Yeovil Town got their pre-season campaign underway with a 1-0 win over Southern League Premier Division Central side Stratford Town at Knight’s Lane on Saturday.

A trademark Tom Knowles goal from the edge of the area on 55 minutes was what separated the two sides, but in reality it was the form of former Glovers’ keeper Liam O’Brien in the home side’s net that kept the score from being more comprehensive.

The visitors gave starting debuts to summer signings goalkeeper Grant Smith, defenders Mark Little and Jordan Barnett and midfielder Dale Gorman with other new boys midfielders Charlie Wakefield and loanee Lewis Simper starting on the bench.

The starting XI lined up in a familiar diamond with Josh Staunton, back after a long lay-off through injury last season, at the base, Knowles at the tip and Gorman and Alex Bradley in the middle.

In front of Smith, Little and Barnett took up positions on the right and left respectively with Luke Wilkinson and Max Hunt in the centre of defence, and Reuben Reid paired with Joe Quigley up front.


First half

The Glovers started brightly with Reid having a goal ruled out for offside after just two minutes before O’Brien went down bravely at the feet of Knowles four minutes later.

Knowles had the ball in the hosts’ net on 15 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul by Reid on O’Brien.

Ben Stephens fired wide for The Bards a minute later and that led to a spell of pressure from the hosts who were playing their fifth pre-season fixture.

Quigley was denied by a fine stop from O’Brien, who impressed during a spell with Yeovil back in 2019 before sustaining a serious shoulder injury, who was turned in to action to deny Bradley shortly after.

Half time: Stratford Town 0 Yeovil Town 0


Second half

As is tradition in all pre-season friendlies, there were wholesale changes at half-time with the introduction of two of the four trialists named on the bench by Glovers’ boss Darren Sarll.

We have played the game of Guess The Trialist, the results of which you can read – here.

On in place of Reid was Deshane Dalling, a former QPR youth team player, who was paired alongside Quigley, whilst Colin Daniel (possibly, maybe) replaced Wilkinson in the heart of defence.

The other switches saw Matt Worthington come on in the heart of midfield and Wakefield take up position on the right side.

Bradley dropped back to full-back to replace Little with Smith, Hunt, Barnett, Gorman, Knowles and Quigley the other players who remained from the first half.

Within ten minutes of the restart, Knowles made space for himself on the edge of the box and unleashed a rasping strike which deservedly beat O’Brien.

In between the substitution merry go-round with youngster Max Evans replacing Smith and Simper coming on for Gorman, Quigley had three chances to double the advantage.

Twice he was denied by O’Brien – with one looking suspiciously over the line – and another getting cleared off the line.

Youngster Toby Stephens and trialist Richard Afrane-Kesey – see more here – came on after 68 minutes and Stephens linked up nicely with Simper soon after, but the loan players header did not have the power to trouble the in-form O’Brien.

Simper had another chance soon after before a late push by Stratford saw them press for an equaliser, but the Yeovil backline held firm.

All in all, for the opening pre-season friendly, Darren Sarll will be pleased with what he saw from his side with good levels of fitness, sharpness, attacking intent and defensive solidity.

If it had not been for the brilliance of O’Brien, the score could have been more impressive, but for the time being a win and a clean sheet seem like a good way to get started.

Full time: Stratford Town 0 Yeovil Town 1.


Yeovil Town: Smith (for Evans

Yeovil Town: Smith (for Evans, 62), Barnett, Wilkinson (for Trialist – Daniel, 45), Hunt (for Trialist – Mbayo, 71), Little (for Wakefield, 45), Staunton (for Worthington, 45), Gorman (for Simper, 63), Bradley, Knowles (for Stephens, 68), Quigley (for Trialist – Afrane-Kesey, 68), Reid (Trialist – Dalling, 45)

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