Yeovil Town 3 Plymouth Argyle 2 (AET) – Tuesday 24th August 2004
On 24th August 2004, Yeovil were drawn at home to then-Championship Plymouth in the first round of the League Cup. They would make national headlines across the media the next day due to the bizarre circumstances of the first goal, the first of a unique hat-trick scored by Lee Johnson.
The contentious goal came after 28 minutes when Plymouth defender Graham Coughlan left the pitch for treatment following a blow to the face. From the resultant throw-in, Lee Johnson picked up the ball around the half way line and hoofed it up the pitch towards Luke McCormick in the Westland End goal. McCormick misjudged the ball completely, and let it bounce past him into the net. There was no attempt to score from Johnson, the ball wasn’t even hit that hard as it bounced pathetically into the net.
By the time Plymouth had gathered themselves enough to kick off again, instruction had come from Gary Johnson to the Yeovil players to allow the visitors to score an equalising goal unopposed, which Stevie Crawford then did.
It was this rare act of sportsmanship in allowing the opposition to score an uncontested goal which would be repeated and written about across the country’s media the following day.
However there were still more than 60 minutes – at least – of the game to go. Having been gifted one goal Plymouth were then presented with another before half time, this time from the referee as a penalty was awarded for an apparent infringement against Liam Fontaine although it was not clear to anyone what for. Dead ball specialist Paul Wotton stepped up and fired the visitors ahead – it was not his first involvement in the game for the future Glover, as he could have seen red for a professional foul in the first minute. Wotton was later one of an influx of players who would save the Glovers from League One relegation by helping to take them from bottom at Christmas to 14th in May 2011.
Plymouth dominated much of the second half but were unable to add to their lead, and the travelling fans were silenced when Lee Johnson picked up another throw around 40 yards out, ran unopposed towards the box and let fly a shot into the top right hand corner from well outside the penalty area. McCormick got a hand to it, but was unable to keep it out.
The game went to extra time, with Yeovil adopting a 3-4-3, changed from the 4-4-2 they had started with. Just before break, that man Wotton was involved again when he brought down Darren Way for a foul around 30 yards out. Up stepped Lee Johnson again to give Yeovil the lead with the best of the three, a scorching free kick hit so hard that the cameras almost missed it – and not for the last time that season.
With Plymouth out of energy and out of ideas, Yeovil held on for a historic win which marked their first Championship side knocked out of the League Cup – a feat they would repeat the following season with a 2-0 win away at Ipswich.
This was surely the longest range hat-trick of all time, with a combined distance of around 120 yards. There can’t be many – if any – players who have scored from the half way line and gone on to score a hat trick in the same game. Although Lee Johnson had often taken free kicks and corners whenever the opportunity arose since joining Yeovil in 2001, he really stepped up his game in 2004/05. Having proved himself more than capable at League Two level with an incredible 20 assists and five goals in 2003/04, Johnson scored 11 goals and 17 assists in the League Two title-winning season. Seven of those 11 were scored from outside the area, including all three of the hat-trick against Plymouth as well as a free kick against Grimsby and another screamer against Wycombe. By comparison, no Yeovil player has achieved more than 20 assists in one season in the 18 years since then – the closest was Ed Upson in 2012/13 with 18.
By a strange coincidence, Gary Johnson also instructed his team to allow an uncontested goal during his second spell as manager of the Glovers in August 2013. Incredibly this also occurred in the League Cup, this time against Birmingham, and in more controversial circumstances – chasing the game at 2-1 down in injury time, Byron Webster opted not to return the ball to the opposition and instead chipped the keeper to level at 2-2. In extra time, Luke Ayling scored an absolute screamer with his left foot to put the Glovers 3-2 up, and it was only after the break in extra time that Johnson instructed his players to concede. The match was levelled at 3-3 and Birmingham went on to win on penalties. The circumstances here were arguably different, as against Plymouth Lee Johnson had no intention of scoring and it was a mistake by the goalkeeper (although you could argue that if your keeper can’t intercept a ball from 50 yards out, that’s probably on him). However against Birmingham, if you’re 2-1 up going into injury time, wouldn’t you expect the opposition to do anything they can to equalise, especially if your own team has been wasting time to see out the game? Also Byron Webster made that decision, and offering the opposition a goal more than 15 minutes later makes much less sense, especially as Ayling’s screamer deserved to be the winner of the tie. Seeing Lee Clark’s furious puckered up face after his team had won that game, it would have been even funnier if he’d had to face the media having lost.
It also wasn’t the only time Lee Johnson was involved in a comedy goal – particularly in 2002/03 and 2003/04, the Glovers played a very fast multi-ball game and would very often take quick set pieces to catch out the opposition. This happened on at least two noteworthy occasions – in their first ever League match at Rochdale, Johnson caught the opposition completely unaware following a foul to put the Glovers 2-0 up. A few months before in the televised match against Doncaster, it was Johnson again but this time he was the beneficiary of some quick thinking by Kevin Gall. With the Doncaster keeper penalised for intercepting a back-pass, while the players were arguing with the referee Gall wrestled the ball from the keeper, placed it on the six yard line and passed to Johnson who scored. What was better, it put Yeovil 3-0 up at half time against one of their biggest rivals, on the memorable day that the Glovers were confirmed as Conference Champions after 108 years as a non-league club.
Team that day: Chris Weale, Adam Lockwood (sub. Paul Terry, 57), Michael Rose, Terry Skiverton, Liam Fontaine, Darren Way, Lee Johnson, Kevin Gall, Adrian Caceres (sub. Roy O’Brien, 65), Bartosz Tarachulski (sub. Simon Weatherstone, 89), Phil Jevons. Subs not used: Steve Collis, Kezie Ibe
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