Southend 0 Yeovil Town 1 – Saturday 30th April 2005
2004/05 was a rollercoaster of a season which went right down to the wire. It turned into a four-way title race between Yeovil, Scunthorpe, Southend and Swansa, and right up until the end, all results were possible. On the last day, any of the top four could have been either Champions or missed out on automatic promotion altogether.
Under Brian Laws, Scunthorpe had proved to be early pace-setters, although Yeovil briefly took over in September with a 2-1 win at Shrewsbury. Swansea led the way for a few weeks in October, following which Scunthorpe took over again, and were top from the end of October to the end of December. Before Christmas, they held a seven point lead over the Glovers, before a dramatic contrast in fortunes for the two clubs saw Yeovil erase that lead with a run of seven consecutive wins, taking over top spot on 3rd January with a 4-2 win at home over Shrewsbury. The Glovers then held top spot for over three months, although they did not have everything their own way, as the run to the FA Cup Fourth Round was possibly proving to be something of a distraction – after the big third and fourth round games, they lost the next league games. The huge 4-3 win over Scunthorpe in February appeared to have settled the title race in Yeovil’s favour, but this also seemed to signal a downturn in form. Goals dried up somewhat, as there followed a period of only two wins in eight including home defeats against Bury and Notts County, and an incredibly poor performance in a 2-0 defeat at Rushden.
Scunthorpe were not faring much better, but it was at this time that Southend became the form team – mid-table in October, the Shrimpers were unbeaten in 17 league and cup games at the time the Glovers were critically losing form. When Yeovil lost consecutive games against Notts County and Rushden in April, it seemed like they might miss out not only on the title but promotion altogether, as Southend took advantage and took the lead at the top of the table.
Fortunately, that defeat at Rushden would prove to be as bad as it got – the following week, Gary Johnson switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Jevons, Davies and Gall as a front three, which worked like a charm as the goals returned and the Glovers stormed to a 5-2 win over Mansfield. As luck would have it, Southend were involved in the LDV Final that day and Yeovil re-gained first place. Defeat at Wembley also seemed to knock the previously unstoppable Shrimpers, as their form stumbled right at the last.
On the last away game of the season, Yeovil faced Southend at Roots Hall. The Glovers really could not afford to lose, as they led the League 2 table with 77 points, ahead of Southend on goal difference, one point ahead of Scunthorpe and three ahead of Swansea in fourth.
After two very attacking performances against Mansfield and Wycombe, Gary Johnson took the rare and sensible decision to play more cautiously in such a huge game. Not losing was probably more important than winning, as a draw would still mean that Southend had not overtaken them and promotion would be in their own hands on the last day. He also faced some injury problems which may have affected his approach to the game – Darren Way pulled out before the game with food poisoning, and although Bartosz Tarachulski was able to start, he only made it 30 minutes as both he and his replacement Marcus Richardson were taken off due to injury before half time.
It was a game mainly of half-chances, as Yeovil came closest with a Davies header that was clawed out by Flahavan, while at the other end Freddie Eastwood cut inside but dragged his shot wide. For the most part Yeovil were content to absorb pressure as at the back, the new signings made in time for the run-in, Efe Sodje and in particular Kevin Amankwaah, were absolutely immense as Southend struggled to get through.
It was as tense an afternoon as I have ever experienced in football, as the losses due to injury put Yeovil on the back foot, but we appeared to be standing up to the home side’s pressure – in front of a sell-out 12,000 crowd including 1600 or so travelling Yeovil fans.
Just as the match ticked over into the last ten minutes and it looked like we might be able to hang on for a much needed point, Steve Collis gathered a cross and hurled it out 40 yards to Jevons on the wing – Jevons passed inside to Davies, then kept on going as Davies took a shot form outside the area, which was deflected but fell right into the onrushing Jevons’ path, who slid home with is left foot. The way Jevons collapsed with the effort when he made it back to the half way line, showed how much the game had taken out of him and how much of a relief it was after all that effort to be ahead on 83 minutes. Southend did have one last chance, as substitute and former Yeovil target Lawrie Dudfield dragged his shot wide.
The final whistle came and brought with it the best possible outcome – a win, a cushion at the top, and a clean sheet, only the third since Christmas. Gary Johnson’s team that season didn’t really do clean sheets, but proved that they could keep it tight at the back when they really needed to.
Going into the last game Yeovil were in pole position but by no means safe – one point ahead of Scunthorpe and three ahead of Southend and Swansea, the title was in their own hands, but if they lost to play-off bound Lincoln they could potentially miss out altogether – it was that close.
As it happened, Yeovil would win 3-0 to secure the title, although it took until half time to break the deadlock. Scunthorpe got the draw they needed to keep them in second, while a 1-0 win at Bury was enough to see Swansea jump up to third and consign Southend to the play-offs. Fortunately for them, they beat Lincoln in the final and even went on to win League One at the first attempt in 2005/06.
Team that day: Steve Collis, Kevin Amankwaah. Colin Miles (sub. Kevin Gall 73), Terry Skiverton, Efe Sodje, Paul Terry, Lee Johnson, Arron Davies, Bartosz Tarachulski (sub. Marcus Richardson, 30 (sub. Andrejs Stolcers 45)), Phil Jevons