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Monday, 28 September 2009

Braving the Lions Den*

* © Obvious-Headlines-R-Us

No rest for the wicked after Saturday's excellent 2-0 win over Brentford and the Glovers must collectively have been evil in past lives indeed, as the earthly er, delights of Sarf London are up next in the form of the New Den. Yes, it's Millwall away. No-one likes them, they don't care.

Injuries and fitness permitting, Skivo will surely stick with the side that gelled so well and worked so hard for each other against the Bees on Saturday. The bookies however don't give much for our chances, again. Millwall are 7/10 on favourites for the home win, the draw is priced at 23/10 and the away win at a very tempting 4/1. My fiver's going on the draw, based on the unscientific premise that lightning does strike twice following our draw there last season. And the home win gives no value whatsoever. And I'm not brave/daft enough to bet on the away win. Running total: -£4.00p.

If you want a laugh then read through the post-match comments of Brentford fans on their forum, the Griffin Park Grapevine. I may have thought that rather too many Glovers supporters took a far too short-term view in regards to results and performances but having read the opinions of Bees fans I realise now that Yeovil fans are in the main paragons of virtue and tolerance in comparison. Brentford were promoted from L2 as champions last season and in Andy Scott have one of the most highly regarded young managers in the game, but you would never know it from reading their forum. A run of 3 losses and a draw against the likes of Charlton, Huddersfield, Bristol Rovers and ourselves appears to be the end of the world for many of their fans and grounds for replacing the manager with someone who knows what he's doing and their team with players who know how to kick a ball. And of course it's always their team/manager/tactics (delete as applicable) that's at fault, the opposition gets no credit whatsoever. The Glovers are invariably described as a 'poor, poor team', 'relegation fodder', or at best damned with faint praise as being 'very ordinary.' How are we getting to the play-offs if we can't beat teams like Yeovil, seems to be the consensus.

All good knockabout stuff and made even funnier because Brentford while no great shakes themselves didn't to my eyes look any worse (or better for that matter) than most of the other teams that have graced the Huish Park turf so far this season. Where their supporters get their delusions of grandeur I don't know, nor their evident assumptions that they were going to find it easy this season, but it can't be from watching their own side, at least not on the evidence of Saturday afternoon. But wait, what's this? 'Yeovil played an high tempo style, were stronger in the tackle, looked more comfortable on the ball in all areas and looked like they really wanted it.' Take a bow busheybee, in the realm of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Muffwatch: They saved themselves off the pitch (for a few more months at any rate), but on the pitch things are going from bad to worse for our former rivals on the south coast. Weymouth are firmly rooted to the bottom of Conference South and were looking forward to their FA Cup tie at Bishops Cleeve last weekend for some light relief from the league and a chance to knock a few goals in against a team way down the pyramid from them. That was the plan, anyway. I'm not entirely sure what league Bishop Cleeve actually play in, the Cheltenham Sunday League Division 3, perhaps; but whatever it is they made the gap between the sides look non-existent by beating the Muff 3-0 in one of the more hilarious FA Cup upsets of all time. I'm thinking of adopting the Bishops as my second team actually, especially as they've now been drawn against Bath City in the next qualifying round. Come on you, er, Cleevers!

IF you want another good laugh at the Muffers then for the time being there's a video of the Bishops 3-0 win over Weymouth on the FA website - see the 'latest' section. In case you were wondering how the Muff fanbase has reacted to being knocked out of the FA Cup at such an early stage and by such lowly opponents then check out their forum, where they're still at each others throats about the smoking ban at the Wessex. Weymouth fans - you've got to love 'em.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

L1: Yeovil 2 Brentford 0

What a difference a change of formation makes! Skivo's been getting a lot of stick in the stands at Huish Park and on the green room lately over his tactical decisions and team selections, so it's very pleasant to report that he got it completely right yesterday, and was vindicated with a comprehensive win over the Bees of West London. Modesty almost forbids me from pointing out that this blog has been asking for a 4-4-1-1 formation with two holding midfielders and Ryan Mason as the second/striker/attacking midfielder since the Exeter game last month, and yesterday the gaffer obliged. Well, more or less. It was actually more like a 4-2-3-1, but the principle's the same. The real surprise was Gavin Tomlin lining up as the right midfielder, which brought much shaking of heads and sucking of teeth from fans around me at the start, but in the end proved an excellent decision.

We lined up as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy (GK): 7/10 - Well protected by his back four but very competent when called upon. I said at the start of the season that it was a big ask for a keeper of his tender years to be number one in an L1 side. Well, he's proving that he's more than up to the task.

2. Craig Alcock (RB): 7/10 - I've been quite critical of Craig's performances so far this season but yesterday he really stepped up to the plate. Kept the dangerous Cleveland Taylor quiet and popped up with a vital headed goal from a corner. If I'm being ultra-critical he still has a tendency to give the ball away too easily with misplaced passes, get rid of that flaw in his game and he'll be an excellent L1 right-back. What you can't ever fault is his enthusiasm and effort.

5. Steven Caulker (CD): 8/10 - Just excellent, again. Strong in the air, strong in the tackle, measured in his passing - if this lad isn't in the Spurs first team in the next couple of years then I'll eat my black Tottenham away shirt from a couple of seasons ago that I've never actually worn (it was an Xmas present).

6. Terrell Forbes (CD): 8/10 - As committed, passionate and effective as he's been in his time here. Forming a very good partnership with Caulker and now surely first choice alongside the Spurs youngster. Time for Skivo to extend his contract methinks.

3. Nathan Jones (LB): 7/10 - Noisily effective at left-back. I would have said quietly effective but still has an awful tendency to berate his own teammates at a loud volumne for any perceived shortcomings. A word to the wise Nathan, a quiet word is almost always more effective than a shouted bollocking, and doesn't make you look like a bad-tempered tit either.

10. Gavin Tomlin (RMF): 7/10 - Hands up anyone who expected Gav to start as the right-sided midfielder? No-one? Me neither. But he did a good job there, made Andy Welsh's goal and was always looking to get forward to support Sam Williams up front when possible. On the downside was caught out positionally a couple of times and I'm not convinced that he can be re-born in that position permanently, but did well yesterday.

25. Shaun MacDonald (CM): 8/10 - Fantastic to see him back in the green-and-white. Played as a holding midfielder alongside JP Kalala yesterday and between them they sewed up the middle of the park while always looking to release our creative players. Very similar to the lamented Gary Roberts, but better. Would be marvellous if we could sign him permanently, sadly I think he's probably too good for us.

21. JP Kalala (CM): 8/10 - As I've said before I was lukewarm about the return of JP to Huish Park, but I was wrong. He gives us the defensive solidity we need in midfield and I'm personally very excited about the partnership he formed with MacDonald yesterday, both of them hunting the ball as a pair and tidying up after each other. Very, very encouraging and something for the likes of Keiran Murtagh to watch and learn from.

11. Andy Welsh (LMF): 8/10 - Always provided a threat, and you can't ask for much more from your left-winger. Set-pieces were generally excellent as usual, but the one thing missing from his game (er, apart from the ability to tackle back, but let's not expect miracles) has been goal-scoring. Well, he finally broke his Glovers duck yesterday, and could easily have had another. More please, Andy!

13. Ryan Mason (AMF): 8/10 - We've been asking Skivo to play Ryan just behind the main striker for a while now and he finally obliged - and what a response from the Spurs youngster. Ran the game, spraying the ball around to both wings and linking up well with Williams up front. The only thing missing from his game was a goal. They will surely come if he stays in this position.

9. Sam Williams (ST): 8/10 - First-class display of target-man play. Never stopped running, linked up well with Mason and the widemen and won his share of balls in the air. Responded well to the arrival of Craig Davies.

7. George O'Callaghan (90 mins for Jean-Paul Kalala): N/A - Not on long enough to have an effect.

28. Nathan Smith (90 mins for Andy Welsh): N/A - Not on long enough to have an effect.

30. Craig Davies (77 mins for Sam Williams): 7/10 - Looked full of running and threat against a tiring defence.

One swallow doesn't make a summer. Just as it wouldn't have been the end of the world if we had lost or drawn yesterday, nor is everything suddenly rosy in the Glovers garden just because we've won a game. What we can take from yesterday is that at last we seemed to be getting the best from our creative players while at the same time staying solid defensively. We had a plan and the plan worked well against a team that was in good form up until a week ago. Well done Skivo, well done boys. Now let's go and do it again at Millwall on Tuesday.

Just read: The Skinner and The Voyage of the Sable Keech by Neal Asher. Terrific science-fiction set in Asher's densely-imagined Polity universe, with both books dealing with events on the deadly planet of Spatterjay. Multi-layered action-packed storylines including golems, reifications, super-intelligent AI's and drones, hive minds, humans infected with a virus that makes their bodies immune to injury and disease - but at a price; and the nastiest, deadliest, goriest and downright evil alien invaders ever... What's not to like? Space opera at it's best, and I don't say that lightly.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Welcome back Shaun

Nice to see Shaun MacDonald back at Huish Park. It would have been even nicer if it was on a permanent basis, but 3 months are better than none. I hope that he's coming in as the direct replacement for Danny Schofield on the right of midfield, which should mean that Ryan Mason will revert back to the tip of the midfield diamond that Skivo seems to be favouring lately after we've fallen behind in games. Who knows, we may start with the diamond at home to Brentford on Saturday rather than waiting to be one down.

At the time of writing there's no news of any other signing, loan or otherwise. Skivo was talking about bringing in a striker as well as a midfielder, but presumably that's not going to happen now. Fair enough - Sam Williams and Gavin Tomlin now have the opportunity to show they can make the forward places their own.

Bringing in all these loan signings is all very well, but it does have cons as well as pros. On the plus side we get to see and appreciate good young players who wouldn't normally be seen dead at any L1 club, let alone ours. On the debit side it means that if they are any good there's the risk that they'll be picked up for international duty, leaving us short for crucial games - as is evidently going to happen when we play Brighton at home on October 10th. Ryan Mason and Steven Caulker are off with the England u-19 side on that date, Jon Obika will still be away with the England u-20 team, Alex McCarthy is on England u-21 duty and last but not least Shaun MacDonald will be away with Wales, picked for either the u-21 team or the full international squad. That's all 5 of our loan players unavailable and all 5 are (or will be in MacDonald's case) first choice starters in our first team. The club have already asked the football league to postpone the game against Brighton and been turned down. They are appealing but the chances are we will have to play the game as scheduled, which will make picking the team that day interesting. Who knows, we may get to see the likes of Danny Hutchins and Scott Murray after all...

The bookies surprisingly make the Glovers narrow favourites for tomorrow's game v Brentford. A home win is priced at 8/5, the draw at 23/10 and a Bees win at 13/8. Those odds mean one of my unwritten rules comes into play so my fiver's going on a Yeovil win. And I need it almost as much as Skivo. Running total: -£17.00p.

Away from the first team and it's good to see that youth team games are going to be played at the Westland Sports ground at Alvington Lane, Yeovil, from now on, even though tomorrow's scheduled game has since beeen postponed. The youth team have been playing most of their home matches at Somerton for the last couple of seasons on a pitch that can best be described as 'difficult', so it will be good for them and any interested spectators to be back on a reasonable surface at last. Good also for those of us missing watching the reserve team play, the Alvington Lane location is much more convenient for fans than Somerton and it'll be nice to be able to go along and watch a Yeovil side other than the first team and keep our eye on any potential stars of the future. We may even see a few wins. Remember them?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Patience is a virtue

The bookies got it right again, though not without a little helping hand from the officials at St Mary's, the Glovers going down 2-0 to Southampton, both goals penalties and both penalties gifted to the Saints by bad, bad decisions by the referee and linesman, at least according to the view from my tv set.

Eight games into the season then and the Glovers are 20th in the table on 6 points. We haven't won since the first game of the season, and that was against Tranmere, who we were wondering if they were any good or not at the time - and now we know, they're not. Skivo's overall record in the league since the time of his appointment makes scary reading - played 25, won 4, drawn 9, lost 12. That, to coin a famous phrase, is relegation form.

As if the bare stats don't make depressing enough reading there are other causes for concern. A couple of times now Skivo's after-match comments seem to be describing an entirely different game to that which supporters have been watching, or this supporter at any rate. I've criticised his team selections, his propensity for playing players out of position, and his tactics. His treatment of Danny Hutchins and Scott Murray is, to an outsider, perplexing, to say the least. I'm on record as saying that his appointment was more a political move by the board than a straightforward footballing decision, to appease supporters aghast at Russell Slade's assassination.

So, time to join the increasing number of posters on the green room who want Skivo out, and sooner rather than later? Well, no, actually. I've always preached the gospel of continuity. Managers, whoever they are, need time to make their mark. Forget last season, that doesn't count. We stayed up, that's all that matters. Skivo's time started this summer. He's the one who decides who to sign, the positions they play in, the tactics used and the training regime employed. Eight games in and already some fans have made up their minds that he has to go - it's absurd. If the gaffer had clearly lost the confidence of the squad, if we were getting thrashed every week, then maybe they might have a point. But that's not happening, the Norwich game aside.

Admittedly I don't go to away games anymore, so my view is based entirely on what happens at Huish Park. But so far this season I've seen Tranmere, Norwich, Orient, Swindon and Stockport, and only one of those sides looked in any way superior to ourselves, and even then the scoreline flattered them. The gap between success and failure in this league is very small and confidence and luck play their part. At the moment it seems that luck is against us but that can change very quickly. A win against Brentford next Saturday at home will put us back into mid-table. But a loss or draw still wouldn't be the end of the world, not yet, not so long as the team are still playing for the gaffer and pulling in the same direction. It's a long, long season, 46 games and only 8 so far gone. Back in August I made the comment that people ought to remember that whatever their expectations of the club this season, we have one of the smallest budgets in L1, attract some of the smallest crowds in L1 and certainly have the most inexperienced manager in L1. Patience is needed. Give Skivo the time to make his mistakes and learn from them.

Unless things change radically, unless we start to be beaten heavily every game and it's clear that he's lost the dressing room, then Skivo should be given this season at the very least to learn his new trade. However, knowing Skivo and his affinity and dare I say love for the club, if either of those negatives started to happen then I feel sure he'd step down of his own accord anyway, rather than damage the club further.

Give Skivo a fair crack of the whip. We can and doubtless will be as critical as we like of his decisions on blogs like this and on the green room, but let's keep on getting behind him and his team at the matches themselves. Patience is a virtue.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Happy days are here again

Hands up anyone who thinks we're going to get anything out of Saturday's away game at Southampton? The bookies don't. The home side are yet to win a game this season but despite that are 4/6 on to take the victory, the draw is priced at 13/5, and an away win at 9/2.

As far as the destination of my fiver is concerned then I don't see much value in the odds for the home win. A £5 bet at 4/6 returns a less than impressive £3.33, and that for a team that's drawn all their home matches so far this season. Mind, that doesn't mean I don't think Southampton aren't the likeliest team to win, their form does seem to be improving gradually despite a very poor start to the season. The Glovers away record on the face of it doesn't inspire too much confidence either - won 0, drawn 1, lost 2 - nevertheless we are beginning to show signs of being a durable side. We may only have won 1 game so far this season but (Norwich in the League Cup aside) we've never been thrashed - we've only been beaten by the odd goal in all our defeats so far. I can't see us winning at St Mary's (however much I'd like to) but I could see us drawing, and the draw is where my fiver's going this week. Running total: -£12.00p.

Picking the team for Saturday has become marginally more straightforward for Skivo with the absence of Jonathan Obika, who's on international duty for England u-20's for the next month. The gaffer's been blowing hot and cold lately over whether he's going to bring in a loan replacement in for the Spurs loanee. Last week he was going to replace Obika with a striker as well as bring in a midfielder to take the place of Danny Schofield, with Gavin Williams name high on the rumourmill in both Bristol and South Somerset. That had changed by the beginning of this week with only the Schofield replacement still apparently on the cards and Sam Williams being talked up as the obvious replacement for Obika. By today Skivo was once more talking about bringing in a striker as well as a midfielder, but by his own admission nothing was going to happen imminently.

So it looks like we're going into the Southampton game with a strikeforce of Sam Williams and Gavin Tomlin, and no recognised right-sided midfielder, as the silence surrounding the absence on the pitch of players like Scott Murray and Danny Hutchins is still deafening. Judging by the last 20 minutes of last Saturday's 2-2 draw with Stockport then Williams and Tomlin could well form a decent partnership, but with only the transfer-listed Andre McCollin as a recognised back-up then Skivo will be keeping his fingers crossed that his two main strikers stay injury-free. And that they do indeed form a decent partnership and score some goals. Because if they don't, then in the absence of Obika or a replacement loan striker then there is no plan B, and that's a worry.

Enough of the football on the pitch for now. Let's let Skivo worry about the team. What else has been happening at Huish Park this week? Well, the new social club is now only weeks from completion. The long-awaited facility with two bars - one for home fans and a smaller bar for away supporters, with both serving hot food at reasonable prices - is still on course to open before Christmas, replacing the dilapidated beer tent, now condemned by South Somerset District Council as a health hazard. The newly refurbished tea bars have never before been as busy or profitable with supporters praising the choice of provisions on offer and the prices charged, with special mention being given to the mobile vendors who walk up and down the stands selling drinks and snacks. The club has also started to see the benefit of increased gates following the decision to remove the match-day surcharge and the re-introduction of the ability to pay at the turnstiles rather than having to queue at the ticket office, both measures encouraging casual supporters to turn up to matches on the day, rather than having to plan their attendance in advance. The newly-introduced membership scheme is also proving popular, as is the abolition of that awful music over the tannoy after a goal has been scored. The Supporters Trust is going from strength to strength and the appointment of the new Supporter-Director to the board, nominated by the Trust, has given fans a real voice in the running of their club for the first time. In other words the buzz is back at Huish Park and so is the feelgood factor, all thanks to the board listening to what supporters want and acting on those wishes. Happy days!

Monday, 14 September 2009

L1: Yeovil 2 Stockport 2

What can you say? Two points lost or a point gained? I suppose that a neutral observer would say that any point is a good one when you play most of the game one man short, but I can't help feeling that Stockport were there for the taking at Huish Park on Sunday, a poor side with little or no flair save for one player - their double goalscorer Carl Baker. Two points lost for me, despite the sending-off.

We lined up as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy - 5/10: If the keeper did bring Nicholas Bignall down then his sending-off was inevitable if not entirely deserved. My feeling at the time was that the penalty was a soft one, with Bignall deliberately running into McCarthy and going down rather than actually being fouled by the keeper. The tv replays have been inconclusive (no surprise there given the usual appalling standard of the camerawork at Huish Park) so in the end we have to go with the referee's decision, albeit grudgingly.

6. Terrell Forbes - 7/10: Another good game for Forbes at right-back. Defended well and overlapped in attack when possible.

4. Stefan Stam - 5/10: Not an entirely convincing return for the skipper. Allowed Baker too much room and time for the striker's second goal.

5. Steven Caulker - 6/10: Can't say I really noticed him overmuch yesterday, which means he was either doing his job quietly efficiently or not really getting involved. Benefit of the doubt means I'll go for the first option.

3. Nathan Jones - 5/10: As last time out, solid defensively but added very little going forward. Passing/crossing mediocre.

13. Ryan Mason - 7/10: A new position on the right of the midfield for Ryan - for most of the match at any rate - and the boy done pretty good, including providing the cross for Williams' goal. Still don't think we're making the best use of him by not playing him in the middle and further forward.

8. Keiran Murtagh - 6/10: Looked more comfortable alongside an enforcer, but IMO should have got forward to support the front two more, though I appreciate we were a man short in midfield most of the game.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala - 8/10: Encouraging, to say the least. Bossed the central midfield despite being out-numbered and never stopped encouraging and cajoling his teammates. Let's hope he keeps fit.

11. Andy Welsh - 7/10: Started the match well and was unlucky not to score with a shot from the edge of the box. Even more unlucky to be the sacrificial sub when McCarthy was sent off.

10. Gavin Tomlin - 7/10: Doesn't get the credit he deserves for his forward play. Makes good runs, holds the ball up well (mostly) and most of all gives it a real go. The icing on the cake was his goal from open play. Not entirely sure he was completely well on Saturday come to that - thought I saw him being sick on the pitch on one occasion.

26. Jonathan Obika - 5/10: Disappointing, again. But having said that had something of a thankless task after the sending off with Tomlin dropping deeper than usual and Obika being left alone up top most of the time. When he first arrived at Huish Park he was able to make things happen himself, even if nothing was happening around him. He seems to have lost a bit of that spark lately. Off on international duty for a month now anyway and to be honest, I'm not that bothered.

15. Richard Martin (GK) (21 mins for Andy Welsh) - 6/10: Did nothing wrong after replacing McCarthy, not that he had an awful lot to do. Let in both goals, but one was a pen and the other a defensive lapse.

7. George O'Callaghan (79 mins for Keiran Murtagh) - N/A: Didn't really have time to affect the game. Can't say I noticed him at all in fact.

9. Sam Williams (63 mins for Jonathan Obika): 7/10 - Came on and scored, can't ask for much more than that. He really is good in the air. It would be nice to see if he could develop a partnership with Tomlin over the next few games while Obika is away, but if Skivo is going to bring in another loan striker then Williams may be out of luck.

I was surprised to see Nathan Jones preferred to Nathan Smith at left-back. I know Smith had a stinker last time out against Swindon, but I, and most other people, put that down to him being played out of position on the wing. It's not as if Jones's form is so wonderful as to make him undroppable either. The other surprise - well, not so much a surprise, more of a mystery really - is the continuing absence of Scott Murray. I simply cannot understand what is going on there. Is he unfit? Presumably not or he wouldn't be on the bench. So why is Skivo leaving out our only fit right-sided midfield player (Andy Lindegaard aside - say no more) and asking Ryan Mason to fill in there for the first time in his career? Questions were certainly being asked in the crowd on Saturday about Murray's status in the squad and the wisdom of signing a 35-year-old on a year's contract who apparently is only rarely going to play, if at all. Perhaps Exeter knew what they were doing after all when they only offered him a 3-month contract in July?

Despite what I said at the top of the page, it's perhaps harsh to be complaining about drawing at home when we've played most of the game with only ten men. One point is better than none and credit to the team is due for coming from behind twice, albeit against a very limited side. Credit also to Skivo for his substitutions. At the time I felt he was wrong to sacrifice Welsh for the substitute keeper Martin. I would have taken off Nathan Jones and gone to a back three, but the final score proved the gaffer correct.

The attendance was once again the worst of the season so far, 3,519; including approximately 150 Stockport fans. We seem to be attracting a core home support of anywhere between 3,000 - 3,800 so far this season, comfortably the smallest number of home supporters since we joined the football league. So much for the theory that the poor crowds last season were down to Russell Slade's brand of football. Slade's gone, the entertainment is supposedly better, crowds are even worse. Of course, that theory was always simplistic drivel peddled by those with an agenda. The reasons for the falling crowds are almost certainly many and varied, not down to one single factor. For what it's worth I think the board got their season-ticket prices about right this season, and I also thoroughly approve of the new Young Person ticket and the reduced prices for them; but otherwise I think there's so much that needs to change to attract fans back to Huish Park that it's not even funny.

But that's a subject I'll return to another day. It's not just at home our support is down, fans aren't travelling in the numbers they used to either. Southampton away up next, and last time we went there we took just over 2,000. I suspect we'll do well if even half that number make the journey to Hampshire next Saturday.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Crumbs of comfort

Although this a blog predominantly concerned with the trials and tribulations of a small football league football club in South Somerset, it's not all about Yeovil Town. I like my football and will happily sit down to watch a match involving, well, anyone really. Indeed, as I type I've got half an eye on England Women v Germany Women in the European Championships Final, which is above and beyond the call of duty if the truth be known. Anyone who knows me also knows full well that I'm an armchair Spurs fan (quite handy in these times of loans from White Hart Lane) as well as holding a soft spot for Cardiff City, the Bluebirds being the first club I saw play in the flesh.

Admitting a liking for Yeovil Town, Spurs and Cardiff City would under the normal course of events probably be grounds for admission to the nearest psychiatric unit, or at the very least a short cut to a prescription of anti-depressive drugs. Unusually however both Cardiff and Spurs have enjoyed excellent starts to the season, something that's provided me with more than the odd crumb of comfort after the Glovers rather more mediocre beginning. Saturday's game at home to Stockport surely provides Terry Skiverton's men their most likely opportunity to pick up 3 points since the opening day win over Tranmere. If we can't beat them, then we really are in the brown stuff.

My team, for what it's worth, would be as follows (4-4-1-1):

Alex McCarthy
Terrell Forbes, Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Nathan Smith
Scott Murray, JP Kalala, Kieran Murtagh, Andy Welsh
Ryan Mason
Jon Obika

I'd move Forbes to right back to add some defensive solidity and bring Stam back at centre-half. Smith moves to his correct position at left-back and Welsh goes back to his correct position on the left. Murray starts a game for once. Why sign him if not to play? He's supposed to be good, time for him to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Kalala and Murtagh add some steel in the centre of midfield and it's a straight choice between Mason and Tomlin for the linking role - Mason edges it for me because he scores from open play, unlike Tomlin so far this season.

In the real world who knows what Skivo will do? The insipid performance last week against Swindon certainly gives him every excuse to make as many changes as he would like, I guess in practice most of us would settle for having the correct players in the correct positions. I think he'll find a way of bringing back Tomlin and Kalala, otherwise your guess is as good as mine.

Gambling corner: Yeovil win - 1/1, draw - 23/10, Stockport win - 14/5. Skivo needs a win, the team needs a win, the fans need a win, most of all I need a win. My fiver's going on the home win! Running total: -£7.00p

Muffwatch: To administrate or not to administrate - that is the question the Weymouth board has been facing. Ten days ago the struggling seaside scummers served notice that they would go into administration unless £50,000 could be raised - enough money to see the club through the next few months. In the intervening time it's emerged that if the administration route is chosen then former chairman Malcolm Curtis, or Malcolm Cu*tis as the Muff fans prefer to call him, will take over the Wessex Stadium site, leaving the club homeless, as well as potless. This seems to have had a galvanising effect on supporters and the good news is that the entire sum has now virtually been raised - all joking aside a bloody marvellous effort considering the entire sum has come through the auspices of the Terras Saviour 100 Scheme, where fans/local businesses donate £500 +VAT for the privilege of owning 2 season tickets and the chance to win various sponsorship packages, including the rights to the Wessex Stadium name. A Patron Scheme (as formerly practiced by YTFC) by any other name then. I can't help wishing that I had a spare £500 (I haven't!) as I think Weymouth FC playing at the Taff's Gloversblog Stadium has a certain ring to it. One can dream...

Just read: A whole bunch of crime novels/short stories, including: Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendall; Double Cross by James Patterson; The Murder Room by PD James; Not Safe After Dark, by Peter Robinson; Tooth and Nail, The Black Book, and Beggars Banquet by Ian Rankin. Enjoyed the lot too, albeit some more than others. The conclusion I've come to? Quite simple - Rebus rules. Think I'm all murdered out for the time being now though, I feel a science-fiction binge coming on. Watch this space...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

L1: Yeovil 0 Swindon 1

Oh dear. We didn't start too badly yesterday, by which I mean we had most of the play and managed to get the ball into Swindon's box on three or four occasions in the first 15 minutes, but without ever looking too threatening and without managing as something as basic as forcing their keeper into making a save. But gradually as the game wore on we became less and less effective, the movement of the players off the ball into space ceased and the long ball became the only option - meat and drink to the big Swindon centre-backs. A final tally of five attempts on goal, two on target, tells it's own story - not good enough, especially at home, especially for a derby match.

For what they're worth, the usual marks for the players:

1. Alex McCarthy: 6/10 - Not at fault for the goal, another competent display. Didn't have a great deal to do in truth.

2. Craig Alcock: 4/10 - Looked okay going forward, but I'm still not convinced about his defensive attributes. Yet again the goal came from a cross from his side of the pitch with him nowhere in sight. What does he bring to the team as captain? I'm yet to work it out.

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - A cut above the rest of the team. Solid defensively and went forward impressively a couple of times in the second half. Looks so comfortable on the ball, especially for a centre-back.

6. Terrell Forbes: 7/10 - My man of the match yesterday. Led by example, strong at the back and played with as much enthusiasm and energy as I've seen from him. Marked him down a point for the own-goal though.

3. Nathan Jones: 4/10 - A mirror-image of Alcock - okay defensively, but nowhere to be seen going forward. If he'd spent as much time passing the ball to Nathan Smith as he did shouting at him then we might have got somewhere.

11. Andy Welsh: 5/10 - Played on the right wing, an odd choice for such a predominately left-footed player. Thought it was going to pay off briefly when he got into some good positions on the by-line in the first half, but nothing ever came of them. Faded from the game completely until the inevitable substitution.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - Didn't do badly considering he was playing the entire Swindon midfield trio on his own. You just get the feeling we're wasting him at the moment. He should be used 'in the hole' as an attacking midfielder or even further up the pitch as a second striker. As it is he's expending his energy and skill trying to make tackles all over the park, which just isn't his game.

8. Keiran Murtagh: 3/10 - I've got a lot of time for Murtagh generally, but even his mum would admit he had a stinker yesterday. Seemed to have no energy, no ball control, no movement - no nothing. A game to forget.

28. Nathan Smith: 3/10 - Surely proved once and for all that he's not a left-winger. Made one or two decent first half runs all the time looking like Bambi on ice, but no end product. Another one played out of position.

9. Sam Williams: 5/10 - Did well enough in the air on a diet of long-ball rubbish while he was on, but a striker is on the pitch to score goals, and again he came nowhere near to doing that. Starting to show signs of being worryingly fragile on top of that. Ho-hum.

26. Jonathan Obika: 4/10 - Didn't cope at all with the diet of long-ball rubbish coming his way, and it's hard to criticise him for that. Not hard to criticise him for his general lack of movement and enthusiasm however. If we can't improve the service to him he's not going to score goals and will eventually return to White Hart Lane vowing never to come back.

18. Andy Lindegaard (51 mins for Craig Alcock): 3/10 - When you're chasing the game you expect your full-back to get forward as often as possible and to deliver quality crosses into the box. Lindy failed on both counts.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala (78 mins for Andy Welsh): 6/10 - Did more in the 15-odd minutes he had on the pitch than Murtagh managed the whole game. Certainly did enough to suggest he might start next time.

32. Andre McCollin (22 mins for Sam Williams): 4/10 - Coped as poorly as Obika with the long-ball rubbish coming his way, but at least looked as if he was trying. Should be playing for Grays, or Ebbsfleet, or Hayes & Yeading, not an L1 side.

I wasn't impressed with Skivo's team selection or substitutions yesterday. I've said above that I felt both Smith and Welsh were played out of position and I'd like to see Mason pushed much further forward than he is. I felt that an opportunity was missed to change things positively when Williams was injured. Instead of the obvious striker-for-a-striker that Skivo employed when he brought on McCollin (a player incidentally that the gaffer has tacitly admitted that he doesn't rate by his placement on the transfer list), I would have preferred him to have added a midfielder in the shape of Kalala or O'Callaghan as it was already obvious by then that Murtagh was out of sorts, and pushed Mason up front just behind Obika, to renew the successful partnership the two enjoyed last season for the Tottenham youth team. I also felt he then missed another opportunity when Alcock was injured. I would have brought on Stam to add more height and experience at set-pieces in both attack and defence and moved Forbes to right-back. Instead Skivo again swapped like for like, bringing on the completely ineffective Lindegaard, and nothing changed.

I know, it's easy to say these things in hindsight, but they were exactly the changes I and those around me were saying we needed at the time yesterday. Substitutes should be used to try to change the game, especially if your team is already behind, but all our substitutes did yesterday was to ensure more of the same, which patently wasn't working. The frustration is that Swindon were no better or more effective than the mis-firing home side, and if 3 points were ever there for the taking, they were there yesterday.

Ah, enough of the second-guessing. It's far to soon for anyone to be panicking. We're not even 10 games into the new season yet. Skivo has made mistakes for sure, but so does any manager. He must be given the time to sort things out and to turn things around, as management change for changes sake is almost always counter-productive. For all our sakes let's hope Skivo learns from his mistakes quickly, and lets keep on backing him and the team in the meantime.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Told you so

I first said it back in May and I've been repeating it on and off ever since - I didn't expect Danny Schofield to still be here by the time the transfer window closed on the first of September. Sure enough, he's gone, signed for Millwall on a 2-year deal for an - guess what? - undisclosed fee. I've ranted about the club's ludicrous obsession with secrecy regarding transfer fees before, so for the sake of my blood pressure I'll say no more on that subject for now. It's not like the bastards are taking any notice anyway.

As for the effect of Danny leaving I can't see how it doesn't leave us weaker. He's one of the few players we had with that nebulous virtue of flair. Yes, he is inconsistent. Yes, he tends to disappear from games for long periods. No, he can't tackle his way out of a paper bag. But he does have a certain attacking nous that you just can't teach, and on his day he is as good as anyone in this division, even if his day doesn't come along as much as anyone would like. He's very versatile, able to play on the left or right wings as well centre-midfield and even up front at a pinch, and for a club like ours with a small squad that versatility is very useful and will be missed. It leaves us with Scott Murray, the permanently injured Aidan Downes and the mysterious disappearing man aka Danny Hutchins as our only options on the right, at least until Andy Lindegaard is offered a longer term deal when his initial month has expired, as no doubt he now will be. I don't know about anyone else but none of those options fill me with a huge amount of joy. I hope Skivo will be able to bring someone else in on loan in a week's time to cover the gap - rumours on the Bristol City message board yesterday were suggesting Gavin Williams could be on his way here on loan - but I'll believe that when I see it. Regardless of that it now appears certain that defensive midfielder J-P Kalala will be offered a contract to pad out our midfield. I was lukewarm about the possibility of Kalala signing when he first came back to the club, but I'm coming round to the idea now. There's no doubt that we need more steel in the midfield to protect the back four, J-P can do that and he's youngish, fit and not liable to break down with injury - good enough for us.

However it seems to be one step forward, two steps back, both on and off the pitch at the moment. The team lost at Huddersfield on Saturday but by all accounts put in an encouraging performance against an expensively-assembled and in form side. They travelled to Bournemouth last night hoping to build on that but failed miserably, losing 2-1 to the L2 outfit, a scoreline that flattered the Glovers according to those there. It's not all doom and gloom, for a start it was only the Football League Trophy and not a league match, but with only one win in all competitions so far this season then a positive result this Saturday at home to Swindon becomes more and more important. Important not so much in terms of league position, but important in terms of giving belief to both team and fans that this season can be about something more than a grim struggle against relegation.

With all that in mind I was surprised to see Skivo criticising some of his players in the press today. Stefan Stam, Jon Obika and to a lesser extent Sam Williams were all singled out by the gaffer as falling short of expectations, as was the team that played on Tuesday night generally. Criticising individuals can be a dangerous game, as countless managers have found in the past. It's not something that previous successful Yeovil bosses have done overmuch, both Gary Johnson and Russell Slade in particular spring to mind as preferring to keep criticism of individuals in-house, at least as far as the press was concerned. Nothing wrong of course in giving players a bollocking when required, but I do wonder about the wisdom of doing it quite so publically to individuals so early in the season - especially when one of the players concerned is the club captain and the other our top goalscorer from open play.

Gambling corner: The Glovers are 6/4 for the win on Saturday, 23/10 the draw, 9/5 a Swindon win. One of my unwritten rules is that whenever we are odds against at home then I'll always bet on a Yeovil win, therefore that's where my fiver's going this week. I must write down all of my unwritten rules one day, but if I did that they wouldn't be unwritten any more, would they? I'll get my coat. Running total: -£2.00p