Match Details: 04/08/1999
Yeovil Town 5 Manchester United Under-19s
Pre-season Friendly

Starting line-up:

1. Tony Pennock
2. Dave Piper
3. Murray Fishlock
4. Matt Hayfield
5. Terry Skiverton
6. Rob Cousins
7. Jason Eaton
8. Steve Stott
9 Warren Patmore
10. Adrian Foster
11. Ben Smith

Substitutes (all used) : Phil Simpson, David Norton, Jamie Pitman, Tony Pounder, Kevin Langley, Darren Keeling, Paul Steele.

Match Report:

I knew it was going to be a strange old night as soon as I got inside the ground – everywhere you looked there were little kids running around wearing Man U tops and asking their parents if Ryan Giggs was going to play. They should have been asking about Ben Smith….

Yeovil began in the usual formation but with Matty Hayfield playing in the back three alongside Rob Cousins and Terry Skiverton; and Jason Eaton lining up in midfield with Ben Smith and Steve Stott. Foster and Patmore made up the front pairing. The game started quietly with both sides passing the ball around nicely but with United looking slightly the more dangerous, mainly because of their greater pace. The visitors went 1-0 up in the 16th minute after a break by their quick centre-forward (as usual I didn’t get his name) and were just about good value for their lead at the time. However Yeovil were now beginning to spray the ball around nicely with Ben Smith in particular looking extremely influential in the centre of midfield.

Jason Eaton should have equalized from a free header following a Yeovil corner but placed the ball inches over the bar; and Adrian Foster spurned an excellent chance with only the goalkeeper to beat after a fine move involving most of the Yeovil team. Ben Smith then attempted to out-Beckham Beckham with a stunning lob from the halfway line which sailed inches over the cross-bar, the keeper hopelessly beaten.

The referee – Mr Harris, a Premiership official next season – then decided to take a hand in the game by awarding an incredible three penalties in five minutes. In all honesty none of the decisions looked justified from where I was sitting, but it was Mr Harris’s opinion that counted! Firstly Terry Skiverton was penalised for an innoccuous looking tackle inside the Yeovil box in the 41st minute – 0-2 to United. A minute later Adrian Foster appeared to trip over his own feet in the United penalty area – 1-2 to the reds, Warren PATMORE scoring. Then in the final minute of the first half Matt Hayfield was surprised to be penalised for what the ref deemed to be a foul in the Yeovil box.

1-3 to United at half-time then, a scoreline that surely flattered the away team.

No matter. For the first 10 minutes of the second half Yeovil played some sublime football, with Ben Smith in particular pulling all the strings and regularly splitting the visitors defence wide open with some first-time passing of the highest quality. In the 47th minute Smith found Jason Eaton in space wide on the right of the box. Eaton chose precision instead of power and attempted a chip which the United keeper did brilliantly to save, but he could only push the ball out to the lurking PATMORE, who knows exactly what to do in such situations. 2-3 to United.

Five minutes later, after an almost identical move, Yeovil were deservedly level. Again Jason EATON found himself wide on the edge of the penalty area in space. This time he shot low along the floor and across the face of the goal, leaving the keeper with no chance, the ball placed perfectly into the corner of the net.

Yeovil continued to have most of the play, though the United youngsters always looked dangerous when breaking from deep. However Yeovil took the lead for the first time in the 73rd minute. Adrian Foster received the ball at his feet on the edge of the penalty area, turned and chipped the ball towards the top right-hand corner of the net. The United keeper was hopelessly beaten but the defender positioned on the line couldn’t resist temptation and handled the ball, saving a certain goal. Mr Harris couldn’t resist temptation either and showed the hapless youth the red card, despite appeals from the Yeovil team and Colin Lippiatt. Adrian FOSTER duly rubbed salt into the wound.

Unusually for a friendly match the referee refused to allow United to bring on a substitute to replace the dismissed player and the game began to peter out amongst the usual late flurry of substitutions. There was time for Phil SIMPSON to underline the home team’s second half superiority with a fifth goal in the 83rd minute after a sweeping move from the back and United came close to snatching a consolation after a scramble in the Yeovil penalty area in the final minute.

All in all a very encouraging performance by Yeovil, albeit against an under-19 side. True, we let in three goals, but two of those were from somewhat dubious penalties. Our attacking play was at times exquisite (honestly! – There’s no other word for it!) and in Ben Smith we had easily the best player on the field. Another factor worth mentioning is the state of the pitch – it’s superb. We’ve had heavy rain in Yeovil today and it poured down for much of the game as well, yet the pitch didn’t cut up unduly and is as flat as a pancake – which suits our passing game down to the ground.

The only sad thing about the night was the sheer number of local people there – youngsters and adults – wearing the red shirt of Manchester United in preference to the green of their local team. Hopefully Yeovil’s display this evening will have opened a few people’s eyes to the fact that there’s no need to look to Old Trafford – there’s some good football being played right here and now in Somerset. Support your local team!

Full time: Yeovil Town 5 Manchester United Under-19s 3

Programme Cover