Yeovil Town 2 Colchester 0 – Saturday 18th August 1990
The last of our throwback series on the move to the new stadium 32 years ago brings us to the first competitive match, at the start of the 1990/91 season. We have already covered the last match at Huish and the opening of Huish Park which was celebrated with a friendly against Newcastle United. On Saturday 18th August 1990 came the opening Conference fixture with the visit of Colchester United. Under manager Brian Hall, the Glovers included many well known faces such as Mickey Spencer, Paul Wilson and Mark Shail. The Glovers won 2-0 with a goal in each half from Spencer and Conning. It was a classic kit as well, with the white shirt, green shorts and ‘Bass’ sponsorship. That’s one shirt I wouldn’t mind us bringing back, we used a very similar style as the away kit in 2002/03, although I don’t think it got many outings – Northwich (also in green) and Dagenham (Bank Holiday Monday, home kit still in the wash) are the only ones that spring to mind.
Mickey Spencer joined Yeovil from Wokingham in 1989 after buying himself out of the army. He went on to be one of only six players to have scored over 100 goals for the Glovers in the post-war era. He was virtually ever-present, making over 50 appearances in four of his six years with the club between 1989 and 1995. Mickey saw a lot in his time with us – the move to Huish Park, league clubs knocked out of the FA Cup in 1991, 92 and 93, culminating in that famous match against Arsenal during which he certainly left his mark on England’s right back with what is generously known as a ‘forward’s challenge’. Sadly his time ended with relegation to the Isthmian League in 1995, but he will always be remembered as a legend. We’ll even forgive him for signing for Bath. Only one player has scored over 100 goals in green and white since Mickey departed and that was one Warren Patmore who had an equally illustrious career with us, with just as many ups, downs and FA Cup exploits.
Colchester had recently been relegated from what was then called the Fourth Division. In those days there tended to be a considerable gap between the relegated clubs and Conference teams –the Conference (or Alliance Premier League as it was originally called) was created to put forward one team for promotion each season rather than have multiple clubs competing against each other for ‘election’ which would inevitably result in them taking votes off each other. Cases of successful election were rare, and were often a result of needing to replace league clubs who had gone out of business. There was a bottleneck at the top of the non-league pyramid which was a barrier to entry as the same clubs were re-elected year after year.
This did not immediately fix the problem as in the early years of the Alliance Premier League there was no automatic promotion and the winners still had to be elected. In reality, not a single club was elected from the Alliance Premier, as every year the winners were denied until the introduction of automatic promotion in 1986/87, the same year as it was renamed the ‘Vauxhall Conference’; even though GM haven’t sponsored the division since 1998, it is often still referred to as that. The winners that year, Scarborough, became the first club to be promoted from the Conference, under the leadership of one Neil Warnock. The following two years saw relegated teams bounce back up at the first attempt, as Lincoln in 1988 and Darlington in 1989 were able to remain full time which gave them a significant advantage over the rest of the division who were mostly, if not all, still full time. Colchester were relegated in 1990 and took two attempts, finishing 2nd in 1991 and first on goal difference in 1992, narrowly beating out Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe. Colchester also managed the rare feat of winning the Conference and FA Trophy double in 1991. An achievement that, as good as we were in 2003, Yeovil were unable to replicate.
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