Venue: Huish Park
Friday 1st August 2003, 7.45pm kick-off.
Conditions: Mild, dry, very little wind
Scorers: Own goal (1 min, 1-0), Leon Knight (63 mins, 1-1), Adam Stansfield (88 mins, 2-1)
Referee: Mr P Armstrong
Line up : (3-4-1-2)
Adam Lockwood, Hugo Rodrigues, Roy O’Brien,
Gavin Williams, Darren Way, Jamie Gosling, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden
Kevin Gall, Kirk Jackson
Subs used: Andy Lindegaard (64 mins, for Gavin Williams) Adam Stansfield (73 mins, for Kevin Gall), Steve Collis (64 mins, for Chris Weale), Stephen Reed (64 mins, for Nick Crittenden), Jake Edwards (73 mins, for Kirk Jackson),
Brighton: Kuipers, Watson, Cullip, Pethick, Mayo (Harding), Hart (Lee), Carpenter, Rodger (Hinshelwood), Jones (Butters), Knight (Wilkinson), McPhee (Oatway).
Badger’s View Of The Game
Having beaten Premiership side Wolverhampton Wanderers just 72 hours previously, there was always a danger that Yeovil Town might take their foot off the gas for a game against a Brighton side who were last season in the same division as Wolves; albeit at the wrong end of the table. Johnson started the game with what looks increasingly likely to be his starting XI for next week’s opener at Rochdale, with Chris Weale the only change to the side that started against Wolves.
Any worries about Yeovil starting casually though, were dispelled inside just 25 seconds. Straight from kickoff, Gavin Williams grabbed hold of the ball, fed Kevin Gall who ran like a steam-train straight through the Brighton defence, and smacked a shot against the foot of the post, only for Danny CULLIP to kindly collect the rebound and unwittingly plant it into his own net. 1-0 up, and many in the crowd hadn’t even got to their seats!
The early part of the game belonged to Yeovil, although Brighton were playing their part in a fantastically open first 25 minutes, as the ball flowed from end-to-end. The Glovers though, carved out the best of the first half chances. Kirk Jackson managed to round keeper Michel Kuipers but ended up taking the ball too wide for his own good with Kuipers able to block the ball for a corner. From that corner, Hugo Rodrigues planted a header that Kuipers had to push over his own crossbar.
Having seen what Rodrigues was doing, Brighton decided to stick two players on him during every following corner, and the only shame was that the likes of Kirk Jackson and Adam Lockwood did not gain a touch more room with the Brighton players far too occupied with trying to block the movement of the Portuguese defender, often through rather dubious means giving referee Paul Armstrong plenty to keep an eye on.
Brighton got themselves the odd half chance, but in all honesty, nothing that Chris Weale genuinely had to save, whilst the Glovers were confidently stroking the ball around, forcing their visitors to run and chase the ball, largely in vain.
Half-time: Yeovil Town 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
Brighton came out much stronger in the second period, working a lot harder to close down Yeovil’s passing game, and there was little doubt that had been very much the theme of Steve Coppell’s half time team talk. Despite that, Yeovil could easily have been 3-0 up by the time Brighton’s equaliser came through. Kevin Gall, once again, did his trickery as he left the Brighton defence for dead after a quickly taken Lee Johnson free kick. Gall’s final touch though, was perhaps a touch too casual as the ball struck the inside of the post, and his second attempt to slot the ball home was blocked by Kuipers. Sixty seconds later, Kirk Jackson also hit the woodwork, with Kuipers again on hand to deflect the Yeovil target man’s header onto the top of the crossbar, although somewhat bizarrely the Brighton keeper appealed loudly against the award of a corner. You would have thought he would have wanted his excellent save to be recognised!
It was a slight goalkeeping faux pas that brought Brighton their equaliser, which despite Yeovil’s double woodwork strike, had been on the cards. A Paul Watson corner was only partially cleared, and Chris Weale seemed to fumble the ball straight onto the head of Leon KNIGHT who had all the time in the world to nod the ball back past Weale for a messy equaliser.
A flurry of substitutions, including five on Yeovil’s behalf saw the game develop into a midfield scrap with neither side really gaining control of the game. By this time a new forward line for the Glovers was giving Brighton new things to think about, and it was from this pairing that the decisive move came.
Jake Edwards and Lee Johnson were involved in another quickly taken free kick, and Johnson’s quick pass put away Adam STANSFIELD, who minutes earlier had narrowly hooked a reflex shot over the bar. This time Stansfield had far more time to compose himself and he confidently slotted the ball into the bottom corner for an 89th minute winner, much to the obvious delight of both himself, his team-mates and the Yeovil bench, who greeted Stansfield’s strike as if it was a competitive winner. The goal can do nothing but good for a striker who is now starting to find his feet after such a long layoff.
That was pretty much all there was time for, and there could be little doubt that this was an excellent test for Gary Johnson’s men. Brighton were quick, organised and adaptable, yet Yeovil remained unmoved by their hosts attempts to break them down, and perhaps the most positive aspect of tonight’s performance was how well a defence lacking Terry Skiverton and Colin Pluck protected first Chris Weale and then Steve Collis from having too much work to do. Just one more dress rehersal to come now, against Tiverton Town on Monday, and then the real stuff can begin.