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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

L1: Yeovil Town 1 Southampton 1

Well, that was better. The Glovers semi-bounced back from Saturday's 1-3 home defeat against Exeter with a well-deserved 1-1 draw against TBCDTR*, Southampton.

The Glovers began the game nervously, content to hammer the ball upfield whenever the opportunity arose. Andy Williams got on the end of one such long-ball in the sixth minute, skinned his fullback and drove into the penalty area. With only the keeper to beat he was pulled down from behind but incredibly neither the referee nor linesman saw anything wrong and play went on. A cast-iron penalty and red card for Dan Harding should have been the outcome and who knows what would have happened from there on, but inconsistent referee Simon Hooper bottled the decision - not by any means his only baffling decision of the night.

The Saints were next to threaten, Rick Lambert finding space in the Glovers box but crashing his shot off the bar when in all honesty it looked easier to score, a let-off for the home side. Gradually however Yeovil were beginning to find their form. There was no nonsense in defence with agricultural clearances the order of the day, but elsewhere the ball was being passed on the floor and half-chances being created. Shaun MacDonald hit a shot from outside the box which Saints keeper Kelvin Davis pushed round the post at the second attempt; and wingers Andy Welsh and Andy Williams both fired efforts over the bar. Dean Bowditch came close to giving the Glovers the lead at the end of the half after a lovely one-two with Gavin Williams, but his shot squirmed wide of the Saints post.

Early on in the second half Yeovil were again unlucky not to open the scoring when Andy Williams beat Davis in the Saints goal to a through ball from MacDonald. The winger's cross-cum-shot looked to be heading into the net but was intercepted by defender Radhi Jaidi on the line. Against the run of play the visitors went ahead on 56 minutes, and it was a frustrating and familiar goal to concede. Morgan Schneiderlin picked up the ball in his own half and with the home side's midfield AWOL drove forward unchallenged to the edge of the Glovers box before laying the ball off to an unmarked Guly Do Prado. Glovers keeper Stephen Henderson got his hand to the ball but couldn't keep out the Brazilian's shot. Heads could have dropped at that point but it's to Yeovil's credit that they kept going forwards. Eight minutes later they got their reward when Gavin Williams was dragged down in the box, an offence so blatant that even Mr Hooper couldn't avoid penalising it. Adam Virgo's penalty was placed perfectly, low and hard into the corner of the net. With substitutions from both sides breaking the flow of the game that was more-or-less the end of the Glovers as an attacking force with little in the way of chances being created in the final quarter. Southampton pressed again towards the end and were unfortunate to only hit the post in injury-time, but in truth a point was the least the Glovers deserved from their evening's work. An entertaining game played in a good atmosphere from both sets of fans, with a well-observed minute's applause for Len Harris at the start.

We lined up as follows in a 4-4-1-1 formation:

13. Stephen Henderson - 6/10: Well-protected by his defence apart from one lapse which led to the Saints goal. Did everything expected of him otherwise.

8. Luke Ayling - 6/10: Good defensive performance by the stand-in right-back who looked very solid in an unfamiliar position. Didn't venture forwards overmuch but perhaps that was no bad thing.

5. Paul Huntington - 7/10: Did what he does best by concentrating on his defending. Blocked shots, headed away crosses, thumped the ball out of the ground when necessary, or at least out of his own half. More of the same, please.

19. Adam Virgo - 8/10: Much the same comments apply as for Huntington, but he gets the extra point for a well-taken penalty, plus his clearances tended to be better placed. Indeed, some of his long passes to the right wing in particular were exquisite. Let's hope Skivo keeps him at centre half in future.

6. Nathan Smith - 7/10: Like the rest of the defence put his body on the line at times and one tackle in particular late in the second half was a goal-saver. Made some barnstorming runs forward which never actually came to much, if they had I'd have given him an 8.

7. Andrew Williams - 6/10: Should have been given a penalty in the first half as described above. Had something of a battle with his opposite number Dan Harding all match and the few times he escaped the full-back's attentions he always looked dangerous. Had an effort cleared off the line in the second half too. If I've got a criticism it's that sometimes he doesn't appear to have a huge amount of confidence in his own abilities but in my view he's got all the attributes to succeed - if only he would believe it.

20. Owain Tudur Jones - 7/10: He's been criticised for being lazy, not punching his weight, not looking interested enough and - bizarrely - for costing Norwich £250,000. Well, I thought he had a good game last night, linked up well with MacDonald and helped get the team passing the ball after a ropey start. I'd have liked to have seen him get forward more but had his hands full coping with an accomplished Southampton midfield and did well defensively, one lapse aside which cost a goal. More of the same against lesser sides would now be welcome.

25. Shaun MacDonald - 6/10: Decent performance from the Ginger Ninja who seemed to me to be consciously concentrating on the defensive aspects of his trade. Managed to get forward with good effect a couple of times, once with a shot that seriously bothered Davis in the visitors goal and he provided the pass that led to the penalty. Not quite back up to last season's level yet, but he's getting there.

11. Andy Welsh - 5/10: By no means a bad performance, tracked back well and linked up well with Smith going forward but not much in the way of end product. Had a couple of chances to test the keeper in the second half but because the ball was on his wrong foot chose to dribble or pass instead. Have a go next time, Andy! Subbed on 78 minutes.

24. Gavin Williams - 6/10: Quietish for most of the game but always capable of the odd bit of magic that changes games. Nearly did it with a lovely lay-off for Bowditch in the first half and of course was the man who was fouled for the penalty. Set-piece delivery wasn't quite on song, especially from corners. Went off injured at the end, hopefully it's nothing serious.

10. Dean Bowditch - 6/10: Busy performance without ever really threatening the opposition's goal, save for one effort late in the first half. I like the way he leads the line however and he never stopped running.

9. Sam Williams (87 mins for Andy Williams) - n/a: Won enough headers in his short time on the pitch to suggest he might have been worth bringing on a little earlier.

15. Cameron Stewart (78 mins for Andy Welsh) - n/a: The one chance he had to stretch his legs on the wing he was cynically brought down before he could get going. Spent most of the rest of the time defending.

One swallow doesn't make a summer and one decent performance on it's own means nothing, but at least Skivo got a response from the players last night after a bad couple of weeks. Results elsewhere meant that the Glovers dropped into the relegation zone. Walsall away are next up this Saturday, one of only three teams below us in the table. The pressure never stops.

*TBCDTR - The Big Club Down The Road, as opposed to TBCUTR.

Just read: Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming. Faulks has written some wonderful books in the past but this one is unlike anything he's done before. A fan of James Bond from an early age, this is his homage to Bond's creator, Ian Fleming - a brand new Bond adventure set in the height of the Cold War and written in Fleming's style. And it works brilliantly. The plot is as far-fetched as any of the original books, Bond is as suave and dangerous as ever, and the women are as alluring and devious as you might expect. The villain gets his comeuppance most satisfyingly and the whole thing is a rollicking roller-coaster of a read and great fun. Just don't take it too seriously!

Monday, 27 September 2010

It's just like deja-vu all over again

I'm not going to say much about Saturday's 1-3 loss to Exeter City, mainly because I wasn't there but also because from the various reports I've read it sounds very similar to the last time we played the Grecians at home, which also resulted in a 1-3 loss. At any rate the result leaves the Glovers one place above the relegation zone with the worst goal difference in the division. We now play Southampton at home tomorrow night, followed by away games at fellow strugglers Walsall and a resurgent Rochdale. It's not hard to imagine that by the time we get back to Huish Park to entertain Sheffield Wednesday on October 16th that not only will we be by then firmly in the relegation zone but quite possibly bottom of the league. What's going wrong?

The abysmal goal difference figure provides the answer in my view. Quite simply we haven't replaced Steven Caulker and Terrell Forbes with players of the same quality. It would perhaps help if Adam Virgo was allowed to play regularly with Paul Huntington and not be shifted to wherever the latest injury crisis has occurred, but even then they both have the turning circle and acceleration from a standing start of a rusty oil tanker, so we're still vulnerable to pacey attacks. We weren't helped on Saturday by Craig Alcock's absence and in hindsight I'm sure Skivo will be regretting his decision to move Virgo to right back and bring in Stefan Stam to partner Huntington, but a manager lives and dies by such decisions and right now Skivo's judgement and tactical nous is being scrutinised as much as it ever has been by a fanbase - those of us that are left - getting increasingly impatient with poor results and worse performances.

Of course it's far too early in the season for real panic to set in and I would argue very strongly that Skivo deserves a lot more time and patience yet for his achievements in keeping us in the League One last season and the year before. But I do wonder if he'll get that time. As I said above we have a tough run of four games coming up now and on current form one can't see us picking up many points if any. All it will take is a few 'sack the Board' chants at the Sheffield Wednesday game for those at the top to start worrying about their own skins, and if there's one thing we do know about John Fry and Norman Hayward is that they can act with ruthless efficiency when criticism is directed at them. If I was Skivo I would be looking over both shoulders and praying for some results and clean sheets over the next fortnight. That Sheffield Wednesday game just might become pivotal otherwise.

As for tomorrow night's game the bookies unsurprisingly make the Saints evens favourites to win the match, with the draw at 5/2 and a home win at 13/5. I'd love to put my fiver on the home win but being realistic the draw looks much better value. Well, if we're being honest a Southampton win is the most likely outcome, but I I'm not going to start betting against us just yet. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£7.25p. I hear a certain well-known local dentist has put £20 on the Glovers winning tomorrow night, let's hope his faith is rewarded. And if he loses then we will all know why a filling is so soddin' expensive these days.

It was sad to see the news that Len Harris has passed away, aged 73. I'm old enough myself to have just caught him in action at the end of his YTFC career, as part of the Southern League winning side in 1971 until he retired from the game a year later. He clocked up an incredible 691 appearances for the Glovers, a record that will surely now never be broken. Like so many others I remember him from my time at Yeovil School and used to see him pretty much every day walking to the College as it was then after the grammar school closed. He always used to smile and nod, and always had time for a chat. A nice man and he will be missed. Dellboy's appreciation of Len, written in 2003, is a must read.

Just read: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Not quite an horror story and not quite a romance and not quite an historical tale and not quite a murder thriller either; rather a mix of all four. Slow going at times but Mosse is such a good writer that it kept my interest for all it's 500-odd pages. Must try Labyrinth next....

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

More new kids on the blog

It's good to see a few new blogs springing up focussing on the mighty Glovers. Aside from my own humble effort and Vyse's Green and White Blog, which I've mentioned before; three other places to go for your Glovers fix have sprung into being, available on the interweb for all to browse.

I was saddened when Ed shut down his Achieve By Unity forum. His forum provided a valuable service for Glovers fans with nowhere to go to discuss YTFC matters following the closure of the original green room, so it was a shame to see it close in turn following the opening of the new green room II. Having said that, it would be hypocritical of me to pretend that I liked the format of the Achieve by Unity forum overmuch or indeed, by the end, much of the content. Such is life. Despite stopping using the forum myself, I still felt it had it's place in the scheme of things and it was a pity to see it go. It's good to see anyway that Ed has bounced back with a new blog, called (what else?) Achieve by Unity. Early days yet, but the best of luck to him with it.

Second up we have Barrett Sports Writing. Blog owner Ben Barrett is a journalism graduate/YTFC fan who has contributed articles for the Glovers programme and official website. His blog includes match reports, general comments on YTFC affairs and interviews with former players. Well worth a read and well worth checking out regularly.

Last but not least is Martin McConachie's new site, Mac the Hack. As I'm sure most people know Martin is the YTFC fan poacher turned gamekeeper who took over running the club's then moribund official website and even worse match-day programme and turned them both around into the relevant and readable publications they are today. Mac the Hack is not so much a blog, more a collection of interviews and articles from the matchday programme. As such makes fascinating reading and well worth a browse through.

And while I'm at it, it occurs that I ought to mention one more site that is becoming of increasing relevance to the wider Glovers fanbase, not just the narrower constituency they ostensibly serve - the Capital Glovers. Set up for the benefit of Yeovil fans living in London and the south-east, the Capital Glovers have been amongst the vanguard of supporters concerned about the impact of Holdingsgate on the club and have just published another open letter to the Board on the subject and calling for an open meeting between the Board and interested fans to discuss the issue. It remains to be seen whether or not the club will respond to them.

This weekend the Glovers host Exeter City in a League One fixture, but of course the game will inevitably be rightly overshadowed by the various tributes being made to the late Adam Stansfield. I was looking forward to this fixture immensely but found out last week that I've been booked in for a minor operation in hospital on Friday, so unfortunately I won't be present at Huish Park for what will be, I'm sure, an emotional occasion. If you're going, please give Adam an extra clap for me.

The bookies make the Glovers 11/8 favourites to win the game, the draw is priced at 9/4 and an Exeter win at 2/1. My fiver's going on the home win. Running total: -£2.25p. My thanks must go to the Press Association hack who credited Paul Huntington with scoring the Glovers second goal at Huddersfield last week, when the real scorer was Owain Tudur-Jones. His error led to paying out on my side bet of Huntington scoring a goal at anytime at 18/1, not often the bookies give you something for nothing!

Just read, Or just reading really, as I'm half way through at the moment: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Really enjoyed The Winter Ghosts by the same author and so far I'm enjoying this one too. though it's a bit slower going. More on it when I've finished it. Just took delivery of my latest order from Amazon. Coming up soon: The Wind-Up Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi; The Evolutionary Void by Peter F Hamilton; the new Shardlake novel, Heartstone by CJ Samsom; Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley; and Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson. Can't wait!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

L1: Huddersfield Town 4 Yeovil Town 2

Better but no cure from the Galpharmacy - by Cruncher

Huddersfield was always going to be a difficult place to find a cure for Meadow Lane travel sickness. Realistic conclusion from yesterday though isn't complex: we we were beaten by a stronger team that we couldn't stand up to for long enough, and it is analysis of that which is now needed to pave the way for further progression. Yielding a deserved 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 is not the obvious antidote to the damaging venom of a 4-0 away trouncing, but this Yeovil performance did continue some promise from the home win against Tranmere.

The Galpharmacy (oh dear) prescribed symptom relief. Whilst that included great disappointment at seeing potential winning joy turn to the misery of defeat, cautious hope is renewed. Yesterday, individually and collectively Yeovil proved that they can do the bottom-line requirement of performing and competing at League One level. Early on they did that marvellously well and in all departments, but now the next stage of progress has to be something that has been a long-term bugbear of Terry Skiverton's men: becoming a ninety-minutes team.

This was not a matter of chalk and cheese separated by half-time, there was a handover of superiority that started in the first-half. Here though I am glibly talking of an initial Yeovil superiority that we had no right to expect - to the team and management's credit that happy surprise was convincingly achieved in the first portion of the first half. Yeovil including the two enforced changes of Owain Tudur Jones and Stephen Henderson had stepped up to the mark: purposeful, precise and penetrating forward-play, with effective closing down and mopping up, as well as resilient and organised defending.

Dean Bowditch's sweet turn-and-strike from Craig Alcock's low-drive into the box, followed by Owain Tudur Jones's crisp stab to put away Gavin Williams's fine free-kick, provided for a two-goal cushion inside just fifteen minutes that sent the faithful 166 into merriment. How joyful it had been in those early stages at 2-0: young supporters who had trudged out of Meadow Lane looking at their shoes (until they got to Hooters) a fortnight ago were in full voice asking the Yorkshire faithful if we could play them every week and if they were Tranmere in disguise; the admirable drummer had more power to his elbow and even cautious elders amongst the 166 dared to hope of three points.

The key though could be defined by one thing: Yeovil keeping a high-line. As the half wore on, Huddersfield bit-by-bit managed to force the cheeky upstarts from Somerset onto the back foot, to the extent where prolonged periods of build-up play occurred to all sides of the Yeovil area. And although the defence was resolute and the Terriers weren't exactly baring their teeth, as well as Yeovil still on occasion threatening to punish on the break, the momentum was shifting. The half-time need for the home team was to sharpen up their act to turn territory into points, while Yeovil needed to alter things to suit how the balance of play had swung.

Huddersfield brought on Joey Gudjohnson, a midfield change which certainly did make an impact. Within minutes, they were level with a well-taken strike from Scott Arfield that owed to overall Huddersfield persistence rather than guile as it fell kindly to him, but it was a neat effort and a deserved reward for the home pressure. Yeovil responded soon after by replacing Andy Welsh with Luke Ayling. Welsh had been instrumental to the early joy, but now was deemed surplus to requirements with defensive duty now uppermost in mind. The change though did not appear to help Yeovil's cause, with Ayling close to giving a penalty away almost immediately, quickly followed by Huddersfield hitting the woodwork. Ayling appeared to slot in on the left as a direct replacement for Welsh, but the overall formation was now not too obvious either to the spectators or, it seemed, to the team.

Which perhaps accounts for the ensuing disaster of a three-minute spell providing for two rapid-fire goals by the gleefully (and on this occasion so aptly) announced 'Boom Boom Jamie McCombe'. The first was a centre-half's header from a right-wing cross, the second a centre-forward's turn and shot across the angle into the far corner - McCombe's lack of renown for adept forward play is perhaps why he was given too much time and space. Yeovil's fate was sealed, they could not regain anywhere near the punch they had in the first period.

Gary Roberts' penalty rubbed salt in the wound, replays confirm that it was a harsh decision but overall the referee was better than the norm, although he ought to have given yellow cards for persistent Huddersfield fouling in the first half. Another possible gripe is the decision not to award a foul on Bowditch early on when clean through, but it was hard to tell from distance. Indeed, the away support were unsure about both goalscorers for some time, and not only us myopic middle-aged.

Not an overall bad display, in fact individual contributions were good, but (as last year at the Galpharm) it was frustrating not to come away with a result. In hindsight we probably took advantage (and impressively so) of early Huddersfield flaws until they ironed them out. Adapting strategy during a game, and mental toughness, have perhaps become overdue considerations; but poor efforts against Hartlepool and Notts County had made for the need to concentrate on basic issues.

Goals conceded is a definite concern, at Meadow lane individual errors were more glaring. After a definite improvement in the away performance at the Galpharm, it throws more emphasis on to Terry Skiverton to stop the team from being penned in their own half especially for long periods. Exeter and Southampton will be the immediate tests of whether essential home form can be continued; Walsall will be an eagerly awaited test against less-fancied opposition to see if the good stuff at the Galpharm (and when it was good it was very good) is indicative of an ability to accumulate some much-wanted away points.

Even the well-defeated Tranmere came back to get some grip on the game, so combine that with yesterday and we are walking a bit of a tightrope. There is hope from both games that we can positively take a game to anyone, while also worry from both games that we cannot eradicate or reduce long periods of vulnerability.

First and foremost we need to ensure Gavin Williams has attacking freedom above defensive duty, which needs to include adapting the game plan as required should the opposition suss out the original strategy. That is one dilemma for manager to Skiverton to sort out, another is to decide on the line-up out of yesterday's starters added to Jean-Paul Kalala (hopefully fit for Exeter) and Sam Williams, and possibly Luke Freeman.

Are we good enough? ... I don't know. Could we be good enough? ... I think so, if we can maintain a full-strength squad. Those next three games will I think give good indication one way or the other.


Friday, 17 September 2010

I don't like cricket, oh no. I love it!

Credit where it's due, you have to hand it to Martyn Starnes. The club's Chief Executive showed this week that he has his finger firmly on the pulse of public opinion by blaming last Saturday's paltry attendance of 3,364 on the fact that Somerset were playing a one-day cricket match 26 miles away at Taunton.

The sad thing, he's probably right. A few hundred sports fans who otherwise might have come to Huish Park to watch the Glovers take on Tranmere Rovers probably did find it all to easy to change their plans and go and watch a cricket match instead. Okay, they would have to pay slightly more for their entertainment, £18 a ticket in advance at Taunton as compared to £15-£18 at Huish Park, depending on whether you want to sit or stand; or £22 on the day at the cricket, compared to £17-£20 at Yeovil. But there again, go to the cricket and you're entertained all day for your money, go to the football and 2 hours later you've got to go home.

In fact it's quite interesting to make some more comparisons. Fancy something to eat at the County Ground? No problem sir. Choose from the match-day carvery, or something off the menu in the two (count 'em!) different restaurants, one for members and one for non-members. If your tastes run to plainer fare there's a fish 'n' chips outlet and any amount of kiosks and burger bars. Fancy a drink? You're in luck! Choose from three (count 'em!) different bars and if you want to take your drink to your seat to watch the action they'll give you a tray to carry it on. I think I'll stop there. It's perhaps lucky for the football club that the football and cricket season's don't overlap too much. If both sports are trying to attract the same audience then as far as facilities are concerned the cricket wins hands down.

One thing the football club has often been accused of in the past is failing to make the most of what facilities do exist at Huish Park, particularly the upstairs bars. Apart from at home games, Sunday carveries and the odd private party the main bar is never in use, a waste of a perfectly good venue. It's good to report then that today the club has published a Huish Park Leisure Guide with details of forthcoming events at the club. Attractions coming up before Christmas include stand-up comedy nights, Pink, Elvis and Abba tribute acts, a meet the manager night and various other entertainments. As far as I know it's the first time the club has ever attempted such an ambitious programme of entertainment. I hope it succeeds. We've all been moaning on for years that there's never anything on at the club, well now there is. If the events are well supported then it might be enough to show that a new social club is not only needed, it's actually wanted. Good luck to the club in this very worthwhile venture.

As for this weekend's football, the Glovers are away at promotion favourites Huddersfield. Regular keeper John Sullivan is injured so Skivo has brought in Stephen Henderson on loan from Bristol City to replace him. A good choice I'm sure in most people's eyes, Henderson is a fine keeper who's been unlucky not to feature more for TBCUTR. Apart from that I wouldn't expect the gaffer to change a winning team, injuries permitting. The bookies make the home side very firm favourites at 8/15 on, the draw is priced at 3/1 and a Glovers win at a frankly insulting 5/1. We don't actually have a bad record at the Galpharm since we entered the football league - played 6, won 2, drawn 1, lost 3; and I fancy us to add to that this weekend. A win may be too much to ask so my fiver's going on the draw. Running total: +£3.25p.

Just read: Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald: Not so much a prequel or a sequel to the author's award-winning River of Gods, more a companion-piece. A super collection of short stories set in India 50 years from now; an India split into many smaller nation-states, where wars are fought over water rights, where boys outnumber girls by 4 to 1, and where tv soap stars are actually virtual reality AI's... Recommended.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

L1: Yeovil Town 3 Tranmere Rovers 1

That's better. The Glovers bounced back from last week's mauling in the Midlands with a well-deserved 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers. Terry Skiverton's men blew the visitors away with 3 first half goals without reply. The Glovers went off the boil somewhat in the second half, contenting themselves with containing Tranmere and playing on the break. The visitors scored a consolation penalty in the final minute, but that was the only blemish on an encouraging overall display from the home side.

Yeovil's domination of the first half was as complete as it was surprising. The team lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Gavin Williams playing behind Dean Bowditch up front, Andy Williams returning from injury on the right and Sean MacDonald taking up his usual central midfield role. The excellent Bowditch opened the scoring on 7 minutes, a fluffed goalkick rebounding to the striker who made no mistake with a well-placed shot from around 35 yards to beat the scrabbling keeper. The Glovers doubled their advantage 4 minutes later, Andy Williams supplying the cross which allowed left-winger Andy Welsh to score in the far corner with a well-placed header. Paul Huntington made it 3-0 on 27 minutes, prodding home after a scramble in the box following an Andy Williams free-kick. Modesty forbids me from gloating about the fiver I had on Huntington to score at anytime at 12/1! Three goals by half-time then and it could have been more. Gavin Williams forced the Rovers keeper into several saves and was denied what appeared to be an obvious penalty after being tripped in the box, and Andy Williams headed straight at Collister in the visitors goal when it looked easier to score. But all in all a fine first 45 minutes for the Glovers, with Super Gav and Bowditch looking like they'd played together all their lives and the team as a whole playing with pace, energy and purpose, keeping the ball on the floor in the main and running the visitors ragged.

It was perhaps asking too much for the Glovers to dominate the second half as much as they did the first, and the visitors saw more of the ball after the break. Even then, any Yeovil alarms were largely self-inflicted with Adam Virgo and John Sullivan getting in each other's way on one occasion and almost letting in Arnaud Mendy. JP Kalala was unlucky with a thunderbolt from 20 yards which scraped the bar and substitute Luke Freeman screwed his shot narrowly wide when one-on-one with keeper Collister. Adam Virgo thought he'd made it 4-0 with a far-post header late in the game, but the referee disagreed, penalising the big defender for climbing on his opponent, a poor decision from where I was sitting. Tranmere got their consolation in the final minute, Nathan Smith pulling back Lucas Akin to give away a penalty, which Ian Thomas-Moore converted.

The Glovers lined up as follows:

1. John Sullivan: 6/10 - Competent display. Didn't have much to do until later in the second half but coped well enough with the few shots Rovers managed on target. Maybe some concerns over a lack of communication with his defenders at times.

2. Craig Alcock: 7/10 - Very good first half, got forward well to support Andy Williams on the right and always available for the pass. Quieter second half, came close to scoring with a header from a corner.

5. Paul Huntington: 8/10 - Probably his most convincing defensive display so far in his short YTFC career. On top of that he's been threatening to score for a few games now and was in the right place at the right time.

19. Adam Virgo: 8/10 - Same comments as above, but was unlucky inasmuch his goal was disallowed. Needs to listen to his goalkeeper a bit more, especially when Mr Sullivan is shouting "my ball!" Some of his long passes to the wings were works of art.

6. Nathan Smith: 7/10 - That's more like it. Solid defensively and made some barnstorming runs forward with the ball in the first half in particular. Quieter second half and I've marked him down a point for giving away an unnecessary penalty.

7. Andrew Williams: 8/10 - Not heard his name mentioned much in regard to yesterday's game but I thought he was excellent. A constant threat on the right in the first half in particular, provided the assist for Welsh's goal and linked up well with his fullback, the midfield and his forwards. We've missed him these last few games.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 8/10 - You don't know what you've lost 'til it's gone, as the song goes, but we knew exactly what we were missing when the Ginger Ninja went back to South Wales. Graft, application, hard-tackling, accurate passing but above all else bags of skill. Swansea must have some absolutely fantastic midfield players if this fella is surplus to requirements. Ah well, their loss is our gain.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 7/10 - Battling. Bustling. Bristling. Belligerent. Business as usual, in other words. Unlucky with one effort in the second half that skimmed the bar.

11. Andy Welsh: 7/10 - Marked him up a point for the way he took his goal - a well-placed header (of all things) away from the keeper into the far corner of the net. Slightly quiet match otherwise.

24. Gavin Williams: 7/10 - His mere presence gave everyone else a lift, crowd and players alike. Linked up well with Bowditch and always made himself available for the pass. Always appeared to have plenty of time and space come to that and popped up all over the pitch. Faded a bit as the match wore on but he hasn't got his match legs yet. Much, much, much more to come.

10. Dean Bowditch: 8/10 - Lead the line with great verve and energy. Excellent finish for his goal and looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself all afternoon.

8. Luke Ayling (90 mins for Dean Bowditch): n/a - Not on long enough to affect the game.

18. Luke Freeman (84 mins for Andrew Williams): 5/10 - Barely on long enough to affect the game, but had one golden opportunity when one-on-one with the Tranmere keeper, which he fluffed. Might find chances to impress are hard to come by, in the next few weeks at least.

20. Owain Tudur-Jones (90 mins for Andy Welsh): n/a - Not on long enough to affect the game.

Crisis? What crisis? Play like this every game and my pre-season prediction of a 9th-place finish might not sound as daft as it did this time last week. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, again. Tranmere were ravaged by injuries and in the first half at least were as accommodating to their hosts as any away team could ever be. Having said that you can only beat what's put in front of you, and beat them we did, convincingly. What was most pleasing was the almost complete absence of the vaguely-aimed long-ball up front. Passes were to feet, or into space for players to run onto and possession wasn't just frittered away. Not that was to the taste of some in the crowd. I felt sorry for Andy Williams in particular at one point in the first half when instead of whacking a long-ball forward to no-one in particular he elected to pass back to Craig Alcock and keep possession instead. 'Get it bloody FORWARD Williams' came one stentorian bellow from behind me, followed by other shouts of displeasure, including, I swear, 'bloody rubbish Yeovil!' The beautiful game still has some way to go before it filters down into certain parts of South Somerset.

Still, at least the long-ball fans turned up. Yesterday's crowd was a miserly 3,364, the second-worse attendance at Huish Park since we joined the Football League. And that's with the return of Super Gav and Shaun MacDonald figured in. If that doesn't give the Board some serious concern and pause for thought, then nothing will.

Just read: Transition by Iain Banks: For me, Banks is one of those authors who could make a shopping list gripping. Love his books, particularly his science-fiction, which he releases under the name 'Iain M Banks'. This one's without the 'M', but don't be fooled, it's as science-fiction as they come. Infinite parallel worlds and multiple story-lines with diverse characters all of which come together in a thrilling and satisfying finish. Highly recommended.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Return of the Talisman

Can I just say how glad I am to see Super Gavin Williams back where he belongs, playing in the green-and-white of Yeovil Town. The worst-kept secret of the summer finally came true yesterday, with the news that Super Gav has signed on loan until the middle of December. That will do for now. We'd all like it to be for longer, we'd all like it to be permanent, we'll all have to be realistic and accept that that is the best we can do at this moment in time.

Interesting to see the club acknowledge the role played by three businessmen supporters in bringing Gav back to South Somerset. Ben Tupman of Westbury Packaging, Simon Prout of Avon Valley Motor Sales and Rob Tizzard of TZZ Estates have all been thanked by the club, presumably for contributing to the player's wages, though that's not spelled out in so many words. If that's what they've done, then unlike some supporters on the various forums, I've got no problem with that at all. If I had the spare cash (chance would be a fine thing) I would more than happily be willing to contribute to the wages of a player of the calibre of a Gavin Williams. I don't see it as any different to sponsoring a player, or even signing up to the club's lottery - it's all money from fans being given to the club, the only difference here is that the Super Gav Three know exactly what their money is being spent on. Nothing wrong with that and well done to them.

It's curious though that in the past the club have always fought shy of relying on supporters to subsidise wages. I can remember various groups offering to do similar things only for the club to politely refuse their help. I wonder what's changed their mind now? The obvious answer is that we have problems, on and off the pitch. New blood will help on the pitch, off the pitch the solution could well be the same. New blood in the boardroom, new blood in key roles, new ideas, new enthusiasm. Revenue streams revitalised, supporters re-energised and crowds increasing. If the current owners aren't capable of providing the resources and the leadership to keep the club at this level, then sell up to someone who can.

O brave new world. Skivo's problem for tomorrow's home game against Tranmere is who of his 7 loanees to leave out. I haven't picked the gaffer's team for him for a while, so here's my shot at it: A 4-1-3-2 formation. Sullivan in goal (1 loanee), back four of Alcock, Virgo, Huntington and Smith. Yes, Smith. The more Nathan plays, the better he gets and although he's started the season poorly he can and will improve, if he's given games. In midfield I would play Kalala as the sole holding midfielder, playing 2 holding midfielders at home is overkill and unnecessary. In front of him and playing as attacking midfielders prepared to get forward and support the frontmen I'd pick Tudur-Jones (2nd loanee) and MacDonald (3rd loanee), plus an-out-and-out winger - Andy Williams for preference, Welsh if he's unfit - who can switch flanks as and when necessary. Super Gav (4th loanee) as second striker and Bowditch the main striker. On the bench Roberts, Stam, Ayling, Upson, Stewart (5th loanee), Calver and either Welsh or Gibson, depending if Andy Williams plays or not. Freeman and Kiernan (5th and 6th loanees) miss out this time. 4-1 win (we're bound to let in at least 1), 3 points, job done. An hugely important game for Skivo tomorrow. A win, any win, and all the worries will evaporate, at least for a week. Another disappointing performance and a loss, especially with the presence of the Talisman in the team, and the pressure on the manager will be enormous.

The bookies make the Glovers 11/10 favourites for tomorrow's game, with the draw at 9/4 and a Tranmere win at 13/5. My fiver has to go on the home win. Running total: -£7.25p.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

L1: Notts County 4 Yeovil Town 0

Dismal Day At The County Show - by Cruncher

Following the staunch display against Oldham, my confidence was not even dented by the LDV Vans Trophy defeat to Exeter. Notts County were to be the Hartlepool chance that we fluffed, and while not glib enough to expect a win I hoped we were at least ripe for a decent performance. High hopes indeed, for some cohesion and purpose, and that the words of the day might be pass and move. As it transpired, the two words I heard most were Hooters and crap. Oh and nil, I heard that a lot.

Hearing of Dean Bowditch's unavailability, I checked out the ten outfield players warming up with Darren Way to guess at what might be the formation. Hmm, three centre-halves - most likely going to be Adam Virgo up front, though I did hope for three hoofers holding the fort enabling the full-backs (who by reports had been struggling defensively) to block out the threats from wide, as well as to get forward as is their strength. Unfortunately it was the former, Virgo though put in a shift and I admired his effort. Luke Freeman alongside also tried hard and showed glimpses of class, but the odds were stacked against him and the rest of a mish-mash of a starting eleven.

Luke Ayling (stuck out towards the right rather than on it) proved to be the wrong choice for balance that it appeared it would be, as I saw it. I have sympathy for the manager's overall task, but was despondent he ignored Cameron Stewart on the right, a choice I think that created a disadvantage from the start. It was my pleasure to meet Matt from Wellingborough. He was obviously drawn to Hooters for its well-known intellectual debate, where pre-match he learned from County fans that 'if Yeovil have wingers against our full backs, then they will win.'

We coped well enough for the first quarter. Contrary to murmurs about Stefan Stam's showing and my own suspicion he might be rusty, he and Paul Huntington snuffed out both the skill and cunning of the County attack quite competently in that period, aided by the home side's midfield wasting of the final ball. Yeovil forced some useful corners and did get forward, but it was two sides slugging against each other, certainly not poetry. The most likely scenario was that one side would give the other a way in, and that is what happened with the first goal.

John Sullivan may well have got the ball before Craig Westcarr hooked it over him, if he had continued his initial movement forward, or saved if he had not moved. I could not tell what did or didn't happen between Stam and his keeper, but my thoughts at the time revisited my belief during the warm-up that it would be better to have kept Virgo and Huntington together, to keep their learning curve of each other moving forward, rather than to bust two departments of the pitch in one go. In the context of two blunt teams both looking like relegation fodder, the first goal was a big moment. Both the team and the away support were visibly set back, a reflection on our current fragility. All credit though to the young group who sang themselves hoarse, they were rockin' and kept at it admirably.

Yeovil were on the back foot, and it didn't take long for that to be compounded. It signalled for County's approach play to get better, to coincide with the Yeovil defensive work to fall apart, culminating firstly in an an unchallenged stinger from Ben Davies which Sullivan puzzlingly parried behind himself for the second goal, and then another gift for Davies just seconds before the half-time whistle. That third goal was a terrible blow, County appeared to have no ambition of a forward thrust in those dying seconds before the break, when all of a sudden a gap opened up as if sending a leper into a bus queue.

The Meadow Lane 100 Years celebrations had set the scene for the hosts, and the pre-match procession of over fifty veterans was befitting the occasion. This was County's Show, but at no time could I see either team's display on the day showing them to be contenders to beat the drop. Lee Hughes's volley was well-taken for their fourth. Such basic glaring problems seem to beset this Yeovil side - despite setting out their stall from pre-season to play to a quick enterprising style, they seem unable to create angles either for the pass or or to stretch the opposition. The back four was easily hurried into hoofing the ball away, whereas the County back four could pass it around with time and space, with their midfielders dropping back to collect-and-build.

A disappointed, despondent and demoralised away support on a thoroughly dismal day. Thoughts turned to two situations: what could be done about the here and now, and what was going to happen to our club long-term? For me, I couldn't help but get the two tangled up, trudging back to the station wedged in amongst the merry men of Nottingham (many soon-to-be-merrier Hooter's-bound), wondering how it would all pan out.

At the final whistle, I detected a hint that displeasure was going to erupt. Manager Terry Skiverton strode boldly across with purposeful stride applauding the support, with players summoned to follow. A bighearted response from a bighearted man, there is no doubt, that also served to quell the revolt, at least that's how it seemed. He does seem to have got himself into some dilemmas: soon there will be too many loan players which was opposite to the declared intent, and we have a number of contracted players who don't seem to be anywhere near ready.

These dilemmas arise as a result of trying to make a difficult situation work, and are similar to those that beset Russell Slade. Just a short jog away was the scene of that dream Nottingham night, now we return to the city for a nightmare. It transpired as some suspected that the Wembley push was an overspend year - what is clear since on continuing falling crowds is that, without having got revenue streams in place, we are falling further off the pace as a competitive financial force in League One.

Which is why HHH's post on Achieve by Unity is significant. And as it is his first post in the six months since the forum started, a long-time coming like a Terrell Forbes goal with similar impact.

Dismal is the only word apart from expletives that describes the performance. In 180 minutes of League One football County had scored just once at home prior to yesterday. They were crying out for a soft touch to kick-start their season - the team from Somerset duly obliged.


Thursday, 2 September 2010

FLTR1: Yeovil Town 1 Exeter City 3

Another first round cup competition: Another defeat. Terry Skiverton's unwanted record of failure in knock-out competitions continues apace. What's left for this season? On this form a battle against relegation and, er, that's it.

Tuesday night's Football League Trophy game against Exeter was disappointing on several levels. The Glovers began the game reasonably well and created several half-chances without reward but it was the visitors who went ahead with only 10 minutes gone and in the simplest of fashions, a long-ball seeing the veteran Jamie Cureton beating Adam Virgo for pace and finding the net from an acute angle. You might have thought that the Glovers would learn from the goal, but as the half wore on the same scenario was repeated 3 or 4 times, but with keeper John Sullivan proving his worth with some very good saves. Paul Huntington was unlucky not to score when his volley from the edge of the box crashed off the bar, but aside from that effort the Glovers were huffing and puffing with a lot of the ball but not much in the way of inspiration. On the stroke of half-time Sam Williams reminded us that he was still on the pitch when he head-butted Exeter's James Dunne after a spot of handbags in the visitor's penalty area, a piece of rank stupidity that will now see him banned for the next 3 games following the inevitable red card.

So, 1 goal down at half-time and down to 10 men, the Glovers collapsed, right? Well, no, actually. In Williams' absence the team seemed to realise that there was no point in punting the ball aimlessly upfield in the general direction of an (ineffective) target-man, instead they began to pass the ball on the floor at pace, began using the wings and the midfield started pushing forward to support lone striker Dean Bowditch up front. And glory be, whaddayouknow, it began to work. Chances were being created, the crowd got behind the 10 men and we all began to remember that football can be entertaining after all, not just prosaic and mundane. Stewart, Tudur-Jones and Bowditch all went close before Andy Welsh notched a well-deserved equaliser on 76 minutes, the winger picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box following a blocked Bowditch effort and rifling home. All the good work the Glovers had put in since the break went to waste immediately after however, when virtually from the re-start the Grecians regained their lead. And again, it was a sickeningly simple goal to concede. Jamie Thompson wasn't closed down quickly enough on the right and his cross found an unmarked Cureton in the box who had all the time he needed to fire a shot past Sullivan from close-range. Schoolboy defending at best. The Glovers went for broke, sending Virgo up front in a 3-3-3 formation but to no avail and it was the visitors who had the last word, Ryan Harley firing home a splendid free-kick to give the scoreline that extra bit of gloss.

We lined up as follows (4-2-3-1):

1. John Sullivan: 7/10 - Couldn't fault him for any of the goals and made some excellent stops to deny Exeter even more. We couldn't have complained if they had scored 3 in the first half alone. Deserves far more protection than he's currently getting.

2. Craig Alcock: 5/10 - No lack of effort but a definite lack of inspiration. To be fair he had his work cut out defensively as all too often was left two-on-one against attackers with Cameron Stewart AWOL somewhere up the field. Looked frustrated.

5. Paul Huntington: 5/10 - You would have hoped that after 6 games together both Huntington and partner Adam Virgo would be forging a solid defensive partnership. Not much sign of it so far. Unlucky not to score himself when he hit the bar in the first half, but he's there to defend above all else.

19. Adam Virgo: 5/10 - Same comments as above. Almost redeemed himself with a brief cameo as emergency target-man late in the second half, and actually won more balls and made more of a nuisance of himself in that 10 minutes than Sam Williams managed in an entire half - which ought to give the manager some food for thought.

6. Nathan Smith: 5/10 - Strangely subdued performance. Didn't get forward much, looked vulnerable defensively; what's happened to the Nathan Smith that was galloping up and down the left flank creating havoc in the latter half of last season?

15. Cameron Stewart: 6/10 - Like the curate's egg, good in parts. Showed some lovely touches and flicks and at times looked genuinely exciting when running with the ball at the Grecians defence, but rather too often his crosses came to nothing. Tended to go missing from the action and I suspect Craig Alcock will be having words about his tracking back, or lack of it. Having said all that at last showing glimpses of what he might be capable of. More to come, hopefully.

20. Owain Tudur Jones: 7/10 - Didn't do much wrong, and did quite a few things pretty well. Was unlucky not to score twice with shots from the edge of the box and was evidently at least trying to get forward to support the strikers. Provided a presence in midfield that was lacking in previous home games.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 6/10 - Usual solid defensive display, but didn't add much going forward. Taken off after 61 minutes with a possible hamstring strain.

11. Andy Welsh: 7/10 - Marked him up a point for taking his goal well, but like Cameron Stewart tended to fade in and out of the game a touch. Of course it would have helped if he had the ball passed to him as much in the first half as he started to receive it after the break, but still...

9. Sam Williams: 2/10 - No lack of effort as usual and puts himself about but, I'm sorry, I'm starting to lose patience. His flick-on's rarely lead to anything, he doesn't hold the ball up particularly well and as a striker his goal record is poor to say the least. I'm not going to say his lack of discipline cost us the game because we actually played better and looked more threatening after he was sent off, but what was most telling was that when Adam Virgo went up front to play the target-man role he looked more effective in 10 minutes than Williams has managed in 5 and a half games this season. Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I don't think so and we've now got 3 games to see how we cope without him.

10. Dean Bowditch: 6/10 - Marked him down a point because for all his good movement and efforts on goal I can't recall him actually making their keeper make a save. He should take a leaf from Jamie Cureton's book - all his shots were on-target and forced John Sullivan to save. If he didn't, Cureton scored. Easy game really, isn't it?

8. Luke Ayling (61 mins for Jean-Paul Kalala): 6/10 - Decent display. Looked to be playing a more defensive role, allowing Tudur-Jones to get forward more.

18. Luke Freeman (83 mins for Cameron Stewart): n/a - Not on long enough to make a difference.

It's been a sobering month. Played 6, won 1, drawn 1, lost 4. Scored 4, conceded 9. Oh, and two players shown red cards in those 6 games. The bare facts show a team in some trouble and in need of a lift. Hopefully the return of Shaun MacDonald (when he's finished playing for Wales u-21's) will provide a boost and Skivo has said that he's looking for another forward to add to his attacking options. Bear in mind that that means either a free agent now the transfer window has closed or another loan - and we already have 7 loan players at the club, with a maximum of 5 loanees available for the matchday squad. At this rate the manager is going to have his work cut out to keep all of his loanees - and their parent clubs - happy. Interesting times!

The Glovers travel to newly promoted Notts County this weekend for an L1 fixture. As mentioned above they'll definitely be without Sam Williams and have Shaun MacDonald and Rob Kiernan unavailable because of international commitments. Added to that JP Kalala and Paul Huntington both limped out of the Exeter game before the end, it remains to be seen whether they'll be fit for Saturday. Andy Williams also missed Tuesday night's game, it's to be hoped he'll be back for Saturday. The bookies make County 5/6 favourites for the win, the draw is priced at 12/5 and a Glovers win at 7/2. I detest betting against my own team but that would be the smart thing to do on current form. However I'll let my heart rule my head. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£2.25p

Just read: Assegai by Wilbur Smith: And it's Wilbur Smith by numbers. Do we have a manly hero with a surname of Courtney? Check. A brutal protagonist with scars and an evil laugh? Check. A beautiful heroine who 'belongs' to the brutal protaganist who eventually falls for the manly hero called Courtney? Check. Noble natives who serve the white men faithfully while keeping their dignity at all times? Check. Ferocious lions being slaughtered to order? Check. Ditto elephants, buffalo, rhino's and anything else on four legs? Check. I think I'm definitely all Wilbured out now. He's going through the motions, and so was I reading it. Merde.