Yeovil Town 2 Hartlepool 0 – Saturday 7th January 2006
In 2005/06, following two promotions in three years, it took some time for Yeovil to adjust to life in League One – it was a big step up in quality, and the team which scored over 100 goals and only failed to hit the target in three league games in 2004/05 was finding defences much more solid and difficult to break down. Yeovil only scored one goal in their first four games – from a defender, Kevin Amankwaah – and it took until Hartlepool away in September to register their first win, a scrappy 1-0 thanks to new signing Pablo Bastianini. Despite the difficult start and the loss of Gary Johnson after 11 games to Bristol City, as the games progressed the team did gain confidence under Steve Thompson and start to drag their way up the table. Thommo’s Yeovil won 13 points from his first 6 games in charge, including impressive wins over Swansea, Scunthorpe and a 3-0 stuffing of Nottingham Forest. The Glovers gradually moved up to mid-table and even once or twice were in a position to potentially think about playoffs.
The Christmas period was a mixed bag, with decent wins against Barnsley and Doncaster, a 4-1 hiding at Tranmere and a slightly disappointing draw in the first ever league tie against Bristol City, given they had lost nine in a row and had been bottom of the table in December. Following a decent 1-0 win at Doncaster, the Glovers welcomed Hartlepool to Huish Park, who were despatched 2-0 with both goals coming from Phil Jevons, the first an overhead scissor-kick following an impressive run from Kevin Amankwaah, who had been one of the most consistent performers in the first part of the season, and one of those who seemed most at home at his new level.
The win took Yeovil up to 10th, with 36 points from 27 games and seemingly any fears of relegation behind them. However, a takeover was happening behind the scenes, and everything was about to change. Former manager David Webb became the new owner, purchasing the majority of shares from Jon Goddard-Watts. Webb immediately set about reducing the budget despite the crowds being around 6,500, even higher than League Two and increased revenue in the previous two seasons from two significant FA Cup runs including televised matches. Yeovil started to sell their assets, with Darren Way sold to Swansea for £150,000, and Lee Johnson to Hearts for the criminal sum of £50,000. The two players who had been ever-present from 2001-2005 and were the heartbeat of the team, left the club within days of each other. Efe Sodje was also sold, to Southend, and more would depart at the end of the season.
Hartlepool would be Lee Johnson’s last game for Yeovil, after around 4.5 years, 230 appearances, 28 goals, 80 assists and two promotions. He had settled in well at League One – going on to play around 130 times in the Championship for Bristol City – and appeared to be playing with more freedom once Gary Johnson was no longer the manager. He was ever-present from the moment he arrived to the day he left, playing around 50 games a season aside from the occasional suspension. His usual midfield partner Darren Way had been out of the team for part of 2005/06 due to injury, and last played in November 2005 against his future club Swansea. 18-year old Chris Cohen had already come in on loan from West Ham to cover for Way and was an instant hit but Anthony Barry, signed from Accrington to replace Johnson, only played a few games before sustaining a horrific injury against Chesterfield and missing the rest of the season. In also came Daniel Webb who, being signed from non-league Weymouth, did not appear to be a League One striker. In two years at the club, he made ten substitute appearances, making no starts and scoring no goals before dropping back into non-league, where he failed to hold down a first team place at Isthmian League AFC Wimbledon.
As soon as those key players were sold, results began to suffer. After Hartlepool, which was Lee Johnson’s last game, there followed a run of only two wins in 13 games, as Yeovil slid down to 20th and relegation suddenly became a real possibility again. A vital 3-0 win at Chesterfield halted the slide despite major injuries to Anthony Barry and on-loan Tommy Doherty, and another crucial win at struggling Walsall in March gave the Glovers hope. Still hovering around 20th, a late rally with victories against Gillingham and a surprise away win at Huddersfield courtesy of another Phil Jevons brace, was just enough to see the Glovers safe and finish the season in the dizzy heights of 16th, six points clear of relegation.
The departures did not end there, as the playing budget was cut further and more players were sold or allowed to leave for nothing. At the end of the season Phil Jevons and Chris Weale both left on free transfers to re-join Gary Johnson at Bristol City. Amankwaah was sold to Swansea for £250,000. There was not much sign of the proceeds of these sales being put back into the team, except for the absolute steal of making Chris Cohen a permanent signing from West Ham for around £90,000. New manager Russell Slade saw his playing squad reduced from over 20 to around 16 as a revolving door of loan players became the new recruitment policy. Fortunately, Slade proved himself able to work with a small budget as he had done at his previous clubs, and also a canny mover in the transfer market, bringing in players such as Marcus Stewart, Lee Morris and Leon Best. Despite the apparent decrease in resources, Yeovil were able to stabilise in League One for several years and even get to the playoff final in 2006/07, very much against the odds. In the summer of 2006, Webb sold his shares to John Fry who became the owner after many years as Chairman.
At the start of the 2005/06 season, nine players in the Yeovil squad had been at the club since the Conference days. By the start of the following season, only Skiverton and Lindegaard remained. By the start of 2007/08, only Skiverton and Guyett remained of the team who had won League Two just two years earlier.
Team that day: Steve Collis, Kevin Amankwaah (sub. Andy Lindegaard 35), Nathan Jones, Terry Skiverton, Scott Guyett, Chris Cohen, Lee Johnson, Paul Terry, David Poole (sub. Arron Davies 85), Matt Harrold, Phil Jevons (sub. Kevin Gall 86). Subs not used: Chris Weale, Luke Oliver