Doncaster Rovers 4 Yeovil Town 5 – Saturday 23rd February 2002
When Yeovil played Doncaster in the FA Trophy Fourth Round in 2001/02, the Glovers were in a free-scoring run of form. Since the rebuilding job begun by Gary Johnson in the summer, the addition of Adam Stansfield from Elmore in November turned Yeovil from mid-table inconsistency to a more dangerous proposition. They continued to be dogged by defensive problems, caused by a new-look back line of (when fit) Lockwood, Tonkin, Skiverton and Pluck, who were taking time to get used to each other given significant injury problems in defence. Colin Pluck (later Miles) was missing for much of the first part of the season and when he returned, Skiverton was out for an equally long time. Meanwhile Roy O’Brien suffered a broken leg, forcing Tom White to play on through very difficult personal circumstances, which he did admirably. Defending in the first half of the season was often disastrous to the point of being comical, but at least once Stansfield arrived goals started to go in at the other end with more frequency.
In February 2002, Yeovil were in an incredible run of games – a 4-0 spanking of Hayes in a monsoon at Church Road was followed by a remarkable 5-1 win at Morecambe. The following week, the Glovers played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with leaders Dagenham, which they arguably could have won. A run of 20 league and cup games unbeaten saw them up to 3rd in the table behind leading pair Boston and Dagenham. The week after the Doncaster replay came a dramatic late 2-1 win at home over rivals Hereford. After a decidedly dodgy first three months or so of the season, things were finally starting to come together for Gary Johnson’s side. Between the beginning of January and the middle of March the Glovers were unbeaten, scoring 36 goals in 13 games but also conceding 16 – in this time they scored in every single game, but also only kept three clean sheets, the goals were flying in.
Following the 3-1 win at Tiverton Town in the Third Round, Yeovil were drawn at home against fourth-placed Doncaster. The original tie was due to be played on 2nd February, but was postponed three times due to a waterlogged pitch, as Huish Park was an absolute quagmire at the time. It finally went ahead on Tuesday 19th, and of course ended in a draw – Paul Barnes capitalised on a Lockwood mistake early on, but Adam Stansfield secured a replay with a 79th minute header. Stansfield was in a rich vein of form at the time, scoring 13 goals in 13 games and also grabbing 7 assists, scoring in 6 out of the 7 games prior to Doncaster so it was no surprise to see him pop up with a late equaliser.
The original tie had been so delayed that the replay took place on Saturday 23rd February, the day the 5th Round had been scheduled to take place, so the winners already knew they would be facing Trophy holders Canvey Island at home in the next round.
Despite the Glovers’ good form at the time, they were suffering from severe selection problems. A bout of flu had run through the club, with Colin Pluck, Olivier Brassart, Darren Way and even Gary Johnson among the victims. In addition, Lee Johnson and Kim Grant had been injured during the first game and were unavailable for the replay. This left severe shortages in midfield, with only 39-year old Steve Thompson, already pulled out of retirement to cover the ongoing injury crisis, fully fit. Roy O’Brien was on the bench, but had not started a game since breaking a leg against Scarborough in September.
Playing into a strong wind, Yeovil got off to a terrible start, conceding a penalty after five minutes, although even with the benefit of a replay it is not clear what the offence was as nobody appealed for it. Jamie Paterson converted, and young striker Robert Gill scored a header to make it 2-0 after 22 minutes. The Glovers went in at half time 2-0 down and it could have been a lot worse as Doncaster had multiple chances to increase their lead, with only the post and at least two goal line clearances keeping the score down to two.
Brassart and Way had started in midfield alongside Thommo, but were both forced to withdraw due to illness, on 29 minutes and 52 minutes respectively. To make matters worse, Thompson pulled a muscle and had to be withdrawn at half time to be replaced by Roy O’Brien, playing pretty much alone in central midfield on his first game in five months.
Playing with the wind behind them, the odds were still very much against Yeovil in the second half. Donny continued to dominate, and there was at least one more goal line clearance and a last ditch save from Weale before the Glovers got back into it. Before that though, from a Yeovil corner that was cleared, Robert Gill ran half the length of the pitch to beat Weale and put the home side 3-0 up after 49 minutes. Surely game over, as some Yeovil fans in the 150 or so away following took that as their cue to head back to Somerset, and the stadium PA announced that the next round would take place against Canvey Island the following Tuesday.
The tide soon turned though, as on 52 minutes Darren Way, who had made a mistake in letting the ball pass him in the build-up to Doncaster’s third goal, was replaced by Carl Alford as Yeovil went to three up front with Giles and Stansfield. Just five minutes later, the comeback began as an in-swinging Nick Crittenden free kick was headed home from close range by Colin Pluck to make it 3-1. On 75 minutes, it was Crittenden again who provided the assist, using the wind to his advantage to swing in another deep cross, for Alford to head home for 3-2.
At this point Doncaster made the mistake of withdrawing top scorer Paul Barnes, replacing him with the giant Mark Sale, presumably in an effort to hold up the ball. However Sale is not a goalscorer, and clumsily fell over the ball when if he had controlled it better he would have been through on goal.
For the last 15 minutes, it rained goals as there was almost no time for any action in between – following Alford’s goal on 75 minutes, a deep McIndoe free kick on 79 minutes was stabbed home from close range by Adam Stansfield to make it 3-3. On 86 minutes, Stansfield scored easily the best goal of the game with an incredible 30-yard lob to put the Glovers 4-3 up. With Yeovil finally in front, you’d think this would be the last of the scoring, but just two minutes later Doncaster broke forward, and a cross was converted by Gareth Owen in the box to make it 4-4, as hundreds of home fans flooding for the exits suddenly stopped to watch the game again.
However, precisely 10 seconds after the re-start, a foul on McIndoe on the half-way line gave Yeovil a free kick. McIndoe passed inside to White, who launched a long ball into the box. A headed clearance fell to Skiverton 20 yards out, who shot through a melee of players to beat the keeper and put Yeovil 5-4 up for the last goal of the game. Despite the flood of goals there was still a minute plus four more of injury time, during which the home side did push forward, and had a late appeal for a penalty turned down. It wasn’t the end of the action but it was the end of the scoring, as the whistle finally blew with Yeovil winning incredibly 5-4 with four goals in the last 15 minutes with, let’s not forget, about half of their team missing through illness and injury.
It is probably fair to say that despite Yeovil’s fairly poor record in the FA Trophy up until this point, a lot of people felt that after that incredible game, our name was on the cup. However it was still early in the competition, with four more rounds to go. Holders Canvey Island awaited in the next round, which was due to be played the following Tuesday but was again postponed. Ishtmian League Canvey had beaten Conference sides Stevenage, Telford, Chester and Forest Green on their way to winning the Trophy in 2001, but were yet to face a Conference team in this season’s competition.
That game ended up being played on Tuesday 5th March – the Tuesday after that dramatic late win against Hereford that would see McIndoe sent off and Andy Lindegaard score an injury time winner – and was a bit more comfortable this time, with Yeovil going 2-0 up through Stansfield and Crittenden, and surviving a late scare to win 2-1. The next round saw the Glovers in the Quarter Final for the first time in almost ten years, drawn away at Northwich Victoria, the other team in green and white, and time to dust off the sky blue away kit for only the second time.
Team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Colin Pluck, Darren Way (sub. Carl Alford, 52), Steve Thompson (sub. Roy O’Brien, 46), Olivier Brassart (sub. Tom White, 29), Nick Crittenden, Michael McIndoe, Chris Giles, Adam Stansfield. Subs not used: Jon Sheffield, Andy Lindegaard