Yeovil Town 4 Southend United 0 – Saturday 15th November 2003
After Yeovil were promoted in 2002/03, many of the Conference-winning team would retain their places in the side in the following seasons and go on to win League Two in 2005 – Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Colin Miles, Lee Johnson, Darren Way, Gavin Williams, Andy Lindegaard and Kevin Gall would all be part of the League Two winning squad, with Roy O’Brien, Kirk Jackson, Nick Crittenden and Adam Stansfield all making a significant number of appearances in League Two.
The heart of the team throughout the Conference, League Two and even into League One was the midfield partnership of Darren Way and Lee Johnson, who between them would make almost 300 appearances across three seasons between 2002 and 2005, being virtually ever present in the side. In fact, even though they would miss the occasional match through injury or suspension, both would play exactly the same number of games in 2002/03 (48) and 2004/05 (52).
Barely 20 when he first joined Yeovil in 2001, Lee Johnson was one of the players most quickly able to adapt to his new level and became a key player in 03/04 and 04/05. Not only did he adapt well to League Two, but he was able to make the step up to League One and then the Championship, in which he played over 130 games. He arguably played some of his best football for the Glovers in that short period when he was relieved from the pressure of being the manager’s son in 2005.
Lee’s big contributions were in his passing and assists. Still not formally recorded even now, certainly at the time assists were not always recognised even though almost every goal needs one. It’s open to interpretation but an assist is generally given to the player who last touches the ball before a team-mate scores. Usually that will be a pass, but a saved shot or deflected cross also count. Even if an opponent touches it in between, it still counts unless it’s a mistake of Wes Morgan proportions in which case there is no assist. A review of all of the footage available from Lee’s time (not for every goal, unfortunately) suggests he was top of the assist charts for most of the seasons he was with Yeovil, with 12 in 2001/2 (1st), 16 in 2002/03 (2nd behind McIndoe), 20 in 2003/04 (1st), and 17 in 2004/05 (1st). He would have been an invaluable Fantasy Football player, especially in 04/05 when he also chipped in with 11 goals. Not bad for a player who some still thought was only in the team because he was the manager’s son.
Overall Lee contributed around 80 assists in just over four years, by far the most of any player there are available records for. Other notable assist-makers have been Ed Upson with 18 in 2012/13, Chris Cohen with 13 in 2006/07, Sam Foley with 13 in 2014/15, Andy Welsh with 12 in 2010/11, Kevin Gall with 14 in 2003/04, and Michael McIndoe with 22 in 2002/03.
This footage of the game against Southend in 2003/04 shows just how integral Lee was to the team in those years of continued success. 3-0 up at half time, Yeovil comfortably won 4-0. Lee created the first, delivering a corner from which Lee Elam eventually scored. For the second, he bypassed the entire defence with a delightful chip to set up Way to score. For the third, he scored direct from a free kick following a foul on Jake Edwards, and for the final goal he won a penalty which he then converted, giving him a total of two goals and three assists in a 4-0 win.
The midfield partnership between Johnson and Way would eventually be broken up after Gary Johnson’s departure in 2005 when Darren sustained a lengthy injury, which would necessitate the loan signing of 18-year old Chris Cohen from West Ham to take his place. He was then sold to Swansea for £150,000 while still recovering from injury. The pair would leave the club within days of each other mid-season, as during the same transfer window Lee was also sold, to Hearts for £50,000. He made a handful of appearances for the Edinburgh club before returning to England to play once again for Gary Johnson, this time at Bristol City as he helped them secure promotion to the Championship in 2006/07 (scoring against Yeovil in the process), and going on to play over 130 times in the Championship as the Robins chased a play-off place. His playing career ended in 2013 at the age of 31 before moving into management at Oldham, Barnsley, Bristol City and currently Sunderland, who at the time of writing are top of League One.
Darren and Lee played two final games together in late 2005, before Darren succumbed to his second injury absence of the season. Interestingly in one of those the both scored, in a 4-0 FA Cup win over Macclesfield. In their final game together, Lee was sent off for the fourth time in his Yeovil career – against Swansea, the team Darren would sign for only a few weeks later.
Team that day: Chris Weale, Paul Terry (sub. Adam Stansfield 83), Colin Miles, Adam Lockwood, Terry Skiverton, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Nick Crittenden, Lee Elam (sub. Jamie Gosling 71), Jake Edwards (sub. Kirk Jackson 77), Kevin Gall