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Sunday, 28 February 2010

L1: Yeovil 1 Franchise FC 0

A tale of two halves: The first half the Glovers generally played well. After a nondescript first 10 minutes we took a grip of the game in midfield, started getting the ball out wide and created chances. The excellent Shaun MacDonald scored the only goal of the game in the 23rd minute with a stunning 20-yard drive into the top corner of the net following a flag-kick. The Glovers had much the better of the rest of the half and really should have added to their lead, Gavin Tomlin in particular coming close after a melee in the Franchise FC penalty area with the ball ricocheting around before somehow finding its way into keeper Willy Gueret's hands; and again right at the end of the half with a diving header which beat Gueret but also beat the far post. 1-0 at half-time and Yeovil were good value for the lead, with Alex McCarthy only occasionally employed.

The second half was a different kettle of fish. The pitch was by now cutting up very badly, negating the Glovers attempts to play passing football. The visitors pushed forwards, putting the home side under some pressure though with little in the way of end product. As time went on it became clear that the Glovers were employing a policy of 'what we have we hold', and the visitors ultimately weren't good enough to break through the defensive shield. 1-0 the final score, and two completely contrasting halves of football.

We lined up with a 4-4-2 formation, Owain Tudur-Jones missing out in the final game of his loan spell after failing a fitness test before the match. Merit marks as usual:

1. Alex McCarthy: 6/10 - Kept another clean sheet so a bit harsh to give him only 6, but didn't quite seem on the same page as his defence some of the time. One or two mis-communications led to a couple of hairy moments, but we and he got away with it. Deserves some luck for his all round excellence this season. I keep forgetting how young he is!

2. Craig Alcock: 7/10 - Back on form after a couple of slightly dodgy performances. Excellent defensively, didn't give the dangerous Easter or Townsend a sniff as they swapped wings. First-class.

5. Steven Caulker: 8/10 - What can you say about this lad? Only 18 but he performs with the assurance of someone twice his age. He's played 30-odd games consistently well and - as Skivo pointed out after the game - hasn't been booked even once this season. Astonishing.

6. Terrell Forbes: 7/10 - Back in the groove. Solid as a rock at the back. Good performance.

28. Nathan Smith: 7/10 - I said he needed games and now he's getting them, and it's paying off. Much more solid defensively, like fellow fullback Alcock kept the Easter/Townsend combination quiet all match. Improving all the time.

10. Gavin Tomlin: 6/10 - I like Gav, I think he adds something a little different to the team, a little bit of flair and the ability to do things other players won't try. If he had taken one of the two very good chances he was presented with in the first half he would have been a hero, as it was it was sad to hear some sections of the crowd getting on his back for a perceived lack of effort. Rubbish of course, but some Yeovil fans do like at least one scapegoat they can blame when things aren't going quite right.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 8/10 - Dominant performance in the centre of midfield. Did all the ugly things and did them well. Excellent.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 9/10 - Superb exhibition of box-to-box midfield play, culminating in his winning goal. I have a dream - well, more of a fantasy really - in which Swansea release him in the summer on a free and he signs a 3-year deal with us, leading us to Division 2 before we sell him to Spurs for £10 million and build a social club with the proceeds. It could happen!

7. Arron Davies: 6/10 - Decent first half, including one shot from the edge of the box that Gueret did well to save, but faded out of the game after the break.

9. Sam Williams: 7/10 - Typical performance, won his share in the air and led the line with energy and enthusiasm without ever looking like scoring, it has to be said. Reminds me more and more of Matty Harrold, and that is meant as a compliment. Again, he's a young player learning his trade and this season will be invaluable in his development.

14. Dean Bowditch: 5/10 - Bit of a nothing performance if I'm honest. Didn't get close enough to his strike partner often enough and I can't recall an effort on goal from him, though doubtless someone will now tell me I'm wrong. Went off with a hamstring strain early in the second half.

8. Keiran Murtagh (86 mins for Gavin Tomlin): N/A - Not on long enough to impress, but I personally felt he should have been brought on 20 minutes earlier as Tomlin was appearing to struggle with injury.

11. Andy Welsh (70 mins for Arron Davies): 6/10 - Added fresh legs on the left wing for the final 20 minutes, but by then the pitch was too bobbly for any sensible wing play. Did as well as he could in the circumstances.

13. Ryan Mason (53 mins for Dean Bowditch): 5/10 - Replaced Bowditch but just couldn't get involved in the game at all. First touch seems to have deserted him in recent games, though of course the pitch doesn't provide any help at all. Frustrating.

The result leaves the Glovers on 41 points from 34 games played, a massive 9 points clear of the relegation zone. Isn't it amazing what 2 wins on the trot can do? Mid-table obscurity has never felt so good! Three more wins will surely see us safe from relegation this season, four more wins will guarantee it. Given that, I was mildly astonished at the reaction of some Glovers fans to some aspects of the team's play yesterday. I've already mentioned the (unjustified) stick Gavin Tomlin took from some supporters, and to hear boos directed at our own players near the end of the game because they were content to try and keep the ball from a corner rather than risk a counter-attack on the break was perplexing to say the least. I appreciate people want to see attacking football and goals, but at the same time we also want to see wins, and it would in my view have been the height of irresponsibility for us to have gone gung-ho to try to score from a corner at that stage of the match and risk being caught on the break. After putting the effort in that they did to secure the win, the players didn't deserve the reaction they got at that time.

And talking of fans, one of the joys of being in the Cowlin Stand where I sit is the close proximity of the away fans, particularly when the away terrace is closed. It means I get the benefit of all their songs and banter and can barely hear the home choir in the Blackthorn Stand for most of the match. Although most teams are indistinguishable from one another with everyone singing more or less the same songs, one or two do stand out. The best I've heard lately were the Colchester fans who had several original efforts including this one in praise of Steven Gillespie, which for some reason stuck in my mind:

Oh Steve Gillespie,
You are the love of my life
Oh Steve Gillespie
I'd let you shag my wife
Oh Steve Gillespie,
I want curly hair too

Sadly, Franchise FC'S fans yesterday couldn't come up with anything as original. Not content with stealing their football club, they were happy to steal other teams songs too; with a quite risible slow rendition of 'When the saints go marching in' a la Spurs fans, and a raucous version of 'MK til I die, I'm MK til I die' etc etc, sang without apparent irony or even shame. How about 'I'm MK til the original club dies', eh lads? The nadir was reached with the old Millwall favourite, 'No-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don't care' etc... No-one likes you because you stole a football club you mugs, better get used to it.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Singing the Blues

The Glovers surprised most of us on Tuesday night with an excellent 1-0 win away at a snowy Walsall, Sam Williams the scorer. By all accounts the lads thoroughly deserved the win, going ahead early and defending well when necessary, though the match stats of 9 Glovers efforts on target compared to Walsall's solitary 1 suggest a more comfortable victory than was perhaps the case. Whatever, 3 very welcome points which takes us up to 13th position on 38 points, 6 points clear of the relegation zone.

Yeovil entertain Franchise FC at Huish Park tomorrow and will be looking to make it 2 wins in a row for the first time since October. One would not expect Skivo to change a winning team after Tuesday night, injury permitting, and if that is the case then speculation will increase about the future of Ryan Mason at Huish Park. There's no doubt that Ryan is probably the best pure footballer we've loaned from Spurs over the last 12 months, equally there's no doubt that if we're playing with 2 strikers then it's a difficult job to fit him into a balanced side, and the key word there is balanced. His best position would appear to be in the hole behind a single striker and we did enjoy a decent run in the first few months of the season with him in that position, but since then a combination of opposition teams perhaps getting wise to him, injury and poor pitches have blunted his effectiveness in that role. Skivo's tried Mason variously as one of the 2 central midfielder's and on both wings, but with only limited success. He is most effective as a central attacking midfielder, but at a cost to the overall balance of the side. He was fit and available for selection on Tuesday night but was left out then; if he's missing again tomorrow then one would not be surprised to see him follow Jon Obika's example and return to Spurs permanently, sooner rather than later. A super little player who's done us proud, but just maybe has done as much as he can for now.

And having written all that, watch Skivo pick him for tomorrow's game! The bookies make the Glovers marginal favourites for the win at 13/8, the draw is 23/10 and an MK Dons win 8/5. My fiver's going on the home win. Running total: -£7.50p.

Football's chickens are finally coming home to roost: Chester City have been expelled from the Conference at last. The Chester saga has been ongoing for years now with that benighted club's fans suffering under some of the worst/idiotic/most criminal owners that any club's fans have ever had to endure. It seems likely now that Chester City FC will cease to exist in the very near future and a new club - free from the taint of their last, reviled owners, the Vaughan family - will arise in it's place, further down the pyramid. That news comes on the same day that Portsmouth has gone into administration, the first Premiership club to do so; and on the same day that AFC Bournemouth was served with a winding-up order. And we've also found out today that Southend are yet to pay their players this year, having survived a winding-up order themselves just before Christmas. And there are many other clubs in similar difficulties. Where Chester lead others will surely follow before the end of the season. There but for the grace of god...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Stam suffers an unkind cut

The bad news is that the Glovers lost 2-0 at Charlton on Saturday. The really bad news is that club captain and central defender Stefan Stam is out for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring, and if you don't think that's a problem for us then you've not been paying attention.

A loss to the likes of Charlton isn't going to define our season. Sure, it would have been nice to have taken something out of the game but far more important we win/draw games against those below or around us in the table. We may be in the same division as the likes of Charlton, Norwich and Leeds; we're not in the same league in terms of resources. Anything we can get from those games is a bonus and if we get nothing then it's not the end of the world.

The loss of Stam however is a real blow. Aside from the fact that he had started to come into some good form lately his absence leaves us with only two (count 'em!) fit central defenders in Terrell Forbes and on-loan Steven Caulker to call on, with Craig Alcock as the only back-up with any kind of experience of playing in the position. That's not enough. Skivo himself is still registered as a player and if it was up to me I'd be happy to see him make himself available to play again, even if it was in emergencies only; but it's not up to me and I doubt he'll be thinking that way. The only other alternatives are the loan market or finding a free agent. I suppose it's not impossible that out there somewhere is a decent central defender without a club and who's capable of playing in Division Three, but if there is we probably couldn't afford his wages anyway. Which leaves the possibility of bringing in yet another loan player and the problems that would entail. Seven into five means two loanees sitting on the sidelines each week, hardly an ideal situation. Whatever, doing nothing is not an option. The best of luck for a speedy recovery to Stefan Stam, let's hope he's back playing as soon as possible.

The Glovers travel to Walsall today looking for revenge following the Saddlers 1-3 win at Huish Park last December, probably one of the worst, if not the worst performances of the season so far. Please god we can't play that badly again, but the omens aren't good. Walsall's pitch is in even poorer condition than ours thus negating any of our pretensions of playing passing football, plus they play the kind of direct, attritional style we generally find difficult to cope with. No surprise then to find that the bookies have made the home side 10/11 favourites to win the match, with the draw priced at 12/5 and a Yeovil win at an ungenerous 3/1. With the best will in the world I can't see us scoring at the moment, never mind winning and I don't like betting on the home team at odds-on. By default then my fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£2.50p.

Just read: The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland: Wonderfully atmospheric and authentically grim portrayal of life in an English village in the 12th century, with superstition, the dead hand of the Church and the lord of the local manor dominating all. Read it and be glad you weren't born in those times.

Friday, 19 February 2010

One year on

This time last season Terry Skiverton was appointed manager of Yeovil Town, replacing the sacked Russell Slade. There's a nice little piece on the Ciderspace news page giving the facts and figures of Skivo's time in charge. I said at the time of his appointment that it was a pretty cynical piece of opportunism by the board, an attempt to dilute fans anger at the disgraceful way Slade had been treated by appointing a fans favourite to the role and of course it worked. As badly as we all knew Slade had been done by, no-one wanted to rock the boat overmuch by giving Skivo and right-hand man Nathan Jones a hard time.

How does Skivo's report card read after a year in charge then? For my part I'd give him a C+ with these comments: 'Shows promise. Terry is a generally popular boy and a good leader of the class. Tends towards verbosity at times and his descriptions of field trips sometimes don't tally with actual events. Coursework is generally handed in on time though he did leave it late last April in particular. Terry is sometimes reluctant to use certain items which might assist in the smooth running of the school and occasionally tends to force square objects into round holes, but he seems to be overcoming that particular tendency at last. He's shown he can be flexible when starting a task, but sometimes needs to be more proactive when substituting one item for another. Given the tight school budget this year has generally used his resources well, but perhaps through necessity has tended to over-borrow items from other schools to an almost excessive degree. Terry is aware of this fault and has promised to rely more on in-school resources in future. All in all Terry can feel pleased with his first year as Head Boy. He still enjoys the backing of most of the school, though a small minority have begun to grumble about some of his decisions. A strong finish to the academic year will silence the doubters.'

Hmmm, yes, enough of the academic analogies. What I'm trying to say is that even with the blip we've suffered over the least few games, I reckon Skivo's doing well on the whole. He needs to rediscover his winning formula at home and tighten up on the road, but it's undeniable that in the majority of games I've personally seen (the home games in other words) the football has generally been entertaining and we're still punching above our weight. I said it at the start of the season and I'll say it again now, success for YTFC given our budget, crowds and resources is survival in this division. Skivo is still on track to deliver that survival and he deserves our support in his efforts.

Tomorrow the Glovers travel to high-flying Charlton, and apparently we're on a hiding to nothing. The last time we played at The Valley we won and I reckon the surprise of playing on what will be a good pitch might just be enough to inspire the boys into shocking Charlton again. The bookies naturally disagree, making the home side 4/7 odds-on favourites. The draw is priced at 14/5 and a Glovers win an improbable 5/1. I've had enough of betting against us (despite winning £11.50 on Tuesday night!), so my fiver's going on the away win. Come on you greens! Running total: +£3.50p.

Just read: Lustrum by Robert Harris. Terrific follow-up to Imperium, the story of the rise to power of Marcus Tullius Cicero in ancient Rome. Don't expect swords and pitched battles, Lustrum chronicles the politics of the time and brings to life the characters familiar from history - Cicero, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar - in an absorbing and fascinating way. Harris is an excellent writer and while I'd recommend reading Imperium anyway as it's another superb novel, it's not necessary to have read it first to enjoy Lustrum. The good news is that there's a third novel in the pipeline to complete the story of Cicero, the self-styled Father of the Republic. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

L1: Yeovil 0 Colchester Utd 1

I so nearly didn't bother going. It was raining hard at 7-o-clock, there was an interesting-looking Champions League match on the box and after humming and hahing for a while I decided to stay home and watch that instead. Then, at quarter-past 7 I checked the weather one last time - the rain had stopped! Hat, coat, scarf on, out the door. Why do we do these things? What is this strange compulsion that sends us out from our warm, comfortable homes into a cold and damp night to watch a product that is - let's be honest - not very good and in less than salubrious surroundings? I knew before I went what it was going to be like. I knew that the pitch would cut up badly making any attempt at a passing game impossible, and it did. I knew that the opposition would be bigger, fitter and faster than us, and they were. I knew that we would make at least one stupid mistake at the back giving them a gilt-edged chance to score, and we did. I knew that several times during the game people moving to and from the tea-bars would stop right in front of me while watching a particularly dangerous passage of play stopping me from seeing what they were looking at, and they did. Most of all I knew before I went that I would in all likelyhood come home disappointed, and so it came to pass.

To be fair it was better than last Saturday. Skivo made one change in the team, an injured Ryan Mason making way for Arron Davies's second coming. We started quite well, with Arron in particular getting on the ball and providing a couple of decent crosses. However it only took about 10 minutes for the pitch to cut up badly enough to nullify our passing game almost completely and we began to resort to hitting it long, meat and drink to the taller opposition side. Colchester should have scored a couple before they actually did, Alex McCarthy making one good save before another effort crashed off the bar when it looked easier to score. Then the inevitable balls-up, passing to each other in our own penalty area, each pass putting the recipient in more and more trouble before the final attempted clearance rebounded off one of our own defenders and dropping to an attacker, a quick pass and shot, goal. Much too easy for Colchester and so easily avoidable.

And that, basically, was that. We huffed and puffed, tried the occasional shot or cross but never really threatened overmuch. And you always had the feeling that had we somehow sneaked an equaliser then Colchester would have slipped into second gear, gone up the other end and scored again. Since the January break (the Wycombe came apart) we seem to have lost our mojo, lost the knack of scoring goals and lost confidence collectively, both the crowd and the team. Last night we were crying out for a way to change the game, to be able to compete with Colchester, but looking at our options on the bench there wasn't a great deal that Skivo could have done to change things for the better. He perhaps should have tried however. Arron Davies unsurprisingly faded badly in the second half, wouldn't it have been worth giving Scott Murray or Aidan Downes a go instead? I think the gaffer was right to push Owain Tudur-Jones up front, but why wait until the 80th minute had gone by to do it? Why not take off a defender, go to 3 at the back and put on Kieran Murtagh, or Downes, as an attacking midfielder and go for broke? Okay, we might well have been too exposed at the back then and conceded another, but at least the crowd would have seen we were going for it and at least trying to frighten the opposition. It's all if's and but's I know, but something needs to change about the way we are playing at home otherwise it won't be long before we see our first sub-3000 crowd at Huish Park in the football league.

Individual merit marks:

1. Alex McCarthy: 8/10 - Made at least 2 excellent saves and generally commanded his box well. Left high and dry for their goal by some poor defending.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 - started as right back but took over in the centre of defence when Stam went off injured. Not his best game in either position. Struggled in the air against the big Colchester forwards and struggled on the ground against that bloody awful pitch. Struggled, basically.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - We looked a lot more solid at the back with Stam present. Unfortunately he wasn't present for very long.

5. Steven Caulker: 6/10 - Not one of Steven's better games either. Did okay defensively but must take partial responsibility for their goal. Added nothing going forward the few times he did venture over the halfway line.

28. Nathan Smith: 8/10 - One of his best performances of the season, certainly defensively, but he's still to catch fire going forwards. Again, his natural game of running with the ball is effectively neutered by the bloody awful pitch. Made one superb tackle in the second half to save an almost certain goal. Encouraging.

7. Arron Davies: 6/10 - Pretty good for the first 10 minutes and gradually faded out of the game until I eventually forgot he was on the pitch. Hopefully increased match-fitness will increase his effectiveness.

20. Owain Tudur Jones and 25. Shaun MacDonald: 5/10 for both - Another ineffective display from our Welsh international pairing in the centre of midfield. No lack of effort from either, but at the same time no real attacking threat from them either. Both grew increasingly peripheral (apart from set-pieces) as the game went on. They were there and they were working hard, but they weren't influential.

11. Andy Welsh: 6/10 - Flitted in and out of the game sporadically, flattering to deceive most of the time. Unlucky not to score from one first half effort. Otherwise not quite on his game and not quite linking up well with Nathan Smith. Again, the pitch doesn't do anything to help his game.

9. Sam Williams: 5/10 - I'm sorry to say it beause I am a bit of a fan, but this was another disappointing display from Big Sam. Ineffective in the air and on the ground and more often than not much too far away from his fellow striker. Just didn't look like he was going to score, not once.

14. Dean Bowditch: 6/10 - At least he had a couple of efforts on goal and forced their keeper to make some saves. But he and Williams were too often too far from each other to profit from any knock-downs or flicks.

2. Craig Alcock (23 mins for Stefan Stam): 5/10 - Started badly again giving the ball away time after time and didn't really improve much thereafter.

As I said at the top it was a better performance than last Saturday's effort. We at least looked as if we were trying to score from the start rather than sitting back in defense. The worrying thing is that we have no Plan B. Colchester showed us how to play on a bad pitch. They put three up front with plenty of movement and got the ball forward to them as quickly as they could. We, on the other hand, kept on trying to pass the ball around nicely and trying to use the flanks even though the state of the pitch made such efforts unlikely to succeed. It's all very well playing passing football, but if all you're doing is passing it amongst yourselves 40-50 yards from goal while the opposition have all the time in the world to get in position defensively then what's the point? Eventually we had no choice but to start hitting the ball long, but the lack of movement throughout the side meant that whoever received the ball was isolated and easily picked off by the defence. As in the Gillingham game last Saturday, we managed to put on some sustained pressure in the last 10 minutes but it was too little, too late. And even then the only real threat was coming from set-pieces, our open play was predictable and easily nullified.

Two tough away games coming up now, at Charlton this coming Saturday and Walsall next Tuesday night. At present we're still looking over our shoulders, 5 points away from the relegation zone. If we're still at least 5 points away from the relegation zone by this time next week I'll be pleased, but frankly amazed. Fifteen games to go to the end of the season, 15 points away from a total of 50 points and probable safety. A point a game. We can't mess this up, can we?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

L1: Yeovil 0 Gillingham 0

What a comeback! I thought I'd fallen out of love with the game, I thought over recent years it had become boring, formulaic, predictable; too much boot up in the air and far too little skill. Yesterday showed that while there are still many problems, the game still possesses the ability to enthrall and enrapture. Outplayed for most of the game and two scores down with less than 10 minutes to go, the opposition under unrelenting pressure and then cracking, two players dismissed from the field and then the one score required; then a penalty awarded with less than a minute remaining to level the match; and then, unbelievably, the winning score in time added on and scored by the smallest man on the pitch, but fittingly one with more skill and flair in his little finger than most others have in their entire bodies, pandemonium in the stands, the opposition crushed, strangers hugging strangers with tears in their eyes, wonderful!

So much for the rugby. Bad Luck Scotland, you were the better side for most of the game, but this Wales side doesn't give up. Let's hope for more games of the same calibre for the rest of the 6 Nations.

Meanwhile, back at Huish Park, a football match briefly threatened to begin but in the end had the life sucked out of it by a difficult pitch cutting up badly, aided and abetted by two sides who seemed keener not to concede rather than going all out to win. The gray skies and icy wind didn't help the general mood and it was one of those afternoons that had to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Yeovil lined up with a 4-4-2 formation and made 1 change from last week's away win at Wycombe, Gavin Tomlin failing a fitness test and being replaced by Ryan Mason.

1. Alex McCarthy: 7/10 - Usual consistent display. Only beaten once by the Gills attack and then saved by the post. Solid.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 and 7/10. 5 for his first half performance at right back when he was ok defensively but added nothing going forwards; and 7 for his second half performance at centre-half where he did everything asked.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - The more he plays, the better he gets. Commanding in the air in particular, hopefully the injury that forced him off at half-time won't be too severe.

5. Steven Caulker: 8/10 - On a day that defences dominated he was the stand out defender. Reminds me more and more of Mark Shail, but he's better than Shaily was.

28. Nathan Smith: 6/10 - The rumour is that Nathan Jones is going to take a back seat on the pitch to concentrate on his coaching, so hopefully Smith will have a good run in the left back spot now. Decent game for him yesterday, sound defensively (one mix-up between himself and Caulker aside) and the occasional threat going forward. He needs to play to improve.

13. Ryan Mason: 5/10 - Poor first half stuck out on the right, improved after the break when playing more centrally. Unlucky with a couple of long-range efforts. Looked frustrated throughout.

20. Owain Tudur Jones: 5/10 - Skivo praised his contribution after the game, I wasn't so impressed. No room for him in a crowded midfield to stretch his legs and to my mind was dragged down to the lowest common denominator amidst a sea of mediocrity. In other words, he didn't do very much.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 5/10 - And nor did Shaun. To be fair to both him and Tudur-Jones the massed ranks of Gillingham midfielders meant they were both seriously out-numbered whenever they received the ball, but neither were able to impose any sort of control on the game. They weren't helped by the poor state of the pitch come to that.

11. Andy Welsh: 5/10 - One of those infuriating Welsh performances which left you thinking about what might have been. Got into good positions at times but the final ball was always lacking.

9. Sam Williams: 5/10 - Didn't get much service, didn't do much with what service he did get. Never seen him beaten as much in the air, so naturally we kept knocking the ball up to his head. Uninspiring.

14. Dean Bowditch: 5/10 - As with Williams, didn't get much service but when he did get the ball was closed down very quickly. When he shot his shots were always blocked and when he did have one golden opportunity in the second half he preferred to pass to a not-so-well-positioned Kieran Murtagh instead. Not a game to write home about.

2. Craig Alcock (46 mins for Stefan Stam): 7/10 - Took over from Forbes at right-back and while sound defensively added more of a threat going forward. One cross to the far post in particular should have been converted. The enforced rest he's taken over the last game and a half might well have done him some good.

8. Keiran Murtagh (80 mins for Ryan Mason): N/A - Not really on long enough to make an impression except for one shot, which unfortunately he aimed right at the keeper.

If I had to choose one word to describe the match yesterday it would be 'tedious'. Or possibly 'mediocre'. The pitch cut up very badly very quickly and left any attempts at playing a passing game untenable. Gillingham (not unreasonably given their position) packed the midfield and looked marginally the better side for most of the game albeit creating very little in the way of chances, one effort which hit the post aside. Yeovil didn't manage anything in the way of sustained pressure until the last quarter of the game and then it was too little, too late. The stats show the Glovers having 3 efforts on target throughout the whole game and 3 off, with the Gills making McCarthy save twice with 6 off-target. Those stats, ladies and gentlemen, tell you all you need to know.

The result leaves the Glovers in 14th position on 35 points and 30 games played, 5 points away from the relegation zone. For our sins we've got to go and do it all again on Tuesday night, when play-off chasing Colchester are the visitors. The weather forecast for the Yeovil area is for light rain on Monday and heavy rain on Tuesday, followed by freezing temperatures Tuesday night. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Humble Pie

I've been wrong in my forecasts before, but never more wrong than my forecast for last Saturday's away game at Wycombe. Lest we forget I prophesied a 0-0 draw before actually putting my money on a Wycombe win, so I was wrong twice, which takes a special kind of talent. In the event the Glovers rammed my disbelief down my throat with an excellent 4-1 win, only our second victory on the road all season and the second time we've knocked 4 past Wycombe this season - if only we could play them every week.

So a big dollop of humble pie for myself then, and a pleasure it is to eat it, too. Some people might have thought that the win was down to the change of formation to a 4-4-2 and the inspired idea of playing people in their correct positions, but I know better. I don't normally regard myself as particularly superstitious, but clearly the credit for the win must, at least in some small part, be mine. If I had bet on the Glovers you can be certain we would have lost; precedent suggests that I'm now duty-bound to keep on putting my money on the opposition, at least until we lose again. Hopefully this could get expensive for me, never let it be said that I'm not prepared to make a sacrifice or two in the club's best interests.

This Saturday we entertain Gillingham at Huish Park, the only club in division 3 to have a worse away record than ourselves. The Gills are so bad on the road that they are yet to record an away win this season, losing 12 and drawing 3. A win for us would create a gap of 8 points between the teams and would incidentally be the first time the Glovers managed to win two games in a row since last October, when we beat Carlisle and Bristol Rovers. With another home game coming up next Tuesday (16th) against Colchester the possibility exists that we might even win three games on the trot, something we haven't done since last season. Of course Skivo might want to consider what happened to the manager the last time this club won 3 matches in a row, but surely lightening won't strike twice in that regard.

Back to the Gills game, and the bookies make us odds-on favourites for the match at 10/11. I can't remember the last time we were odds-on to win anything. The draw is priced at 12/5 and a Gillingham win at 3/1. My fiver, in accordance with my brand new unwritten rule of always betting on the opposition until we actually lose a game, is going on the away win. Running total: -£8.50p.

Finally, a little bird tells me that we may well be losing one of our Spurs loan players permanently. Can't say any more than that at the moment, but the rumour-mill is also suggesting that a solution to the Arron Davies transfer fiasco might well be found by Saturday as well. The two rumours may well be connected in some way, and I'm sure it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what that might mean. More on this if/when it happens....

EDIT - As I was typing the above the news has now broken that Jon Obika has returned to White Hart Lane for good. Arron Davies has subsequently re-joined the club on loan from Brighton, thus getting around the FIFA regulations banning players from playing for more than 2 clubs in the same season. Despite being our top scorer this season Obika was finding first team starts more and more difficult to come by and with the arrival of a seventh loan player would presumably have found even a squad place problematic in future. Looked at in that light the decision to send him back to Spurs makes sense for both the player and us. Good Luck to Jon in the future, it will be fascinating to see how his career develops. Good luck too to Arron - let's hope he can have the same impact on us this time around as he had in his first spell at Huish Park.

Just read: New York by Edward Rutherfurd. Huge (1000+ pages) sweeping novel tracing the history of New York from its origins as an Indian village, through the arrival of the first Dutch and British traders right up until the present day and the tragedy of 9/11. The story follows one family in particular through the generations. It just about did enough to keep my interest and I did eventually finish the book, but it was touch-and-go at times. I'll probably try another of the author's epics now I've read this one (Sarum looks interesting) but I'm not in any great rush.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Darren Way retires

Weasel finally confirmed yesterday what most of us had guessed was going to happen a while ago. Darren Way, one of the finest midfielders ever to wear the green-and-white shirt, has officially retired. A broken left femur, a broken left kneecap, a broken and dislocated right elbow, a broken and dislocated left hip, multiple fractures of his right wrist, damage to his right hand, a ruptured left bicep, and deep cuts to both shins as well as soft tissue damage and nine major operations eventually proved too much for even this most indomitable of characters to come back from, forcing his retirement from playing professional football. He shouldn't feel he's failed by not being able to come back, with injuries like he suffered he's lucky to be still walking around, never mind anything else.

So long then Weasel, though he'll still be around off the pitch of course as part of the coaching team. I was there when he made his Huish Park debut, as a triallist in the reserves side (remember when we had reserves?) that thrashed Minehead 9-1 in a pre-season friendly at the start of the 2000-01 season. I recall watching this short, slight and very young-looking blond-haired boy running up and down the pitch in a shirt far too big for him and thinking 'what the hell does Webb (the manager at the time) see in this kid?'.... Forty-five minutes later and we knew. He signed a contract that same evening I believe and went on to become one of the driving forces behind this club's rise into the football league. His central midfield partnership with Lee Johnson was a thing of beauty, both players complementing the other perfectly; Johnson the passer and playmaker, Way the ball-winner and terrier, though both players had enough of the other's qualities to interchange roles as and when needed, both more than the sum of their parts when playing together; and neither, it could be argued, quite as effective when partnered with someone else.

Injury meant he had a rough time in South Wales, never being able to force a regular place in the Swansea side that his talent more than justified. On his permanent return to Huish Park he looked to be getting back to the player he was before he first left us, but then came the road accident that cut short his playing career. The best of luck to Weasel in his new role at the club, I've no doubt he'll be as inspirational off the field as he was on it.

Back to League One, or Division Three as I prefer to call it. The Glovers travel to relegation-haunted Wycombe tomorrow, with both teams needing a win. A 0-0 draw it is, then! According to Skivo we're going there to attack and with Wycombe having lost their last 3 home games if ever there's a side that we perhaps ought to beat away from home then they are it; but we all know how poor our away form has been this season so nothing can be taken for granted. The bookies make the home side slight favourites at 13/10; the draw is priced at 9/4, the away win at 21/10. I'll no doubt get slated for this, but my fiver's going on the home win. And hopefully I'll be a fiver worse off tomorrow night! Running total: -£3.50p. Show me I'm wrong to doubt you, please Glovers!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Specualtion (sic) is damaging

So say's the (mis-spelt) headline in this week's edition of the Western Gazette. The pressure's getting to Skivo. That's the only conclusion I can come to after reading the article, where Mr Yeovil has criticised supporters for speculating about future signings, and then reporting sightings of possible future signings in ASDA.

It's a weird article, ostensibly about the signing of Arron Davies. I say it's weird because there's no mention of the eventual cancellation of Davies's contract after it was realised that he wasn't able to play in a competitive match for the rest of the season. It's as if that never happened and that Arron's signing was a genuine coup instead of the fiasco it eventually became.

Skivo is quoted as saying: "I had been trying to do a deal with Arron Davies but with all this stuff on the internet, all they are doing is alerting other clubs to the players I am after. When that happens the players are getting phone calls from every other club who can offer money. We were lucky that Arron wanted to come to Yeovil because he was another player people said on the internet, before anything happened, we were talking to." So let that be a lesson to us all then. No more speculation, no more guesswork, no nothing. That way all those opposition managers apparently glued to every word written on the green room, unofficial websites like Ciderspace and blogs like this one will have no clues as to who the club is chasing. We were obviously extremely lucky to get Arron back and no thanks to those pesky internet hoodies that we did. Can't wait to see him play now, after all that.... Oh!

The gaffer goes on to say: "We have not got the finances to compete with other teams but there are people who think they are being clever saying 'I saw this person in ASDA' for example and they are not helping the club whatsoever". So, that's us told then. Keep your ASDA sightings to yourself in future, we don't want to be alerting our rivals to the fact that all our potential new signings can be found there. I'm not sure whether they're kept on the shelves or in what department of the store, but presumably they're in there somewhere. It begs the question of what to do should a new signing be seen in Tesco's or Morrison's for example, but perhaps those stores just don't attract the same class of player. Or fan, come to that.

Skivo also went on to defend media manager Adrian Hopper against accusations of incompetence, calling the Man Utd supporter 'professional', amongst other things. Thank heavens for that, Skivo was taking the piss all along. As you were everyone.