Match Details: 22/04/1999
Cheltenham Town 3 Yeovil Town 2
Nationwide Conference

Yeovil scorers: Pickard 2, Patmore (pen) 47.
Attendance: 6,150

Yeovil Town line-up:

Tony Pennock

David Piper
Dean Chandler
Kevan Brown
Paul Steele
Murray Fishlock

Rob Cousins
Matt Hayfield
Ben Smith

Owen Pickard
Warren Patmore

Substitutes: Phil Simpson (for Dave Piper, 69 mins), Darren Keeling (for Owen Pickard, 75 mins), Tony Pounder (for Ben Smith, 90 mins)

Team Selection: Given recent injury and suspension problems, it was good to see Colin Lippiatt making only two changes to the side who won against Leek Town. Tony Pennock made his return in goal with Malcolm Rigby unluckily dropping out of the team, whilst Owen Pickard’s return from suspension put Darren Keeling back on the bench. Ben Smith deservedly kept his place, so Phil Simpson had to start sitting on the bench, whilst Al-James Hannigan served a single game suspension whilst injured.

First Half : Huge queues at the turnstiles, and a kick-off delayed by fifteen minutes delayed the start to the match that was eventually to decide the 1999 Conference Champions, as Cheltenham used every possible corner of their ground to try and cram in the last few fans, with a couple of hundred supporters seemingly being disappointed when the gates were shut just prior to kick-off.

In front of such a huge crowd, it is always useful to shut them up, and Yeovil had the perfect start, netting in just 80 seconds when a free kick floated in was flicked on by Patmore, and PICKARD headed the ball past keeper Steve Book. It was all too easy a start, and the celebrations lasted just two minutes. On the first Cheltenham attack they levelled. After Tony Pennock had pushed a Jamie Victory header onto the post, there was a scramble for the rebound and it was VICTORY who grabbed the rebound.

Such an exciting opening evoked memories of Yeovil’s match against Enfield in 1997, and by the eighth minute Yeovil had the ball in the back of the net once more. After Mark Freeman had been forced to clear Ben Smith’s cross for a corner, the resulting kick was met by a powerful header from Dean Chandler, but the referee appeared to have already blown for a foul in the area.

Still, it was largely Cheltenham who pressurised, and David Piper had to clear his own lines after a succession of several corners. However, with 22 minutes played, a Michael Duff cross found Neil GRAYSON unmarked on the near post, and he headed the ball home for a deserved 2-1 lead.

Not much else was to become of this half, with the exception of a rash challenge by Cheltenham’s Dennis Bailey who was rightly booked for the mark he left on Murray Fishlock. Cheltenham had the game by the scruff of the neck though, and Yeovil barely managed a chance during the final fifteen minutes of the half.

Half time: Cheltenham Town 2 Yeovil Town 1

Second half: Yeovil started the second half the way they had started the first, with instant pressure producing immediate results. A David Piper cross was clearly handled by Jamie Victory as he stuck his arm up to divert the cross, and Warren PATMORE thundered his penalty into the top right hand corner.

Five minutes later once again Yeovil had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled off side. A Rob Cousins through ball looked like it might cause the keeper some problems on its own, but when Owen Pickard stuck a boot out and diverted the ball, up went the linesman’s flag and once again the goal did not stand.

Kevan Brown was surprisingly booked by the referee for climbing all over Neil Grayson when both went for an aerial challenge. It’s certainly unusual to see a defender booked for such a challenge, so when sixty seconds later Grayson kicked Paul Steele whilst he was on the floor and Steele got up and retaliated by pushing the Cheltenham striker, it seemed that a red card would be produced, certainly for Grayson, and possibly for Steele, but the referee confused the issue by booking both.

The game had a bit of a nasty undercurrent to it by this time, with both Grayson and Bob Bloomer seemingly feigning injury in attempts to get players booked. Despite rolling in agony, both got to their feet when the referee suggested they should leave the field for treatment. Mark Freeman also landed himself in the book for a foul, and things were boiling up.

Meanwhile, back at the football, Lee Howells came the closest Cheltenham had come all half when he hit a fierce shot the came back off Tony Pennock’s right hand post, but the rebound could not be converted. Yeovil played for the win by taking off David Piper and bringing on Phil Simpson as they switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Seven minutes later, Darren Keeling joined him on the field with Owen Pickard coming off, disappointingly failing to acknowledge the chants of his name as he came off the field.

After 20 minutes worth of little niggles between Grayson and several Yeovil players, he finally got what he presumably wanted. For some unknown reason, but presumably one that had something to do with continual provocation, Paul Steele aimed a kick at Grayson off the ball, but fully within the view of the referee, and so Paul Steele got a second yellow card, and an unhappy walk down the tunnel, and despite another impressive game, he will stand as Yeovil’s first sending off since Steve Parmenter’s dismissal in May 1998 against Gateshead.

He could have easily been followed down the tunnel five minutes later by Kevan Brown. Already on a booking, Kevan blatantly handled the ball, but in doing so went down injured, and probably that breathing space gave the referee enough time to decide that the punishment was unnecessary.

As the match drew to it’s close, Cheltenham began to exploit the hole in Yeovil’s defence left by Steele. With four minutes of normal time left, Tony Pennock produced a miraculous double-save from first a Lee Howells strike, then a Neil Grayson header. Grayson wasted the third attempt.

Going into injury time, Jamie Victory headed wide, a Keith Knight shot was punched away, and a David Norton shot was parried. There hadn’t been too many injuries to speak of in the second half, yet somehow the referee came up with nine minutes injury time, and the person next to me inquired at one point whether the referee was planning to play until Cheltenham scored. He did.

Following a foul in the 97th minute, Keith Knight floated the free kick in and Michael DUFF was left unmarked to head home and lift the roof off the top of Whaddon Road. For Cheltenham the goal had been long overdue, but for Yeovil, serious questions had to be asked of the referee’s judgement in letting play go on that long. He allowed enough time for Phil Simpson to try an audacious 30 yard volley that Book did well to save, but it was over very quickly after that, and Cheltenham’s pitch was flooded in a sea of red and white supporters as the Fat Lady opened up her lungs and began to sing.

Final Score: Cheltenham Town 3 Yeovil Town 2

Verdict: Very mixed emotions about this result. Yeovil played so well in the second half, and were so positive and forward thinking despite being reduced to 10 men, that a defeat was very cruel indeed. That said, Cheltenham created more chances than Yeovil did across the full game, and would have thoroughly deserved their win, were it not for the farcical timing of the goal, leaving Yeovil fans wondering just exactly what rules the referee was playing to. Still, what can you say, but congratulations to Cheltenham. They can’t be blamed for the referee’s strange timekeeping.

Badger’s Man Of The Match – Tony Pennock:
My initial reaction was that it was a mistake to bring Tony back into such a crucial game with him not having seriously touched a ball for three or four weeks. However, after a nervous start, he had an outstanding second half, and his multiple saves kept us in the game. Despite him being very fortunate to displace Malcolm Rigby, it seems pretty obvious who will be between the sticks on Saturday.