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Wednesday 15 December 2010

The darkest hour is just before dawn...

...So the saying goes. The problem for manager Terry Skiverton, and for the Board of Yeovil Town is that dawn may yet be some time off. Think things can't get worse after last night's desperately disappointing 4-2 loss at Hartlepool? Believe me, they can. Anyone who was at Huish Park to see the Glovers lose 1-3 to Merthyr Tydfil back in 1994 knows exactly how bad it can get.

Thus far in Skivo's managerial career the Huish Park crowd has, by and large, been pretty supportive of him and the things he's been trying to do. Judging by the postings on the green room II over the last week or so that support is eroding fast. I spoke about a tipping point being reached after the 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth three weeks ago and said then that I thought Skivo deserved the chance to at least stay in charge until January. I've changed my mind now. On Saturday we have a home game against Carlisle United. If ever a game has been a must-win game then this one is surely it. Anything less than three points will be unacceptable.

I'm finding this a hard blog to write. It's not nice to be contemplating the demise of Mr Yeovil, the man who has done so much on the pitch to get us where we are today. But the hard truth is that Skivo as a manager has been found out this season. His team - and it is his team, he's the one who has signed the players and who asked us at the start of the season to judge him on how they performed - has been found wanting in the basics of both attack and defence. It makes me angry and upset to see a good man floundering, but I'm not so much angry with Skivo. I'm angry with the men who have put him in this unenviable position, I'm angry with the Board.

It's the Board who should be looking at themselves today. Yes, by and large they've kept the club solvent, the small matter of a million pound loss in the last financial year nothwithstanding; but it's they who have allowed the club to stagnate over the last few years, who have failed to build on the legacy left by Gary Johnson and Jon Goddard-Watts. It's the Board who have allowed mediocre non-entities to keep positions of influence in the club and who do nothing but alienate fans and take revenue streams and potential revenue streams away from the club. It's the Board who hounded out the previous manager Russell Slade on wholly spurious grounds and then cynically appointed the one man guaranteed to unite the fanbase behind them, even though we all knew Skivo was the cheap option to end all cheap options and that it would probably all end in tears. And now, most cynical of all, it's the Board who have split the land assets of the Huish Park site away from the football operation and have the temerity and chutzpah to tell us that there's no other way to attract new investment into the club. New investment? Don't make me laugh. I could tell you stories, doubtless many of you reading this could tell me stories too about people, fans, potential investors with money, ready and willing to invest in the club in the past but who have always been turned away. And why were they turned away? Because they wanted a say in how their money was spent and our glorious leaders weren't prepared to dilute their power and their shareholdings in the club. Self-interest rules.

Skivo's time is probably up. But this current Board's time should also be up. There's a lot of rumours flying around the town at the moment. I myself have heard from several different sources that offers have been made or are in the process of being made to buy the club from it's current owners. I only hope the rumours are true. John Fry and Norman Hayward have shown themselves to be unwilling and unable to either attract investment to the club or to invest themselves. On top of that they have allowed a culture of failure to thrive at Huish Park. If they have any true feeling for the club then they should dissolve the holding company they have created, give the football club back the land assets they have taken from it, and last but not least, sell up. Go, and go now. Leave with your legacy more-or-less intact. It's time for real change.

Monday 13 December 2010

L1: Colchester 0 Yeovil 0

All Graft and no Craft - by Cruncher

A train journey into London followed by another out of it is often more chore than pleasure, but my first trip to Colchester's new(ish) stadium was straightforward and pleasant enough, despite the hordes on their annual pilgrimage to Selfridges and Hamleys and the like.

I met two away-shirted Yeovil lads to whom I was now going to be useful with directions to the shuttle bus bay, except they mysteriously weren't safely zipped-in-pocket like I would have bet a tenner that they were. Anyhow, no problem, we'd just ask the blue-and-white striped guy in front. Except he didn't have a clue and was hoping we could tell him, as he told us with American accent. Amazingly, he had in fact crossed the water to watch his chosen team for the first-ever time. The young Glovers had cracked it on their mobile internet just as the Big Yellow Warehouse blocked the view and we realised we had stumbled our way to the bus.

The friendliness on the bus signalled how it was to be at the ground, right through to the ticket office staff and stewards, and the few Colchester fans I had a brief word with. When I asked the American guy to account for his strange hobby (he could have chosen one of the Big Four or anyone to follow) he explained that it was the result of some serious drinking with Brits when stationed in Germany, and as far as he was concerned a drunken pledge is as good as any - he was stuck with his choice and he wasn't budging. We all knew what that was like, but extra kudos to him for walking madly with eyes open into what chooses us.

Frost and snow had at last made way for football. The modern stadium - with one end closed and empty seats aplenty with a good distance between the pitch and the stands - was a good contrast with the old Layer Road ground holding supporters packed in like sardines close to the action. Conditions were in fact as perfect as you could expect for a mid-winter football match, a dry clear day with the surface in very good nick. The scene was set to cure our mid-winter blues, my hope was that the enforced break had enabled the squad and management to talk through their woes and come up with some answers. The specific answers I was looking for were to benefit the good play we were capable of by putting away our chances and cutting out the lapses in defence.

Terry Skiverton though opted for a change of plan to a blunt but resolute 4-5-1, with both Sam Williams and Adam Philip confined to the bench to provide for a three-man central wall (Shaun MacDonald, Jean-Paul Kalala and Luke Ayling) flanked by Andrew Williams and Ivan Sproule, with the shadow-chasing job unsurprisingly given to Dean Bowditch. Yeovil's season to-date had seen either dismal failure after a woeful performance, or glorious failure despite good open play. This display hardly had a whiff of invention, one-touch flowing moves or sustained attacking intent. What it did have, and in bucketfuls, was a Yeovil determined not to be brittle against their loftier opponents as they set their stall out to battle their way to a result rather than bombard and create.

The first half was as even and as uneventful as they come, with the slight difference that the Colchester centre-backs were having a picnic clearing under no pressure whatsoever. Shaun MacDonald provided an odd moment or two of spark alongside his good tackling and covering play, with Nathan Smith also doing well including having our only serious effort on goal with a long range shot that was narrowly off-target. Paul Huntington too had done well, but unfortunately injured his ribs when making an urgent clearance. Young Tom Parkes came on for his debut and looked the part from the word go, quickly tackling Kayode Odejayi on a rare threatening surge forward and then out-jumping him for the ball. An amazing physical presence for his age with an assured air; just on this showing he seems to have a good future ahead.

Overall though, it was no spectacle. Colchester also looked blunt going forward, but in Odejayi they were holding the ball up at times whereas the Yeovil formation didn't allow for their normal pass and move - it was either head-tennis or hoof and chase, and then repeat it all again. But hearts and minds were strong, and they were sternly matching the huffing and puffing of the higher-placed home team who were certainly not showing any serious potential to rip though the Yeovil defensive layers.

After consecutive losses we ought to have felt happy with the prospect of grinding our way to a result, but with the continued ineffectiveness of the Colchester attack in the second half it did seem that perhaps we should have reverted to the usual 4-4-2. Especially, I thought, when a knock forced Bowditch to be subbed by Adam Philip - too much too ask for the youngster to be the sole man up front, though to his credit he gave it a good go. A Colchester fan had told me that they had been getting results but not performing well - this match seemed to prove that.

I had just thought that we had not made a lapse at the back when, on cue, Adam Virgo duly obliged by gifting Odejayi space in the box. Happily though, it wasn't punished as John Sullivan was forced into his one serious save of the match and what a sensational save it was, stretching to tip the close-range effort on to his bar. I have for a while now supposed that Virgo might be accountable for a fair few of these lapses, and although he does good work in between I think it might be a key point.

Sam Williams at last entered the fray. With two up front, we now had options and at last got forward a bit more. Nathan Smith cropped up on the right wing and forced a good save out of Ben Williams, Andy Williams had a strong shot closed down just in time. And in the fourth minute of injury time Sam Williams set Adam Philip on a positive run in on goal only for keeper Williams to block his effort as the away support anticipated a joyful end to the game. The ball rebounded to Sam Williams who had to stretch for his first touch to gather the ball, and the second whistled just agonisingly wide of the left post as he got his shot in before being closed down, to add to the long list of 'if only' moments for this season.

A useful point but a deep feeling of there were three for the taking against an unadventurous Colchester side, who ironically on that performance had elevated themselves into the top-six. The Yeovil plan on the day had kept quiet a number of players who had caused us problems in the past, but I couldn't help but feel that maybe we had sold ourselves short by rejecting our normal flowing strategy for this game. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing, and this was debated amongst a million other things by a small crew of us on the train.

The conclusion has to be that it is now up to home form to at last become decent to make this weekend's result an effective one in our quest to survive. We have to hope that the injuries picked up by Bowditch, Huntington and Virgo are not serious. As for formations, I hope that the 4-5-1 was a short-term fix only. Despite the very admirable steel and application shown in this defensive performance, it was a weak Colchester effort that allowed us to get away with it. Others won't be so helpful, and in any case we need wins (and now even more so that we are bottom after fellow strugglers all won) and for that we need a front-line, options when in possession and an attacking intent - at home at least.


Sunday 5 December 2010

Lions led by donkeys

I think everyone's probably had enough of the cold weather by now. Certainly everyone at Yeovil Town will have had enough of it. No game for a fortnight and even though we've enjoyed a mini-thaw this weekend (enough of a thaw to make one wonder if the Peterborough game may not have been postponed in a little too much haste earlier in the week), this Tuesday night's re-scheduled 2nd round FA Cup tie at Hartlepool is by no means guaranteed to go ahead regardless of what today's pitch inspection might bring, as a return to freezing temperatures is forecast from tomorrow onwards. [Edit - as I write, the news has just come through that the match is indeed off, re-scheduled for 14th December]

On the other hand, maybe an enforced break was just what we all needed. Time to recharge the batteries, to reflect on the season so far and to put right what's gone wrong. Time for the coaching staff and the players to step back away from the treadmill of game after game after game and to focus on the things they do well and to work on those things that haven't gone quite as well. Time for a fresh start, in other words. Time too, to hit the ground running when football does eventually resume. Lest we forget we are 23rd in the table and 6 points away from safety coming up to the Christmas period. It's going to take a huge effort to make that gap up.

Away from the football and I'm sad to report that once again the club has proved that it has difficulty in organising a piss-up in a brewery. A group of ten of us booked a table at the club last night - a 3 course dinner and Abba's Angels, in honour of my sister-in-law's birthday. Unfortunately when we got to the club we found that the lift to the top floor was out of action which meant that I, as a wheelchair user, was unable to access the Alec Stock Lounge. It was explained to us that the lift had broken down the previous day, an engineer had attempted a repair that morning but didn't have the part required. We asked why the club hadn't contacted us after the engineer's visit to tell us not to come because they knew that a wheelchair user would require access to the Lounge via the lift and they also knew that the lift was out of order, but no-one could answer that question.

Well, these things happen. In the event a charming young lady - the head waitress I think, though unfortunately I didn't get her name - dealt with myself and my wife with great courtesy, gave us a refund and went further than that by giving us a bottle of wine and plated up our dinner for us to take home. Kudos to her and her staff, who all seemed genuinely embarrassed and upset. In the meantime and after much discussion we persuaded the rest of our party to carry on and enjoy the evening, accordingly they went upstairs to claim their table, whilst we made our way back home with our wine and our dinner.

Except that when the rest of our party got upstairs they found that their table wasn't actually there. Despite two previous vists to the club; once to put the dinner order in and once to pay for the evening, as well as a phone call from the club to my sister-in-law to confirm the booking; on the night there was no record of their order. My brother, by now angry as well as Amazed, confronted the catering manager, Mr Robinson, and demanded an explanation as to why no-one had contacted us to tell us the lift had broken down, and how had they managed to lose all trace of our party's food order not to mention the table booking? Mr Robinson claimed not to have a contact phone number to ring, forgetting, perhaps, that he himself had phoned my sister-in-law earlier in the week to confirm our booking and to confirm that he was aware that a wheelchair user was included in the party and that a space would be left on our table to accommodate. He couldn't explain how the dinner order and table booking had gone missing.

To cut a long story short the evening was by now irredeemably spoilt. A refund was demanded and given and everyone left. We never did see Abba's Angels and the club missed out on £300-worth of ticket money plus another £100 (at least!) that would have gone behind the bar. More to the point, the attitude and evasions of the catering manager has ensured that none of us will return for a function at the club, at least while that particular gentleman is still in his post.

In the great scheme of things no harm was done. No-one died or was injured and all we lost was an hour of our time. But the whole episode is symptomatic of the decline of our club. The poor bloody staff doing their best to provide a service led by an incompetent management who couldn't care less. Only at Yeovil Town FC could such a culture thrive. Change at the top to get rid of the dead wood is so badly needed that it's not even funny, not anymore. Is there no-one out there who can save us?

Friday 26 November 2010

Will the real Mr Yeovil stand up

... or put his feet up after Christmas? - by Cruncher

This is not a simple instance of assessing managerial ability - it's what actual practicalities we are faced with afterwards: very likely to be a rookier rookie with even less budget. Circumstances control us to the extent we need to support a manager who is committed to the cause in restrictive conditions, no matter how much we do or do not believe in his abilities to do the job. Much like early-2009 for the good of the club when we and the Board needed to continue supporting Russell Slade. Only, the Board didn't.

It's not a question of whether Terry Skiverton is lacking here or naive there, or caught in a trap with too many loan players, or getting the balance wrong in his squad, or leaky defensive tactics. It's like everything at the club - a decision mastered by the situation we have arrived at after a succession of misguided years.

If December results turn out as bad as November's than Skivo would have to go and we would likely be forced into a punt on Mr. Cheaper-than-chips fresh out of kindergarten, but our best chance for at least a bit longer appears to be sticking with a determined man with the hope that potential at long last materialises into points.

How we could afford to pay up his contract and source (let alone afford) a suitable replacement, is dilemma enough. And even more difficult if it involved swapping the entire management team. It all points to the Board appointing another option that strongly suits their purpose, but with even more restrictive conditions for that replacement to be under, and with even less appeal and money to attract/afford the required quality. I believe that this criteria narrows it down to such a degree that we would be hard-pushed to match or improve on what we've got - but I concede that there might be a point when we must do something, if only as a hopeful shot in the dark. For me, that assessment point would be at the turn of the year.

Bluntly, it strongly appears a desperate punt on a cheap novice will be our only route if we sack the manager - on balance I'd run with what we've got until the Christmas fixtures are done and dusted. Seven points from five December games would be my minimum, which would take us to exactly the halfway point in the season on twenty-two points and likely at best to be the top of the relegation slots. That in my book would earn him another month with a target of a further nine points from the six January League games. If he gets to that minimum, then he'd be in position to be retained for the duration with the job to chase a target of a point and half per game for the rest of the season. Which is about the state that Slade was in at that point but not retained.

The situation we are in is dictated by the situation we are in. Norman Hayward could lend to the club enabling a reasonable chance of a good replacement - but does that sound overall a good move? - which also would most probably impact from the word go on what that good replacement would have in his squad budget. Unless Dean Bowditch (say) is sold in January to fund not a replacement striker but a replacement manager - could you really endorse that gamble?

Skivo has been a nearly man in management for a long while now with performances that hint at a potential that doesn't materialise. This is a restrictive situation that only has a faint flickering candle at the end of the tunnel. He has in the past been dubbed 'Mr. Yeovil', now he has to earn that moniker like a man striving for his Finest Hour. He has the steel, there is no doubt, and for just a bit longer we must believe that he can still come up with the knowhow and to make it effective.

Support him this month, and judge him by the Sheffield Wednesday or perhaps Plymouth game. Hope like hell he turns the corner, but if he skids into the sidewall then we will be forced into that desperate cheap punt. If we can find a way that won't be at the detriment to the club of affording a new manager of the right ilk, then Skivo's time could well be up now at this point - but if we were in that healthy a position then the manager might not be in this plight. How much is down to his failings and how much is down to constraints, is down to subjective opinion.

But don't rush towards a desperate punt just yet. Because that last shot in the dark is such a flimsy gamble, we have to back Skivo until it becomes even more urgent not to do so. Perhaps there is an alternative, but it doesn't appear there is, not without cost that the club can't bear. For December: no doubting, just absolute support and then either reap the reward or worry like hell.

The real debate needs to step away from centring on the manager. There are many astute observers who cannot shake off loyalties to do this - I urge them to think long and hard. As some have noted, Terry Skiverton is a manager who we cannot fully judge. Attention should concentrate on why that is so.


Thursday 25 November 2010

Tipping point reached?

There comes a time in the affairs of struggling football clubs that fans can, in the fullness of time, look back at and say, "There. That was the point when I knew things had to change, and change quickly." It's the tipping point, the time when fans stop being patient and giving the benefit of the doubt; the time the boos start and the abuse rains down from the stands to the pitch and the dugout, and, if there's any justice, to the posh seats in the Main Stand where the Board sits.

Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth may just have been the tipping point in Terry Skiverton's reign as manager of Yeovil Town FC. It's not so much the loss that people have found hard to take, after all Bournemouth are way up there in the league table and have only dropped 4 points at home all season - no-one with any sense seriously expected the Glovers to get much if anything from the game. No, it's the manner of the loss that's the problem. The same old problems on view, the powder-puff attack, the meaningless long-balls, and most damning of all, the cluelessness in defence. Add to that the dissent shown when Adam Virgo was substituted and Sam Williams angry reaction to the Glovers supporters jeering of him when he was hauled off; it all adds up to the feeling that events are conspiring to undermine the manager and his staff. Just at the time he needs a bit of luck to go his way, he's getting none.

Having said, he's not helping himself. In my last blog I asked why, when it's patently obvious that the defence is the weak link in the team, did Skivo bring in another striker on loan (Adam Phillip)? To compound that why did he then add another attacking player, winger Ivan Sproule, on a month's loan from Bristol City? Especially when, according to City boss Keith Millen, Sproule's objective was to get match-fit in order to challenge for a place in City's first team in the new year. If he's not match-fit, why the hell is he playing for us? Now, at last, the gaffer's talking about bringing a defender in (and as I write it's been announced that 18-year-old Leicester defender Tom Parkes has signed on a month's loan), but he's beginning to resemble the little boy sticking his finger into holes in the dyke while the water is lapping up to his chin and rising steadily.

The last 7 league games tell their own story: Won 0, drawn 1, lost 6, goals for 9, goals against 17. We are now 23rd in the league, 6 points away from safety and with the worst goal difference in the division. We now require play-off attaining form to guarantee League One football next season. The bookies make us 10/11 on to be relegated at the end of the season, and it's not often at this stage of the season that the bookies are wrong. We have a huge mountain to climb.

And what is the Board doing, while all around them Rome burns? Fiddling, obviously! Not content with the ludicrous decision to increase ticket prices by £1 all round in January, chairman John Fry has today decided to insult supporters intelligence further by announcing an announcement that there may be an announcement concerning improved facilities at the club in a few weeks time; that is, there may be an announcement in a few weeks time, not miraculously improved facilities, obviously. It seems the Board have been talking to the South Somerset District Council amongst others, which of course brings the long-delayed Sportzone project to mind, though maybe I'm guilty of making 2+2 equal 5 there. Talks are evidently on-going with interested parties, including the Council, with Fry saying: "At this stage I am optimistic of a positive outcome which it is anticipated will provide economic benefits to the town and the club." And, of course those economic benefits will also go to the main shareholders in Yeovil Town Holdings Ltd, the company that now owns the land surrounding Huish Park on which any development will take place. And the main 2 shareholders? Club chairman John Fry and club owner Norman Hayward. Let's watch this space, though it's got to be said we've had this kind of talk from Fry many times in the past and nothing has ever come of it.

Back to Skivo and I suppose it's time I got off the fence. Should he stay or should he go? I'm reluctantly coming round to the view that time is running out for him to turn things around. I am naturally reluctant to call for a manager's head even at the worst of times as I strongly believe that continuity is the best policy nine times out of ten; I'm also reluctant to see change for changes sake simply because all too often you're better off with the devil you know. However there does come a time when one cannot ignore the signs of failure all around and indeed it becomes unfair to everyone - not least the man himself - to keep an obviously out-of-his-depth incumbent in a job. Not that I think we're quite at that stage yet, but the signs aren't good. For what it's worth I would give Skivo the next month to find a winning formula. By January he'll have been in the job a month shy of 2 years. That's long enough to make his mark and show he's got what it takes to turn things around. The ball's in his court.

In the meantime we all get a break from football league action this weekend with a trip to Hartlepool in the 2nd round of the FA Cup, weather permitting. The bookies make the home side evens favourites, the draw is priced at 12/5 and a Glovers win at 27/10. My fiver, more in hope than expectation and proving once and for all the old adage about a fool and his money, is going on the draw. The running total tells you all you need to know about what kind of season we've had up 'til now: -£30.25p. Perhaps the best outcome of all this weekend would be for the game to be postponed. At least that way we would definitely be in the hat for the 3rd round draw!

Sunday 21 November 2010

L1: Charlton 3 Yeovil Town 2

Heroic Failure Repeated: Match report and comment from Cruncher.

Today at The Valley I witnessed a purposeful Yeovil. Hard-working with good invention, this was in so many ways a cohesive performance to be proud of. I also witnessed another Yeovil loss.

The two returning full backs Craig Alcock and Nathan Smith were impressively straight back into their stride, while my wish came true for Jean Paul Kalala to regain his midfield slot next to Shaun MacDonald. MacDonald has performed very well lately but his benefit to the cause had been restricted by too heavy a workload while Kalala was out injured, or deployed at right back . Today the Welshman was simply magnificent, whether mopping up against the odds in the tightest of situations or pushing forward to start an attack. I would be surprised if there was another comparable midfield display by any other midfielder in League One this weekend. No disrespect to Owain Tudur Jones's stint, he certainly had his moments but Kalala's combative edge is essential.

Yeovil set the mood from the off. Players were linking well and passes were accurately and confidently being played to feet or into space. Sam Williams was prominent in his spearhead role, Dean Bowditch looking very sharp and inventive playing off him. It was Bowditch who cleverly created an opportunity for Gavin Williams who unfortunately couldn't wrap his foot around the ball enough from a sharp effort in the box, as the Charlton defence closed in. Then Gav struck a free-kick with too much deftness and not enough venom, enabling Rob Elliot a cosy catch. Still the Glovers came purposefully forward, Sam Williams setting up Andy Williams only to have his shot blocked, followed by another effort from the same player which many thought was home, but unfortunately hit the side-netting. Shades of London opposition of last week crossed my mind - would we get punished by a quick raid at the other end?

Alas, that is what happened. Charlton attacking on the right chose not to wait while Yeovil disputed a throw-in decision. This gifted the Charlton winger two yards which gained the receiving Johnny Jackson the crucial one yard he needed to hit the ball first-time past the helpless John Sullivan. Yeovil, by far the more penetrative and fluent of the two sides, a goal down after ten minutes. Here we go again.

To their credit, the Yeovil players responded well and were level in five minutes, with Andy Williams getting his third on the trot, a very well-taken goal after well-worked linking with Sam Williams, sending the travelling contingent into rapture. Didn't last long though, with Therry Racon turning to fire neatly home. Again there was the familiar element of self-destruction as Kalala's pass put Alcock under pressure, his only blip (apart from a ballooned shot) in an otherwise strong showing. Charlton were 2-1 up against a Yeovil side who had been superior on the balance of play and chances created, the costly and frustrating theme of recent times.

The home side were at last looking confident, and created opportunities breaking quickly which resulted in shots across the face of the Yeovil goal. Yeovil though were not going to roll over, with Bowditch laying off the ball for Sam Williams but his effort was straight at Elliot. Bowditch himself had a better chance after good work right on the stroke of half time - bearing down on goal he needed to follow suit from Andy William's equalising strike of last week's first half injury time against Dagenham which was notable for both placement and power. Trouble was, Bowditch chose placement, which enabled Elliot to dive to his left and a golden chance at a crucial time was lost.

The referee had not been afraid to give the away side their share of decisions and early in the second half they gained a free kick in an attacking position. Gavin Williams hasn't been so convincing for a while now with his place kicks, this time opting to put it low and fiercely-hard across the Addicks box, a decision which paid off as the ball ping-ponged around until someone somehow struck it cleanly into the goal. Paul Huntington was my guess at the time, It transpired it was the defending foot of Gary Doherty.

We dared to hope that surely we were at last going to get at least a deserving point. With the home side's confidence clearly hit, more hope was to come when Christian Dailly was sent off after clobbering Sam Williams as they challenged a high ball on the right-side. To be honest, from the faraway view I'm not sure, but the referee believed the immediate and confident flapping of his linesman's flag. We would all have taken a draw, but now, despite Racon (I think) forcing a good save out of Sullivan with an angled rasper the game seemed there for the taking. The deep-down feeling that misery would follow - surely that would at last go away, wouldn't it?

Of course, it wouldn't. The referee had been a bit picky on occasion but on fouls had had a decent game and certainly not afraid to upset the locals. The left-side linesman though had annoyed the Yeovil support a few times already, the precedent to bamboozle was set in the first-half when he cocked up on a foul and an offside or two, and ruled an Alcock header not to have kept the ball in play. So when sub Akpo Sodje chased a long punt forward it was all-too expected that the linesman would flag against Huntington as a result of Sodje's flop to the ground.

Sodje had proved a handful since he came on, and we need to see why we had stretched ourselves enough against ten men for him to be chasing a long punt to turn into such significant danger. The unfair but harsh truth for Huntington after an impressive day's work is that he didn't deserve the foul against him or the subsequent sending-off, but also needs to know not to put out his outstretched arm to give a happy flag-flapper any excuse - and the gusto deployed by the lino did indeed suggest a body-language of sheer joy at his opportunity to be judge and jury. From the ref's own body language I was convinced he viewed it the same way as did the green and white masses - that contact was soft if indeed it was at all, but he chose to trust that his linesman had both a better view and reasonable judgement. So from the point the incident occurred, the linesman's spoiling of the day seemed inevitable. A fuming John Sullivan rushed 25 yards to, er, constructively debate the matter with the official. Johnny Jackson scored from the spot, a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat.

The obvious comparison of recent heroic failure is the Milton Keynes match, what with defensive lapses and a dodgy late penalty putting a very impressive fluent Yeovil performance to the sword and by the same score. Certainly it was better than last week, but it's hard to find comfort when we perform well against stronger opposition but suffer from key mistakes, yet perform worse against lower sides making even more mistakes. Overall it is clear that bad luck is playing its part, and we look to Bournemouth in midweek as an early chance to alter the long and cruel losing streak that we are on. With the Cherries having a goal difference of fourteen goals, they mirror our goal deficit of the same amount: a hard task is becoming harder.

Reality is stark in times like this. A stronger bench today might have seen us take immediate advantage of Dailly's dismissal. Teams can and do go down through bad luck, though I feel that our problems are fuelled by limitation in squad strength and size. We were the Light Brigade (light by an experienced striker and a speedy cb) riding into the Valley of, er, defeat.

Much emotion and many words abound at the moment. I am clear on my own thoughts - we are overdue on a clearout in the Boardroom, but I see no value in dismissing the manager. What I would ask Skiverton doubters to ask of themselves is this: are you bringing your emotion about the Board into your logic about the manager?

Quick appraisal of the players:

John Sullivan - 7/10: The irony is that he did not have much to do which points to a 6, but he can't be apportioned blame for the goals and pulled of a very good second half save when needed along with doing his basic chores correctly.

Craig Alcock - 7/10: Good performance after absence.

Paul Huntington - 8/10: Reads it well, solid under pressure with good distribution, had his (and our) day unfairly spoiled by the Happy Flagger.

Adam Virgo - 7/10: Solid enough for the most part.

Nathan Smith - 8/10: Very impressive performance.

Gavin Williams - 7/10: Seen as a weak link first half by one or two but I thought did well overall (with one or two golden moments), his place kicking has been off the boil for a while but he did whizz one across that led to the second goal.

Jean Paul Kalala - 8/10: His passing is better these days, broke play up smartly that led to Andy Williams's goal but his pass across the back let Charlton in for their first. Overall though he was very good.

Shaun MacDonald - 9/10: Magnificent.

Andy Williams - 8/10: Strong attacking, tracked back well, very well-taken goal.

Sam Williams - 7/10: The master of both Dailly and Doherty in the first half, linked and battled well and at times very well, covered acres of ground, not appreciated by the moaners. Needs goals though!

Dean Bowditch - 8/10: Classy in the first half, shame he missed the effort on 45 minutes

Adam Phillip (87 minutes, on for Andy Williams): Only on for a few lively minutes, I agree with those that wanted him on following Dailly's dismissal.


Friday 19 November 2010

I should have stayed home

Many thanks to Cruncher for going above and beyond the call of duty last weekend and making a 400-mile round trip to supply a match report for the Dagenham debacle. I was enjoying the Millennium Stadium experience at the time and watching a cracking game of rugby between Wales and South Africa which the hosts would have won fairly comfortably if it wasn't for a bunch of drugged-up Springboks and a blind and biased New Zealand referee. Still, the stadium was magnificent, the atmosphere incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity (and naturally took full advantage of it) to drink as much beer as I wanted while watching the game (Brains, of course). All around me 54,000 like minded souls were doing the same with South African and Welsh fans all mingling together, all consuming copious amounts of alcohol (I don't think I've ever seen so much beer/lager drunk in such a short space of time by so many) and all without even the vaguest hint of trouble or bother. A real eye-opener for anyone used to having their bottle top removed from their plastic soft drink bottle and to being segregated within an inch of their life at their nearest football ground. The only fly in the afternoon's ointment came with the regular text updates I was receiving from Huish Park. As I said to my long-suffering wife, who was having enough trouble at the time getting to grips with the complexities of the rugby union line-out laws never mind offsides (though she's very good at offside in football); 'how the hell do we expect to stay in League One if we can't beat the likes of Dagenham & bloody Redbridge?' She had no answer and I'm beginning to wonder if anyone associated with Yeovil Town Football Club has either.

Watching the Glovers this season has been like watching a Formula 1 car with slick tyres going round Silverstone in the middle of a thunderstorm. All's well on the straights and a fair old head of steam is sometimes built up, but disaster lurks at every corner, the brakes are useless and the less said about the pit-stops the better. With a third of the season gone, the league table doesn't lie: 23rd, 4 points away from safety and the joint-worst goal difference in the division.

The answer it seems is not, after all, the recruitment of another loan striker. At the start of the week the arrival of Chelsea reserve-team striker Adam Phillip on a month's loan was being regarded by a sceptical fanbase as Skivo's attempt to turn our mis-firing strikeforce into a deadly attack, capable of taking those chances spurned on a regular basis otherwise. Five days later and it now seems that the lad will be lucky to get onto the pitch at all before his month is up, as the manager has said he will wait to blood his new player at least until one of our other 6 loan players has returned to his club, which will be in three games time at the earliest. One feels a bit of sympathy for Phillip in that case, having to sit out at least 3 more games before he gets his chance, but one also feels sympathy for existing players at the club who have waited even longer for their opportunity. The likes of Craig Calver, Billy Gibson and Ed Upson must be wondering what they have to do to get some playing time in a losing team and I would also wonder how Luke Freeman would have reacted when he heard that another striker was being drafted in. The Arsenal loanee may have made 15 appearances on paper this season, but only 5 have been starts in the league and in many of his cameos he's been pushed out onto the left. Despite that he's still managed a couple of goals and one might have thought that he would have been worth trying for a while in his favoured striking position. Similarly Andrew Williams is as capable in front of goal as he is on the wing and again might have been worth a spell up front before the resort to the loan market.

I don't necessarily think that a new loan in was a bad idea mind you, but I do question the wisdom of bringing in another forward. To my mind what's needed above all else is some solidity at the back. We give far too many goals away, more often than not from set-pieces where the marking goes awry. We need, well, you name it, we need it. The recent absence of Craig Alcock has shown up the inherent weakness of the squad - how many other L1 clubs would have no recognised cover at right-back? John Sullivan is a decent keeper and by all accounts a nice fella, but would anyone argue he's a step up on Alex McCarthy or Stephen Henderson? Similarly both Adam Virgo and Paul Huntington have excellent qualities but somehow, as a pair, combine to leak goals as well as score them at the other end, and their only back-up is the injury-prone Stefan Stam. The left side of defence I would generally exempt from criticism as between them the two Nathan's have, in my opinion, done good, to use footballing parlance. So I would have been looking for a utility defender, someone to fill-in for Craig Alcock until his return from injury and then put pressure on the central defenders to perform. And, I hear you say, who would this paragon of virtue be? Not a clue, I answer, that's what the coaching/scouting staff get paid for. But these kind of players are around and it is possible to borrow them. We've done it before, for example with Liam Fontaine, equally adept at full-back and centre-half.

There, that's the defence sorted. Next week I will explain how to turn water into wine and describe how, on Football Manager 2011 I sold Andy Welsh to Portsmouth for £250,000 and a sell-on fee. Who said computer games were unrealistic?

Tomorrow the Glovers take on a resurgent Charlton at The Valley, god help us. The home side are 8/13 favourites, the draw is priced at 14/5 and a Yeovil win at a surprisingly miserly 9/2. My fiver, more in hope than in anger, is going on the away win. Come on Yeovil, shock us all! Running total: -£25.25p

Just read: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett; and Another World by Pat Barker. Fall of Giants is another huge, and I mean enormous, tome from the author of Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. It follows the fortunes of five different, but somehow inter-related families from the outbreak of the First World War to the Armistice, from the coalfields of Wales to the Russian Revolution via the White House and the War itself. It's a page-turner (which is a good job as there's 850 of them to plough through) but it managed to keep my interest until the end. It's not of the same standard as Pillars of the Earth, but it's still worth a read if you've got plenty of time and are strong enough to pick the bloody thing up. The first of a trilogy still to come, be still my beating heart. In contrast I read Pat Barker's creepy little study of a dysfunctional family living in a haunted house in one sitting, and then stayed awake half the night unable to settle. Terrific writing and proof positive that less is quite often more.