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Sunday, 31 October 2010

L1: Yeovil 3 Swindon 3

"At least you can't fault the entertainment value," someone said to me as I left Huish Park in the gathering gloom yesterday afternoon after watching the Glovers snatching a draw out of the jaws of victory. I may have grinned and said something inane in return, but the remark set me thinking. And the conclusion to my thoughts was, well, actually, you most certainly can fault the entertainment value. Oh, I've no doubt the 1,000-odd Swindon supporters at the match left South Somerset in a relatively happy frame of mind. Why wouldn't they? They had seen their team come back from 3-1 down with less than 5 minutes left on the board to draw 3-3 and could very easily have even snatched a winner right at the death. But even amidst their euphoria they should have been concerned: Watching yesterday's match with it's lack of quality from both teams in both halves of the pitch was like watching two balding men arguing over the use of a comb.

The first half was probably the worst 45 minutes of football I've seen at Huish Park this season, and I've seen some bad halves, believe you me. The Glovers started with the same 4-4-1-1 formation that has seen us play some of our best football at home this season (the Tranmere and Southampton games in particular spring to mind), but for whatever reason it wasn't working yesterday. The word 'scrappy' doesn't really do justice to the fare served up by both sides. There was plenty of hard work, lots of closing down, but moments of quality very few and far between - one of those games where you find yourself watching the play but drifting off into a reverie, thinking about past games, what you're going to have for dinner tonight, the colour of the living-room wallpaper, the price of a ticket to watch Sherborne Town - that kind of thing. The atmosphere for a so-called derby match was as flat as a pancake with only the antics of Swindon's Matt Ritchie livening up the crowd, with his propensity for diving and falling over whenever a Yeovil player came within three feet of him irritating everyone in the Cowlin Stand. The one that got away, Charlie Austin, gave the visitors the lead in the 23rd minute, converting a harmless-looking cross despite being surrounded by defenders. Fair play to Skivo, he could see as well as everyone else that whatever we were doing wasn't working and made the change to a 4-4-2 after half-an-hour, Andy Welsh being replaced by Sam Williams. The Glovers got a lifeline they barely deserved with the last kick of the half, Gavin Williams low and powerful free-kick somehow evading the Swindon wall and beating David Lucas in the visitors goal. 1-1 at half-time, but it felt more like 0-0.

The Glovers lost keeper Stephen Henderson at half-time with a head injury, goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts deputising for his first competitive game in 6 years. The enforced change didn't seem to matter at first, with the Glovers somehow going into a 2-goal lead, though neither goal owed much to the concept of the beautiful game. A deep cross from the left on 50 minutes was flicked over keeper Lucas by Sam Williams and met at the far post by Dean Bowditch to put Yeovil 2-1 up. Ten minutes later and a Nathan Jones long-ball from inside his own half set Bowditch free with the Swindon defence nowhere to be seen, the striker finishing past Lucas with aplomb. 3-1 to the home side and game over, or so most in the ground must have thought. But as we've seen in the past, there's nothing more brittle or frail than this Yeovil side when they're defending a lead. Roberts in the Yeovil goal had coped pretty well up until now with everything Swindon had thrown at him, but with three minutes left on the clock it all started to go wrong. A Swindon corner found the home defence and keeper looking like statues and then looking at each other as Sean Morrison bundled the ball home at the far post. Where was his marker? Where was the far post defender? Where was the keeper? A minute later and we were watching in disbelief as Swindon equalised. Another corner, the ball punched away by Roberts but only to Jon-Paul McGovern at the edge of the box, whose shot managed to avoid everyone in the crowded penalty area to hit the back of the net. 3-3 at the final whistle and from Yeovil's point of view, two points thrown away.

I don't propose to do my usual player ratings today, other than to say I'd give Dean Bowditch an 8 for his 2 goals and Luke Ayling and Nathan Jones a 7 each for enthusiasm and effort. The rest would get 5's and 6's between them.

On the face of it the starting XI Skivo put out yesterday was as strong as any he's picked over the last two years, but there's an underlying brittleness that is concerning. Certainly the absence of Stephen Henderson in the second half didn't help, but even with an unfamiliar keeper between the sticks it should not have been beyond the Glovers to defend a 2-goal lead with only 3 minutes left on the clock. The Glovers best spell came in the second half in the aftermath of their third goal. Just for a short while they passed the ball well, dominated possession and created a couple of decent opportunities, none of which unfortunately were taken. Not even this side could have thrown away a 3-goal lead, could they? That brief spell apart however the football from both sides was mediocre, a word which pretty much sums up yesterday's game. If you weren't there then a 3-3 scoreline sounds great entertainment. Believe me, it wasn't.

The result leaves the Glovers back in 22nd place in the relegation zone, with 15 points from 14 games played. Our goal difference is comfortably the worst in the division at -10. It's not being alarmist to observe that until that is addressed and cured then with the best will in the world you just can't see anything other than a relegation fight for the rest of the season. So business as usual then!

No rest for the wicked anyway, and the Glovers now travel to Franchise FC on Tuesday night. The bookies make the home side 8/11 favourites, the draw is priced at 12/5 and a Glovers win at 7/2. More in hope than expectation my fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£15.25p.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Diamonds aren't forever

This week's Fa Cup 1st round draw brought the Glovers yet another away tie to contend with and if that wasn't bad enough also brought us face-to-face with one of our most difficult opponents of the last decade, that made-up club from the middle of nowhere, Rushden & Diamonds FC.

We couldn't have had much worse a draw to be honest. Rushden (or Ru$hden, as I still prefer to think of them even if, like ourselves, they don't have a pot to piss in these days), like Oxford United last season, are doing well in the Conference, are full-time, and will relish the chance of doing over a struggling League One side. They'll especially relish the chance of doing us over as they've already done it once before, four years ago.

Rushden & Diamonds as a club have only been in existence since 1992 but they've packed a lot of promotions and relegations into that time. They were of course formed on the back of one man's money, that man being Max Griggs, the head of the Dr Martens footwear empire. Fair play to Max, he made a good pair of boots and initially his brand new sparkling football club - the bastard offspring of a merger between Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds - did well too, eventually rising from the depths of the Southern League Midland Division all the way to the heady heights of League One in the Football League. On the way of course they came up against ourselves, particularly in the 2000-01 season, when they pipped the Glovers to the Conference title and promotion to the Football League. The final table showed a 6 point gap between the Diamonds and the 2nd-placed Glovers that season, but the table didn't tell anything like the full story of that nine months. If you've got a spare hour or so then it's well worth browsing through the Ciderspace news archives for that time, and I'm not saying that just because I helped write them! It was a fascinating season with more twists and turns in the plotlines than your average episode of Eastenders, and was really the start of the beginning of the modern era of Yeovil Town, though at the time it felt more like the beginning of the end, with manager Colin Addison being controversially sacked at the end of the season and some of our best players - Warren Patmore and Tony Pennock in particular - leaving to join Rushden in the Football League, a bitter pill to swallow at the time.

Still, we had the last laugh. Max Griggs continued to throw his money at the club and Rushden eventually made it all the way to League One, but there the bubble burst. The Dr Martens empire hit the financial rocks, and Griggs's money injections, amounting to an average of £2.5 million per season (!) since their Conference days, stopped. Now owned by their Supporters Trust and for the first time not living beyond their means, Rushden, no longer known as Ru$hden, came back down the leagues as fast as they went up them before bottoming out in the Conference, where they've remained since. As they went down we of course went up in a rather more stable and sustainable manner and now the (Doc Martens) boot is on the other foot. Until a week on Saturday anyway! Wouldn't it be nice if, just for once, we had a bit of a cup run? Is it really too much to ask?

There are more pressing concerns before then. This Saturday sees Swindon coming to Huish Park followed by a trip to Franchise FC next Tuesday. We're not quite back in crisis mode yet, but after 2 defeats in a row leaving us a scanty one place above the relegation zone it's important that we get something out of Saturday's game against our Wiltshire near-neighbours. The bookies make the Glovers narrow 8/5 favourites for the win, with the draw priced at 23/10 and a Swindon win at 13/8. My self-imposed unwritten rule of always betting on a home win when the odds are against means that my fiver is in Skivo's mens hands, god help me. No bet last week because my old computer decided to blow up, running total: -£10.25p.

Just read: Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley: Excellent sequel to the equally good The Quiet War. Both books are set in the future a century or so from now with mankind colonising the solar system and, being mankind, fighting each other all the way. I'd thoroughly recommend both books to anyone who likes intelligent, hard s-f with a human touch. Read The Quiet War first, the sequel may not make much sense otherwise - but do read them both!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

L1: Brighton 2 Yeovil Town 0

Defeated and Depleted - match report and thoughts, by Cruncher

I normally don't get bored on train rides but today's trudge for my first (and last) trip to The Withdean was decidedly dull. Wasn't on my 'A' list of away days, but I was peeved that I missed the Rochdale game so added it in. Heavy rain was possible if not probable, but I was going. Not long before arriving at Preston Park Station, the landscape was split by a most perfectly-vertical strike of lightning, not enhancing my expectancy of a grand day out, especially when fresh rain greeted me as I stepped onto the platform.

What happened next was a bit surreal. In the short moment I wandered through a narrow smugglers' tunnel of a white passage that was the way out, the onset of certain persistent rainfall had turned to a clear sky immediately followed by sunshine. It had a bit of Dr. Who about it, with the feeling of walking into a different time zone further compounded by the scene of a sleepy village setting. Ahead was an inviting slope down to cosy Sussex suburbia, to the right a quaint clock shop, and to the left a short road leading to a track that I presumed was perfect for designer outdoor clothing enthusiasts to walk their designer dogs. And despite home fans also on their way to the ground, all around a distinct sense of ... quiet.

Treading a continuing blanket of damp autumnal greens and golds, ten minutes or so up the dog track takes me to the ground. Miles too late for access to the Pub let alone its renowned carvery, I approach the away end caterers with high hopes but there's not much choice - the priority is to fill a hole so a burger it is. As for the atmosphere and the view, the 112 in the away end knew what to expect.

A chatty steward had seen Adam Virgo arrive at the ground, confirming that he wasn't playing today. Not a big surprise after last week but then, finding out that Craig Alcock and Shaun MacDonald were also missing, a big task becomes massive. At least Jean Paul Kalala was back and Ed Upson was getting a start, but with Owain Tudur Jones filling in at the back we were compromised now in the back and the middle. Against the League leaders, we were David turning up with a lacky band instead of a sling.

Although as it transpired the teams were fairly evenly matched in the first half. Yeovil had some good periods of keeping the ball playing neat stuff at times and applying some pressure. Brighton's threat, in the main snuffed out by the Yeovil game-plan, came through Kazenga Lua Lua who had an absorbing battle with Luke Ayling. Just before half time both teams had been adequate without being inspiring, with a fine double-save by Stephen Henderson being the most notable factor to the game remaining goalless. JPK was straight back into his stride, busy and effective, other plusses for Yeovil was the defensive work of Paul Huntington and Nathan Smith, and of course Henderson; Sam Williams also had had a good start to the game.

Hope of holding out continued until just before half-time, until Lua Lua picked out Glenn Murray at the far post: a placed header perfectly weighted to lob Henderson on his opposite corner - one nil to Brighton. While the play had remained fairly evenly balanced, a bit of tweaking by Gus Poyet did give a hint of second half Brighton superiority that was to follow - enough I thought for a Skiverton tweak sooner rather than later.

Skivo kept to the same eleven with the same plan. Brighton put their stamp on the game, Yeovil battled on but at times the second half reminded me of a school match where one side had sneaked in four or five older players, decisively showing more muscle and pace. Shots on Henderson's goal were becoming more frequent, and it must be said he had another very good game, impressing with his handling, kicking and positioning as well as pulling off good saves. He couldn't do anything about Albion's second goal, a classy collect-and-shoot from a crossfield ball as Inigo Calderon cut in from his right flank to beat Henderson in the far corner.

Yeovil eventually brought on Andy Williams and then Andy Welsh and did manage to look lively again in sporadic moments, especially in the latter stages when they got in sight of goal a few times, but on the day the home team were clearly deserving of their victory. Craig Calver got a run out, presumably mainly to preserve Dean Bowditch for next week.

Certainly not a terrible performance nor a disaster, more a bridge too far for the amount of injuries. And in the contest of the Seagulls' form and last week's crushing victory at Charlton, we come away with our dignity intact. Presumably the more positive game plan of recent weeks would have been kept if just one of MacDonald or Alcock had been fit. Both goals could be criticised, but for the squad depletion on the day we couldn't expect much more than what we got, and with what we had we gave it a go. Trying Plan B should have been at half-time, if I had to find a gripe. If we stay up, we might not get a trip to the new Amex Stadium next year as Poyet undoubtedly is doing some good work on the South Coast. At the same time though, if we can keep on to key personnel and maintain a fit squad after the new year, we have realistic hope of a result in the return match.

The young singers as always tried hard to create atmosphere, so very difficult what with the distance from the action and such like. I found the stewards to be of the friendliest nature, but felt just or two gave off a bit of stern body language. Maybe I was just being over-sensitive, not sure; neither am I sure whether my hunch has relevance to an intense situation that occurred latish in the second-half. As I say, the majority were not just decent but superb.

Another three hours (almost) of boring train journey later was just like the outward trip: without access to refreshments. Until ironically just as the train rolled in a snacks trolley belatedly appeared. The whole experience of monotonous travel and the flat atmosphere at The Withdean combined to define my day as a bit of a strange non-event. I felt slightly more affection for The National Hockey Stadium than The Withdean, even though I did get a drenching at that venue. The Brighton fans have obviously been starved of a proper home for far too long, as is clear from those that I spoke to. Good luck to them on the move to Falmer, and indeed it does sound like it will be a fantastic stadium. After today, Albion supporters indeed do have realistic hope that the move to Falmer will coincide with promotion to the Championship.

Lots of importance now on the home game against Swindon. After such a good start to October, now it's back to the crucial need to pick up some points again, much like the position we were in against Walsall at the start of the month. Fitness to key personnel for the coming batch of games could prove decisive to our season.

Lack of expected heavy rain is perhaps the biggest plus on the day, though lack of fresh injuries would definitely exceed that drop of joy. Chalk this one off as something that had to be got out the way, now let's get back to the momentum started at Walsall.


Monday, 18 October 2010

L1: Yeovil 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2

On the face of it a 0-2 home defeat doesn't sound anything much to write home about, but appearances can be deceptive. The Glovers matched and indeed bettered their illustrious visitors for most of Saturday's game in all areas except where it really matters - the penalty box. And yet again, a referee's decision - or should I say indecision - hurt us badly.

Wednesday began the game like a house on fire and could have gone ahead through Clinton Morrison and Gary Teale efforts, though neither player managed to get their shots on target. Gradually the Glovers began to get into the game and began to dominate possession, passing the ball nicely albeit without a great deal of attacking threat. The closest they came to a goal saw a Dean Bowditch pass finding Sam Williams in the box. The big striker turned his defender well but saw his shot smothered by Wednesday keeper Nicky Weaver. Gavin Williams shot over the bar and a Bowditch free-kick was deflected away for a corner. The Glovers cause wasn't helped when Adam Virgo was subbed just before the break with a groin strain. 0-0 at half-time, but Yeovil were on top.

The second half began in the same vein with the Glovers dominating possession. Wednesday defender Darren Purse fouled Super Gav and then stamped on the Welshman as both players tangled on the floor. Referee Graham Scott and his assistant evidently completely missed the stamp as Purse wasn't even booked for the assault, never mind given the red card he patently deserved - a game-changing decision, or lack of one. Owain Tudur-Jones forced Weaver to save again with a shot from outside the box and Bowditch should have at least hit the target a few minutes later when free in front of goal but screwed his effort wide. The game changed with the introduction of Owls substitute Jermaine Johnson. The former Glover loanee's pace immediately began to give the home side's defence some problems and on 72 minutes he put the visitors in front with a fine individual goal, cutting inside from the left and from the edge of the box firing past a helpless Stephen Henderson in the Yeovil goal. The Glovers continued to dominate possession without causing Wednesday too many alarms and the visitors made the game safe on 84 minutes. John Otsomober drove into the box only to be brought down by a mis-timed tackle by Luke Ayling. A clear penalty from where I was sitting, which was duly converted by Tommy Miller.

Otsomober blotted his copybook just before the end with a late tackle on Nathan Smith which saw Mr Scott show him the red card. To their credit the Glovers kept on pressing for a consolation or better but the nearest they came to scoring in the brief time remaining was a Tudur-Jones header which hit the bar. It just wasn't our day.

Yeovil lined up as follows (4-4-2):

13. Stephen Henderson - 6/10: Strange game for Stephen. Didn't have a great deal to do for most of the match and had no chance with either of the goals.

8. Luke Ayling - 7/10: Began at right-back and switched to centre-half just before half-time when Virgo went off. Looked equally accomplished in both positions and although he did give away a penalty it was a tackle he had to make and was unlucky to just slightly mistime it. A good, versatile young player who should have a good career in the game - hopefully mostly with us!

5. Paul Huntington - 8/10: Improving all the time. Stepped up to the plate when Virgo went off and led the backline by example. After something of a slow start to his Glovers career is now showing exactly why Skivo brought him to the club.

19. Adam Virgo - 7/10: A big player for us and we missed him after he went off just before half-time. Not that we missed him so much at the back - Luke Ayling deputised very effectively for him - rather we missed his goal threat up front from set-pieces.

6. Nathan Smith - 7/10: Another good performance from a player who is getting better and better the more he plays. Very solid in defence and exciting going forwards.

24. Gavin Williams - 6/10: For me, one of his least effective performances in his latest spell at the club. Mind, that still meant he posed a considerable threat at times, but faded out of the game rather more than we're used to seeing. Playing with an injury evidently - is it beginning to show?

25. Shaun MacDonald - 8/10: That's better! Getting back to the form he showed for us last season, and we all know how effective he can be at his best.

20. Owain Tudur-Jones - 8/10: Another very good box-to-box performance. Unlucky not to score. Is he starting to win the fans over at last? Not before time if so. We'll miss him when he goes back to Norwich.

11. Andy Welsh - 5/10: A bit of a nothing game to my eyes. Struggled to get involved and subbed on 65 minutes.

9. Sam Williams - 6/10: Typical Sam Williams performance. Tried hard, put himself about, never looked like scoring. Admittedly not helped by the change of formation in the first half which pushed him out wide.

10. Dean Bowditch - 6/10: And again, tried hard, put himself about, never really looked like scoring, especially after he was pushed wide after Freeman came on in the second half.

2. Craig Alcock (36 mins for Adam Virgo) - 5/10: A tough game to make his comeback from injury in but he coped well enough until the arrival of Jermaine Johnson. Struggled thereafter.

7. Andrew Williams (77 mins for Dean Bowditch) - 5/10: You want your subs to make a positive impact, but it just didn't happen for Andy on Saturday. For me, he needs to be starting games.

18. Luke Freeman (65 mins for Andy Welsh) - 5/10: Skivo was obvously hoping Luke would have the same impact on the game as he did as a sub at Rochdale, but again, it didn't happen. Struggled to get involved.

A good overall performance from the Glovers then, only let down by the lack of a goal or two. The difference between the teams in the end came down to the impact made by one player, Jermaine Johnson. On the day, we had no-one to match him. It's a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less true: We will play worse than this in the future and win comfortably.

Good to see the away terrace full again on Saturday and credit to the Wednesday fans who observed the minute's applause for Colin Lippiatt, Malcolm Allison and Derek Warren impeccably. It seems that we're losing stalwarts from the past at an ever-increasing rate these days, but I was particularly saddened by the news of Colin Lippiatt's passing. A very under-rated manager in his own right but more importantly a good man. He always had time for supporters and will be badly missed by all who knew him. If you've not seen it yet, then Ciderspace's tribute is a must-read.

Talking of Wednesday fans it's worth checking out this blog on the Owls Alive website. It's an account of a Wednesday fan's first trip to Huish Park and makes interesting reading. It's worth quoting a paragaph from the end of the piece:

"A fantastic end to a wonderful day, at an excellent club. To my mind everything about Yeovil Town football club screams class. It is without doubt an absolute credit to the football league and the game. The people who follow the club are without doubt the friendliest people I have ever met and it was great to be amongst them."

Ain't that nice?

On a personal note a quick word for my brother, Paul, otherwise known on the green room 2 as Amazed. The daft sod tripped up walking out of his front door on the way to the football on Saturday and snapped the tendon in his knee and will be hors de combat for a while consequently. Get well soon, you clumsy bugger!

Just read: Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson: I was really looking forward to this novel having very much enjoyed Robinson's works in the past (The Mars Trilogy in particular), but in the event I struggled to finish it. Half historical novel, half hard science fiction, it's a fictional account of the life and work of Galileo and his troubles with the Inquisition after he had the temerity to suggest that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than vice-versa. That's half of it anyway, the other half is set on the moons of Jupiter 3000 years into the future with the Great Scientist time-travelling between both ages. It's clever, very clever and thought-provoking, but I found it hard going, difficult to read and ultimately, somewhat disappointing. Ah well, you can't win them all.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


What a difference a couple of weeks can make. Just over a fortnight ago the Glovers succumbed to Exeter City at home for the second time this season and had fallen to just outside the relegation zone in the table. Gloom and doom amongst fans was rife and even your humble scribe - normally a glass-half-full kinda guy - was moved to write the following: ...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.

Three games later and the picture looks very different. A good 1-1 draw at home to a strong Southampton side followed by those rarest of beasts, two away wins in a row, firstly at Walsall and then last Saturday at Rochdale. Seven points from a possible nine on offer and most importantly, two clean sheets. Four points away from the relegation zone, but only three points away from the play-offs. I guess the only conclusion to draw from it all is that, as Skivo himself said not so long ago, we shouldn't over-react to events. Rudyard Kipling said it better:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

He knew what he was on about did Kipling. I particularly like the lines: If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same. Very apposite for the modern day YTFC fan. I'm tired of worrying about football. I'm fed up with concerns over Holdingsgate. I'm bored with obsessing over every last YTFC related fact. I don't care where the missing fans have gone, nor do I want to think about the crap beer tent. All I wanna do is have some fun, as Sheryl Crow once said. I just want to go and watch my team play football, to be entertained for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. If we win, we win, if we lose, we lose. It doesn't really matter either way. Me and 3,000-odd others will turn up, whether we're playing the likes of Sheffield Wednesday or Hayes and Yeading. It's football at Huish Park, it's what we do.

Talking of Sheffield Wednesday, they are next up for Skivo's men. The Owls are the latest fallen giants to fill the away end at Huish Park, the latest ex-Premiership club to be informed that they are 'not famous anymore'. They are a massive three points ahead of the Glovers in the table so naturally the bookies make Wednesday 11/8 favourites to win the game on Saturday. The draw is priced at 23/10 and a home win at a somewhat insulting 19/10. My miffed fiver is going on the home win. Running total: -£5.25p.

In case you haven't noticed it's been International Week this week: No Premiership nor Championship football on tv, just international football, qualifiers for next year's European Championship. I noticed because Sunday's without football on the box are plain wrong. I pay a not inconsiderable sum to Sky TV to be able to watch football on a Sunday, so why did they not show a League One or League Two game? The lack of football meant I had no excuse not to go to a flea market/craft fair at the Shepton Mallet Showground, not an experience I want to repeat in a hurry. Sort it out Sky!

It's not as if international football - tournaments apart - is much good or very interesting. I reckon most Champions League teams, hell, most Premiership teams would beat most international sides with something to spare. I'm bloody sure Cardiff City, for example, would see off Wales very comfortably; while Everton would more than likely eviscerate England and Liverpool lamp Latvia. Er, well, maybe not that last example. Congratulations are due to Shaun MacDonald for his first Welsh cap proper, but as a Welshman I can honestly say I have little or no interest in international football at the moment, the damage done to Wales and Welsh football by the mis-management of John Toshack has knocked the stuffing out of a whole generation of Welsh fans and players and it's going to take a long time to get the enthusiasm back. Mind, the Welsh FA could help by appointing the right manager this time - hint, that is NOT Ian Rush. My choice would be for a Ryan Giggs/Brian Flynn partnership but I'd be equally pleased if Chris Coleman got the job. Hell, I'd even give Robbie Savage a go, if he fancied it.

Just read: The Evolutionary Void by Peter F Hamilton: The final part of the Void Trilogy, here at last. Was it worth the wait? Just about. It is, in my opinion, the weakest of the trilogy with the ending, as usual with Hamilton's books, somewhat forced and contrived. Having said that I still thoroughly enjoyed the journey to get to the ending and I'd still recommend this novel highly - but you'd have to read The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void first, The Evolutionary Void won't make much sense otherwise. It's epic space-opera on a galactic scale but Hamilton never gets carried away with the high-tech settings and neglects his characters. It's just a small shame that the final chapter doesn't quite live up to all of the rest.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Ya win some, ya lose some.

Another quickie post tonight, ahead of tomorrow's visit to Rochdale. It's been win some and lose some in YTFC-land this week. The Glovers Board has gained 2 new Directors in the form of Andy Rossiter and David Lee, who have responsibility for the Centre of Excellence and Community Trust respectively; against that we've lost a couple of fans, if this thread on the Green Room II is anything to go by.

As I write this I've just seen a brief feature about the club on the BBC's Points West programme, asking if the club can survive in League One and even push on into the Championship in the future. Kudos to well-known supporter Mark Kelly for telling it how it is by criticising the facilities at Huish Park and explaining the need for a social club for supporters. But perhaps the most interesting moment came in a rare interview with Director Stephen Allinson, who threw his weight very much behind the controversial formation of the new Holding Company, saying: "We want to invest in this whole infrastructure [Huish Park]. Many major operators/retailers these days will not invest in a football club, but will invest in the grounds that support that football club. And what that will do is enhance us, because the more money that comes in off the field, the more money can be ploughed in on it. We're fans on the Board as well, that's the important thing."

Allinson's words are significant, as far as I'm aware he's the first Board member other than Chairman John Fry and Chief Executive Martyn Starnes to publically support the formation of the Holding Company. His words carry weight because he is regarded by many as a genuinely independent voice in the Boardroom as well as enjoying a reputation throughout the game for financial expertise. If Stephen Allinson is comfortable with the formation of Yeovil Town Holdings Ltd and believes it will bring some much-needed investment into the club then, just maybe, there's less to worry about than some of us have previously thought.

As mentioned before the Glovers travel to Spotland tomorrow to face Rochdale, who've got off to a real flyer in their first season in League One for many years. The bookies make the home side evens favourites, the draw is priced at 23/10 and a Glovers win at 14/5. My fiver is once again going on the draw. Running total: +25p.

Just read: Heartstone by CJ Sansom: I've been looking forward to this, the 5th in the Matthew Shardlake series of novels, for a couple of years now and it doesn't disappoint. For the uninitiated, Shardlake is a hunchback London lawyer alive during the reign of Henry VIII, and the novels focus on his life and work. He defends the underdog and tries, generally without success, to avoid getting embroiled in the politics of Henry's Court. The novels work on many levels; as crime thrillers, as history lessons, as chronicles of how ordinary people lived and survived in Tudor times. All five of the novels in the series are standalone works and Heartstone is as accomplished, thrilling and satisfying as any of the rest. Roll on the sixth in the series, whenever it emerges.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

L1: Walsall 0 Yeovil Town 1

Match report by Cruncher

A crucial result that made the difference between ourselves or Walsall being the current bottom club.

This hugely important 1-0 win was the deserved outcome for a display that was impressive in all departments, save for the taking of chances and a few wasted place kicks. The Yeovil cause was certainly helped by a toothless and unimaginative Saddlers, who were further hindered by fielding an understrength front line. Yeovil though were positive and fluent from the start, and on balance of play their win was deserved by some distance. It could have been one of those matches where superiority on the day didn't bear fruit, but thankfully Adam Virgo scotched that worry with a majestic second-half header: perfect in timing, placement and power.

Terry Skiverton dropped one of his wingers in Andy Williams to accommodate all of the Welsh midfield contingent as well as Sam Williams, which gave good team balance on the day. The front two of big Sam and Dean Bowditch covered miles giving the opposition plenty to concentrate on defensively throughout, providing for Yeovil options both short and long. In parts some pacey combined play was scintillating with players wisely using freedom to get forward. The other components under the heading of 'commitment to the cause' such as covering and tracking back, closing down, and sheer doggedness with a clear will to win were also very apparent and indeed very good.

As with our midfield, on this occasion I am going to be guided by Welsh influence and rate the players. Right, here we go:

13. Stephen Henderson - 8/10: Strong display that stopped Walsall nicking an undeserved point or more. In tune with the back four, good distribution with safe tidying up and handling. Not over-busy but saved well including a few notable good 'uns.

8. Luke Ayling - 8/10: We have another proper right-back, no doubt about that on this showing. Defensively very good, and joined the attack very effectively, especially first-half with a couple flair moments.

5. Paul Huntington - 8/10: Always effective and at times classy, this boy has great potential. Made it very awkward for opposition attackers, commanding in the air and can play the ball from the back but knows when and how to hoof. Proper centre-half, well done lad.

19. Adam Virgo - 8*/10: Constantly doing the right thing on and off the ball, even switching the play with accurate cross-field passes - what a signing. Too tight to give him a nine, so will give him the star for the goal, classy header.

6. Nathan Smith - 8/10: Outstanding first-half, would have been my MOM if not for Virgo's goal. A tackle or two was from a higher league, won important headers, all-round effective and back to being top of his game. Passed well under pressure and purposefully surged forward.

24. Gavin Williams - 7/10: Some good midfield work both centrally and out wider, plenty of effort, not back to his best but will get there, not got his fitness again yet or his place-kick consistency either, but did pick Virgo out beautifully for the goal.

25. Shaun MacDonald - 8/10: The decisive all-round midfield display of the day, hard-working with craft, pity he didn't score when through on goal - saved painfully by Jon Brain's nose, which brought sustained merry chanting of 'Shaun MacDonald broke your nose, ee-i-ee-i-o'.

20. Owain Tudur Jones - 7/10: Goodish with occasional brighter spots, put through MacDonald with a lovely ball. Seems a bit static sometimes such as when options are needed at throw-ins, but overall did ok in what was today a case of thank Yr Arglwydd Dduw for the Welsh midfielders. Until JPK nabs his spot to further improve balance and shielding of the back four, he's holding the fort well enough with a sporadic bit of spark here and there.

11. Andy Welsh - 7/10: Positive and probing, had a firm header that was blocked and a notable bit of important defensive covering in the right-back area (which ISTR he also had an admirable moment of so-doing at Huddersfield). Pity about the wayward shot and a rogue cross or two, some mixed views are voiced about him but my view is the doubters are a bit harsh.

10. Dean Bowditch - 7/10: Good contribution, worked hard all game, threatened and linked up well. Also put in a crucial defensive foot towards the end.

9. Sam Williams - 8/10: Strong display of centre-forward play that helped the cause in all areas, ran and chased all game to make options and close down, received and laid off very well under pressure, instrumental in stretching their backline and in many fast flowing moves and unlucky with a thumping header that went just over. Should perhaps have scored when through and maybe still should have had a penalty for that effort. On this showing, looked back to full strength and fitness and I believe goals will come.

7. Andy Williams - 7/10 (68 mins for Andy Welsh): As with Welsh, cropped up on both wings and made a positive contribution going forward and tracking back. Looked to have ripped through like a tin-opener from a tight angle but just lost it as about to pull the trigger.

2. Craig Alcock - 7/10 (87 minutes for Gavin Williams): Not on long enough to get a mark but gets one anyway because I'm in happy mood after waiting since Stockport for an away win and he did have a couple or so good moments in that short time.

Today's opponents were not strong, also undoubtedly hindered by injuries to their preferred frontmen. The crowd figure of 3,127 comes as a surprise because it appeared on the eye to be less than the 3,000-mark actually seated in the ground. Walsall fans tend to be a talkative cheery bunch, but it is clear that they are facing a difficult time ahead. A quieter home crowd would be harder to find that to the point that I did wonder if a vow of silence had been arranged as some sort of protest. They have some things right, as Brizzol Glover (whom it was a pleasure for me to meet yesterday) noted on The Green Room 2: shame we couldn't have brought home their cracking supporters club. With their struggle for gates and now status both going so badly, it highlights the need for us to at least maintain what we've got.

Another pleasure was meeting John Sullivan on the train. If his is typical of the character and attitude of the young players at the club, then we are recruiting the right stuff and also it is clear that they value what the club offers to them. And a mention too for the fantastic continuous singing led by the younger supporters, well done and keep it going lads.

Next week's Rochdale test will be much sterner and will give a clearer guide of how well the improvement on the pitch is going. League One is proving to be as competitive as ever. Just a fortnight ago after letting in four goals at The Galpharm many were predicting Huddersfield to storm this League, yet a Yeovil win next week combined with a loss for The Terriers would see both teams on the same points. As the manager says, not to get too down in defeat or too up when we win, especially as this was a narrow win against weak opposition. If we push on from this result we will be alright, but we must look to take more of our chances.


Friday, 1 October 2010

The case for the defence

A quickie blog this evening, ahead of tomorrow's game. There was an interesting post on the green room II this week. I'd better re-phrase that as it makes it sound like an interesting post is a rarity on that forum, which of course isn't the case. One of many interesting posts that caught my eye (that's better!) came from will_ran, who posted the following stats:

05-06 w3 d3 l4 pts12 (-4)
06-07 w4 d4 l2 pts16 (+3)
07-08 w4 d2 l4 pts14 (-2)
08-09 w1 d4 l5 pts7 (-11)
09-10 w2 d4 l4 pts10 (-1)
10-11 w2 d2 l5 pts8 (-8) (from first nine games)

In case it's not obvious that's YTFC's record for the first 10 games of the season from 2005-06 up 'til now. It's interesting because it shows that a win tomorrow at Walsall will actually show an improvement in our early season form for the last 2 season's in a row, albeit a very marginal improvement. Even a loss tomorrow would leave us with more points after 10 games than in the 08-09 season, so just maybe some of the doom and gloom that's been around over the last few weeks (including in this blog, before anyone says anything!) has been overdone. Of course the bare stats don't prove anything on their own, don't take into account who our opponents were each season and don't say anything much about where we're going to end up at the end of this season; nevertheless they do show that we've been in worse situations at this stage of the season in the past and come through it successfully - if continued League 1 survival is our definition of success. Which in my view is as good a definition for this club as any under our current ownership.

Well, I thought it was interesting! As mentioned above the Glovers travel to Walsall tomorrow, the Saddlers being one of only three clubs below us in the L1 table currently. The bookies make the home side 13/10 favourites for the win, the draw is priced at 23/10 and a Glovers win at 21/10. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: +£5.25p. Win, lose or draw, I will try not to over-react on Sunday!