keeper, and then got sent off for a dangerous challenge, all before the hour mark. In his first game back. If there was ever a game that encapsulated Gavin Williams, it was this one. He was often where the action was, being sent off three times in his Yeovil career and probably being substituted on more than one occasion as he often rode that very fine line. The last action of his first spell with Yeovil was to get sent off for a very bad challenge on the keeper in a dismal 3-1 defeat at Lincoln. By this point, his move to West Ham was already on the cards and it was only a matter of time although it was a shame that his last action was to get sent off.

In that 2009/10 spell under Terry Skiverton, Gavin scored five goals and five assists from eight games. He returned for another loan spell in 2010/11, scoring one goal and four assists from 12 games. He also scored the winner against Yeovil that same season while on loan at Bristol Rovers, which he did not celebrate. 2010/11 also saw Yeovil field an attacking partnership of Williams, Williams and Williams (Sam, Andy and Gavin), although unfortunately due to injury they were rarely all on the pitch at the same time.

At the start of the 2011/12 season, Gavin re-signed permanently and would finally take the N0. 10 shirt, initially under Terry Skiverton before being reunited with his old gaffer when Gary Johnson returned to the club in January 2012, steering the Glovers to a League One Playoff final win. In his fourth and final spell, Gavin played 54 games, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists. A lot of these appearances were from the substitute’s bench, as he was unfortunately hampered by injury later in his career, particularly in the promotion season. He was a substitute in the Playoff Final, but did not get on the pitch.

His last goal for the club would be an unforgettable one though, as he scored twice in a 4-1 win at home to Oldham, which will feature in a future Green and White Goals video. The second of these was a spectacular solo run and 30-yard shot that was arguably his best for the club – and there were a lot of great ones to choose from.


Yeovil Town 4 Southend United 0 – Saturday 15th November 2003

After Yeovil were promoted in 2002/03, many of the Conference-winning team would retain their places in the side in the following seasons and go on to win League Two in 2005 – Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Colin Miles, Lee Johnson, Darren Way, Gavin Williams, Andy Lindegaard and Kevin Gall would all be part of the League Two winning squad, with Roy O’Brien, Kirk Jackson, Nick Crittenden and Adam Stansfield all making a significant number of appearances in League Two.

The heart of the team throughout the Conference, League Two and even into League One was the midfield partnership of Darren Way and Lee Johnson, who between them would make almost 300 appearances across three seasons between 2002 and 2005, being virtually ever present in the side. In fact, even though they would miss the occasional match through injury or suspension, both would play exactly the same number of games in 2002/03 (48) and 2004/05 (52).

Barely 20 when he first joined Yeovil in 2001, Lee Johnson was one of the players most quickly able to adapt to his new level and became a key player in 03/04 and 04/05. Not only did he adapt well to League Two, but he was able to make the step up to League One and then the Championship, in which he played over 130 games. He arguably played some of his best football for the Glovers in that short period when he was relieved from the pressure of being the manager’s son in 2005.

Lee’s big contributions were in his passing and assists. Still not formally recorded even now, certainly at the time assists were not always recognised even though almost every goal needs one. It’s open to interpretation but an assist is generally given to the player who last touches the ball before a team-mate scores. Usually that will be a pass, but a saved shot or deflected cross also count. Even if an opponent touches it in between, it still counts unless it’s a mistake of Wes Morgan proportions in which case there is no assist. A review of all of the footage available from Lee’s time (not for every goal, unfortunately) suggests he was top of the assist charts for most of the seasons he was with Yeovil, with 12 in 2001/2 (1st), 16 in 2002/03 (2nd behind McIndoe), 20 in 2003/04 (1st), and 17 in 2004/05 (1st). He would have been an invaluable Fantasy Football player, especially in 04/05 when he also chipped in with 11 goals. Not bad for a player who some still thought was only in the team because he was the manager’s son.

Overall Lee contributed around 80 assists in just over four years, by far the most of any player there are available records for. Other notable assist-makers have been Ed Upson with 18 in 2012/13, Chris Cohen with 13 in 2006/07, Sam Foley with 13 in 2014/15, Andy Welsh with 12 in 2010/11, Kevin Gall with 14 in 2003/04, and Michael McIndoe with 22 in 2002/03.

This footage of the game against Southend in 2003/04 shows just how integral Lee was to the team in those years of continued success. 3-0 up at half time, Yeovil comfortably won 4-0. Lee created the first, delivering a corner from which Lee Elam eventually scored. For the second, he bypassed the entire defence with a delightful chip to set up Way to score. For the third, he scored direct from a free kick following a foul on Jake Edwards, and for the final goal he won a penalty which he then converted, giving him a total of two goals and three assists in a 4-0 win.

The midfield partnership between Johnson and Way would eventually be broken up after Gary Johnson’s departure in 2005 when Darren sustained a lengthy injury, which would necessitate the loan signing of 18-year old Chris Cohen from West Ham to take his place. He was then sold to Swansea for £150,000 while still recovering from injury. The pair would leave the club within days of each other mid-season, as during the same transfer window Lee was also sold, to Hearts for £50,000. He made a handful of appearances for the Edinburgh club before returning to England to play once again for Gary Johnson, this time at Bristol City as he helped them secure promotion to the Championship in 2006/07 (scoring against Yeovil in the process), and going on to play over 130 times in the Championship as the Robins chased a play-off place. His playing career ended in 2013 at the age of 31 before moving into management at Oldham, Barnsley, Bristol City and currently Sunderland, who at the time of writing are top of League One.

Darren and Lee played two final games together in late 2005, before Darren succumbed to his second injury absence of the season. Interestingly in one of those the both scored, in a 4-0 FA Cup win over Macclesfield. In their final game together, Lee was sent off for the fourth time in his Yeovil career – against Swansea, the team Darren would sign for only a few weeks later.

Team that day: Chris Weale, Paul Terry (sub. Adam Stansfield 83), Colin Miles, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden, Lee Elam (sub. Jamie Gosling 71), Jake Edwards (sub. Kirk Jackson 77), Kevin Gall

Yeovil Town 2 Hereford United 1 – Saturday 2nd March 2002

On Saturday 2nd March 2002, Yeovil played Hereford at Huish Park for the first time since the old rivals ended our title hopes against Rushden with an injury-time winner in 2001. As it happens, we’ve had a pretty decent record against the Bulls since their relegation back to the Conference in 1997, and that one devastating moment represents their only league win over us between then and now.

It was Gary Johnson’s first season in charge, and results had been up and down. General away form was good, and with only two defeats all season was the best in the division. Home form was more patchy, with a number of home defeats arguably the result of a deteriorating pitch in dire need of replacement, and a defence that was vulnerable to the counter-attacking tactics that a lot of visiting teams employed.

The fixture came at the business end of the season in between FA Trophy matches away at Doncaster and at home to Canvey Island. With the Glovers unbeaten in 14 league and cup matches and chasing the slim hope of a title shot with Boston yet to visit Huish Park, it was a dramatic game that had almost everything. In the first half, a penalty was awarded to Yeovil for a push, but Chris Giles’ spot-kick was saved by Matt Baker. Shortly after, Hereford’s Paul Parry hit the underside of the bar with a shot that away fans claimed was over the line, but it was not given.

Right on half time Crittenden gave Yeovil the lead, but Parry equalised immediately after the break with a shot past the advancing Weale.

What followed was an exercise in gamesmanship and time-wasting, as the visitors continually feigned injury and wasted time to hold on for a point. In the 73rd minute, former Hereford player Michael McIndoe was sent off for the second time that season for an elbow aimed at John Snape – although the player would admit after the game there was no contact before his dramatic fall to the ground, McIndoe was rightly dismissed for aiming the elbow in the first place. There do tend to be a lot of red cards in these fixtures, as both Terry Skiverton and Gavin Williams were sent off when the two met at Edgar Street in 2000, and not only did Hereford have two sent off in 2003, but Gavin Williams was also substituted by Gary Johnson to prevent him from going the same way after some lively tackles. It was possibly for the best that McIndoe had already been sent off in 2002/03, and was suspended for one game which happened to be the away game at Hereford.

Despite the man advantage, Hereford made no attempt to press forward and instead continued to waste time and feign injury to an almost comical degree. Justice was served then, when in injury time as a result of those constant stoppages, Yeovil pressed forward one last time, ignoring a Hereford player who was rolling around wanting the game to be stopped (as can be seen in the footage). Substitute Carl Alford held the ball up for of all players, Yeovil-born Andy Lindegaard to score a left-footed volley from 20 yards out to give Yeovil the victory. It was some measure of revenge not only for 2001, but also for all of the time-wasting and cheating that had gone on during the game, and gave one of the most satisfying wins over Hereford that I have witnessed. And there have been a lot, as they don’t have a very good record against us in recent years.

Although the 4-0 in 2003 was also a good one…

If you want to read the world’s most biased match report (from a Hereford perspective), it can be found on the Hereford Times website.

Yeovil team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Anthony Tonkin, Terry Skiverton, Tom White (sub. Andy LIndegaard), Roy O’Brien, Olivier Brassart, Nick Crittenden, Michael McIndoe, Chris Giles (sub. Carl Alford), Adam Stansfield. Subs not used: Jon Sheffield, Steve Thompson, Kim Grant

Chesterfield 0 Yeovil Town 3 – Saturday 4th March 2006

In the 2005/06 season it took some time to adjust to our new League One level, but after a difficult start Yeovil had established themselves around mid-table by Christmas despite the loss of Gary Johnson in September, with assistant Steve Thompson stepping up as manager for the rest of the season.

However, results in the new year took a turn for the worse with some financial restructuring at the club leading to the losses of several key players during the transfer window including the long-standing midfield duo of Darren Way and Lee Johnson, both departing within a week of each other to Swansea and Hearts, respectively. Johnson in particular appeared to have been thriving at League One level, perhaps released from some of the pressure of being the manager’s son.

Early January saw the club peak with a league position of 10th, but results turned with the departure of Way, Johnson and Efe Sodje. There followed a run of two points from six games, and not only that but the Glovers were struggling to either score or keep clean sheets in a run of matches against other teams in trouble. The 1-0 defeat at Port Vale was a low point, but it got lower as it was followed by conceding an injury time equaliser at home to doomed MK Dons, and a truly abject performance away at Blackpool which saw the club re-enter the relegation places – from 10th to 21st in six games, and relegation was starting to look a very real possibility.

Saturday 4th March saw Yeovil face another team in trouble, this time away at Chesterfield. We had moved to replace Way and Johnson by bringing in Anthony Barry from Accrington and former Bristol City midfielder Tommy Doherty on loan from QPR, to partner the rising star of 18-year old Chris Cohen on loan from West Ham (he would turn 19 the day after the game). Phil Jevons was unavailable through injury and in his absence Matt Harrold was partnered up front by Arron Davies, who had played most of his previous games on the wing. Harrold was also carrying a knock but played through it as we didn’t really have any other options. Terry Skiverton returned to defence to give some much-needed solidity.

There had been a lot of snow the week before and there was some doubt it would go ahead with many other games called off, and even though the pitch was fine on the day, the surrounding areas were somewhat treacherous which may have contributed to what happened during the game. Tommy Doherty’s day lasted only ten minutes, as he came off worse in a challenge and was replaced by Paul Terry – it would prove to be Doherty’s only appearance for Yeovil. After a quiet first half an hour, Davies latched onto a long Chris Weale clearance to put the visitors 1-0 up. Just before half time however, Anthony Barry was involved in an awkward challenge and slid into the advertising hoardings at the far end from the away supporters. After a long delay, he was stretchered off to applause from the home and away fans, and after only four appearances would be out for the rest of the season with a dislocated knee. He was replaced by Andy Lindegaard, and to be fair Lindegaard and Poole did cause the home defence a lot of problems by running at them to create chances for the lively Davies.

In the second half, Yeovil had more opportunities but it was right at the death that Davies scored twice more, firstly an expertly taken shot across the keeper, and then a slightly fortuitous back-heel that he may not have known much about, but the hat-trick was much deserved after his performance. By the end Yeovil were the walking wounded, with Weale left limping after being clattered by a forward and Harrold struggling to play on, but having made two injury-enforced changes already Steve Thompson held back his final substitution having been caught out the previous week when Yeovil finished the game with ten men due to yet another injury.

The win against Chesterfield gave Yeovil a big boost, and although results did not turn around immediately, it perhaps gave them the confidence to know they could still win games despite the loss of so many players through departure and injury. It also highlighted that Harrold and Davies could complement each other well, which they would do again away at Walsall a couple of weeks later when both players scored in a vital 2-0 win (highlights to come in a future video).

Yeovil would finish their first League One season in the relative comfort of 16th, and actually put in some pretty good performances towards the end even though in January and February the situation had looked pretty bleak, and it may have been that the win at Chesterfield served as the catalyst.

Interestingly, with a lot of games being called off due to freezing temperatures around that time, both Yeovil and Chesterfield had taken their players away prior to the game. Yeovil’s squad went on a team-building day to an army assault course, during which they were thrown into freezing cold water. Chesterfield’s players were taken on holiday to Spain, so maybe the contrast between a beach in Spain and a freezing cold day in Derbyshire proved too great!

Yeovil team that day: Chris Weale, Kevin Amankwaah, Nathan Jones, Terry Skiverton, Adam Lockwood, Tommy Doherty (sub. Paul Terry, 11), Chris Cohen, Anthony Barry (sub. Andy Lindegaard, 45), David Poole, Matt Harrold, Arron Davies. Unused subs: Steve Collis, Colin Miles, Danny Webb.